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Can I feed my pet table scraps?

Kelly Gredner

5 min read

Can I feed my pet table scraps? - Vetster
Photographed by lizzie.bear

The holidays are coming up: a time where extra special foods, treats, and snacks are shared to spread our gratitude and celebrate special moments. Common foods such as roasted turkey, savory stuffing, rich gravies, and fluffy mashed potatoes are served, along with desserts of pumpkin or apple pie and other delectables. Many of us have furry companions, and we love to share special occasions — and food — with them. But, there can be dangers lurking in the food consumed during a holiday feast.

Check out the ingredients to be wary of when feeding your pet from the table:

Turkey: Roasted turkey meat is full of protein and has calming properties from the naturally occurring amino acid, tryptophan. Turkey itself is an appropriate tasty snack for healthy pets, but it's often basted with oils and served with skin, making it very fatty. These rich fats can lead to digestive disturbances such as vomiting and diarrhea.

Gravy: Fresh, homemade gravy from the renderings of a cooked turkey is rich in fat. Some pets can be intolerant of rich/fatty foods and consuming a meal high in rich fats can cause vomiting and diarrhea (like with turkey), and in extreme cases can cause inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) that can often lead to a trip to the veterinary emergency hospital. Pancreatitis can show up as mild symptoms like tiredness and the aforementioned vomiting and diarrhea. Or it can be debilitating with pain, retching, and poor appetite, and dehydration requiring hospitalization. Gravy can also be quite salty, which can make senior pets, or those with certain medical conditions like heart and kidney disease, quite sick.

Stuffing: Garlic and onions are common ingredients in this delicious side dish, but they are toxic to dogs and cats. If ingested, they can cause vomiting, a breakdown of the red blood cells, weakness, and a high heart rate. This can happen with raw or cooked garlic and onions, as well as the powdered versions, even with just the smallest amount. So steer clear.

Dairy: Most pets are lactose intolerant so indulging them in whipped cream or creamy potatoes can really upset their stomachs. Some pets can tolerate dairy, but it might not be worth the risk. Use your best judgement and past experience to guide you.

Pumpkin Pie: Cinnamon and nutmeg are spices found in pumpkin pie and can cause stomach upset, agitation, irritation of the throat, or a fast heart rate.

Pecan Pie: Pecans, like most nuts, are chock full of fat. So, similar to gravy and turkey, eating a large amount of pecans can cause digestive issues like vomiting, diarrhea, and inflammation of the pancreas.

Turkey Bones: Cooked bird bones are quite fragile, and tend to shatter when bitten and produce sharp edges. They can fracture teeth and/or become lodged in delicate places in your pet’s digestive system, including the intestines, esophagus, gums, and roof of the mouth. Caution should be taken if pets are near, or being fed, turkey — especially from the table when no one is paying close attention.

Xylitol: Xylitol is an alternative sweetener often used in baked goods, pudding, or chocolate (among other things like gum and toothpaste). If ingested by an animal, xylitol can cause a dramatic drop in blood sugar levels causing hypoglycemia, which presents as a “drunken” gait, weakness, and disorientation. Xylitol also can cause serious injury to the liver, which might lead to hospitalization.

What are safe alternatives?

For a healthy pet, if you truly must share your meal, consider offering foods from this list:

  • Plain cooked turkey without skin or gravy,
  • Plain potatoes without butter, milk, or salt and pepper,
  • Plain cooked or raw carrots,
  • Plain cooked or raw bell peppers,
  • Store bought packaged treats.

If your pet has any medical conditions or dietary restrictions you should always discuss appropriate treat options with your vet. Please also remember to give everything in moderation, as treats should only be 5-10% of a pet’s daily calories.

It’s understandable to want to treat yourself and your beloved pets during special occasions. But in order to keep them happy and healthy — and you out of the veterinary clinic — consider sticking to pet safe treats and foods. Happy Holidays!

Reference: ASPCA, Animal Poison Control

Written by Kelly Gredner
RVT, VTS
Kelly Gredner has been a Registered Veterinary Technician for 15 years. For the last five years, she has specialized as a Nutrition Technician, certified through the Academy of Veterinary Nutrition Technicians (AVNT). Her interest in nutrition grew as the years went on and she loves being able to help beloved pets, one bowl at a time. She currently lives in Toronto, Ontario, with three cats, and works part-time in a small animal practice. She’s available to answer all your nutritional questions on Vetster, too!
Book a virtual appointment with Kelly Gredner on Vetster.

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