What to Feed Your Pets During the Holidays (And What to Skip)

dog eating thanksgiving pumpkin pie

The holiday season is a time of year to spend with friends and family — and that includes our furry companions as well. But an emergency vet visit can quickly ruin a holiday gathering, especially if your pet has ingested an unsafe food from the dinner table.

While table treats can be a fun way to include your dog or cat in the celebration, some foods are unsafe. Here’s a guide to the holiday favorites that are safe for your pets to enjoy, along with those that should be avoided altogether.

Holiday foods that are safe for cats and dogs

Focus on these food categories when deciding what treats and leftovers to share with your pet.


Obviously, both cats and dogs enjoy meat and giving them a little Thanksgiving turkey slice should cause them no harm. In fact, they’ll probably enjoy it quite a bit. There are some things to consider though: avoid giving them skin or bones, which are both unsafe for pets. Also think about portion control. A small animal shouldn’t eat as much as a human does, so try not to overstuff your furry friends. You may end up dealing with an unpleasant tummy ache later in the night.

Winter squash

Popular holiday favorites like pumpkin or acorn squash can be healthy choices for dogs and cats alike. These vegetables are packed with nutrients like calcium and potassium. You may often see these ingredients in dry dog food, so it makes sense that the fresh version would be good (if not better) for your pet as well.

Plain vegetables

Like winter squashes, other autumnal and winter vegetables are also healthy to feed to your pets. Sweet potatoes, peas, and green beans are all great options to scrape into the pet dish.

One word of warning, though: try and skip the butter and salt. If you plan to give your dog table leftovers, leave the vegetables plain in the serving dish and allow your guests to add their own add-ons.

Holiday foods to avoid giving to pets

Now let’s move onto what holiday food items to completely skip feeding your pets, and make sure the leftovers are securely disposed of to avoid late night digging in the trash.

Meat skin and bones

Both cooked skin and bones can be a choking hazard for your beloved pet. This is especially true for bones that have been cooked down to the point of softness. It may seem like it’s a smart way to streamline the digestive process for your dog. But in reality, it means that it’s easier for the bones to break into small pieces and cut your pet’s mouth and internal organs.

Onions and garlic

Skip the onions and garlic for both dogs and cats. The entire allium family is unsafe for pets no matter how it’s been processed or cooked. There is a toxin that breaks down in small pets that can cause anemia. Signs to look out for include stomach issues, lethargy, and a decrease in appetite.


High-sugar desserts are unhealthy for dogs and cats. And there are a few ingredients that are especially important for them to avoid eating during the holiday season. The first is chocolate. It contains a toxin called theobromine; while easily digested by humans, small animals cannot handle it as well. Paired with the caffeine in chocolate, theobromine can overstimulate your pet’s heart rate and nervous system.

Raisins are another no-go for both cats and dogs. Your pets are likely to experience nausea and vomiting thanks to the levels of tartaric acid that is present in grapes.

If you still want to give your pet a sweet treat on Thanksgiving, opt for a peanut butter and plain yogurt mixture. You can even freeze your concoction in a plastic cup to make it a fun activity that takes some digging for your pet to finish.

Bottom line

We all want to demonstrate our love during the holiday season, and our pets are certainly part of that display of affection. But to make sure everyone truly stays happy and healthy during the holiday season, you must know what is actually safe for your pet to eat. Incorporate these guidelines into your meal planning for a relaxing, stress-free holiday season.

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