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Holiday Treats for Pets

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A woman gently pets a friendly black and tan dog's head in a kitchen.

Our four-legged friends are never hard to find during the holidays, usually sitting right by our feet to catch any delicious treat that might hit the floor during Thanksgiving dinner. When you see those sweet, innocent eyes peering at you from under the dinner table, it can be tempting to spoil your pet by including them in the feasts and festivities. We’ve gathered some delightful (and safe!) holiday pet treat recipes so you can show them the love and share the holiday’s good food and cheer.

Holiday Treats To Keep Away From Your Pet

We love to include our pets in the seasonal festivities, but it’s important to know the dos and don’ts of which foods you can safely share with them. During the holidays, be especially aware that the following foods and beverages can harm cats or dogs.

Bones: Those tasty holiday meals may yield an excess of seemingly tasty bones. Don’t feed them to your pets! Small bones or bone chips can become lodged in your pet’s throat, stomach, or intestinal tract. They can also splinter and cause tears in the gastrointestinal tract. Some dogs may even simply swallow a bone whole, which can result in an intestinal blockage that requires surgery.

Turkey Skin, Turkey Fat & Gravy: A few bites of white meat from your roasted turkey can be a tasty treat, but avoid feeding your pet the skin, which is very fatty and may also be coated in seasonings that are dangerous for pets. Too much fat can lead to gastrointestinal upset or even pancreatitis.

Alcohol: Keep alcohol and food containing alcohol (e.g., rum cake or rum balls) out of reach. Alcoholic beverages, including eggnog, and other food products containing alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, difficulty breathing, tremors, coma, and even death. If you suspect your dog or cat has ingested alcohol, call your veterinarian or emergency veterinary clinic immediately.

Coffee: Coffee includes caffeine, which is a very dangerous and toxic chemical to cats and dogs. Ingestion can be life threatening— they’re much more sensitive to its effects, so even a small amount of coffee could be toxic. Ingestion can cause restlessness and agitation, vomiting, tremors, and seizures.

Candy & Desserts: There is a slew of hazards in the goodies category. Chocolate can be toxic, even fatal, for pets. The darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is. There is also an artificial sweetener known as Xylitol which is commonly found in baked goods, candy, and chewing gum. This sweetener is highly toxic to dogs and can cause hypoglycemia and potentially lead to liver failure.

Macadamia Nuts, Raisins, Grapes, Onions & Garlic: These commonly used ingredients in holiday dishes can be harmful to pets if consumed. Macadamia nuts, often found in cookies and candies, can cause toxic reactions in dogs such as vomiting, tremors, weakness, difficulty walking, and increased body temperature. Similarly, raisins and grapes contain toxins that can lead to kidney damage in dogs. Onions, garlic, leeks, and chives contain sulfoxides which can cause gastrointestinal issues and potentially cause issues like anemia and other hematological change that could harm a pet’s health.

Leftovers: Don’t share leftovers with your pet, especially foods with a high fat content as it puts your pet at risk of pancreatitis. Abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea are common symptoms of pancreatitis and should be reported to your veterinarian immediately. Once your meal is over, immediately store any leftovers in a safe location to avoid tempting your pet to sneak this food from the counter.

Although it may be tempting to slide a little treat or two under the table for your pet to join in on the feast, don't let those puppy dog eyes fool you. The best way to make the most of your holiday is to keep your pet away from table scraps that could contain harmful ingredients. If you suspect your pet may have in your pet may have ingested something toxic, contact your veterinarian.

Learn more about how pet insurance could help you cover your pet’s eligible veterinary care expenses.

Pet-Safe Human Foods

If you choose to indulge your cat or dog with some holiday leftovers or special treats, stick with these pet-safe human foods:

  • Sweet Potatoes: When plainly cooked and served, it’s okay for your pet to try a bite of sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are rich in fiber, vitamin B6, and vitamin C.
  • Pumpkin: Wonderful for digestion, plain, cooked pumpkin can be used in small amounts as a topper for your pet's Thanksgiving meal.
  • Squash: Cooked squash can be chopped up and added to your pet's food dish as a low-calorie topper—just make sure it isn't seasoned or buttered. Squash is high in fiber and vitamins.
  • Potatoes: A plain, cooked white potato is OK for your pet to try in moderation. White potatoes contain vitamins C and B6.
  • Rice: Plain, cooked rice is generally considered easy on the stomach and can be added to your pet's holiday plate in moderation.
  • Green beans: Plain green beans, cooked or served raw, are also a good low-calorie treat to offer your pet. Green beans contain fiber and vitamins C and K.
  • Pears: Pears are a low-calorie treat that can be provided in moderation. Pears contain vitamins C and K, as well as fiber.
  • Apples: High in fiber, a small, plain slice of apple can be a good low-calorie treat for your pet.
  • Blueberries: Rich in antioxidants, a small handful of fresh blueberries sprinkled over your pet's food dish is a great holiday treat.
  • Turkey meat: Unseasoned, cooked, and served in moderation, a small piece of turkey without bones, skin, or fat is a healthy protein treat for your pet.
  • Roast beef: When cooked without oils, salt, or seasoning, a small slice of roast beef can be a tasty high-protein treat.
  • Cheese: Offered in small amounts on occasion, some cheeses are OK for your pet. Avoid unpasteurized cheeses like feta and gorgonzola. Thinly sliced Swiss or cheddar are safe options.

Remember, you may want to give your dog or cat a special treat during holiday dinners, but some holiday foods and ingredients are high in fat, sugar, and seasonings that can make pets sick. Always consult with your veterinarian about any dietary changes, and make sure to continue to maintain a healthy diet by only giving your pets treats in moderation.

Holiday Pet Treat Recipes

Indulge your pets in a little holiday cheer with our delicious and pet-friendly goodies. Instead of sharing your holiday feast, use this collection of cat and dog treat recipes to make them their own delightful and festive snacks, and celebrate the upcoming holidays knowing your pet is safe, healthy, and happy.

Turkey and Cranberry Dog Bones

Ingredients:

  • 3 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup cooked & shredded turkey
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease baking sheet.
  2. Mix the ground turkey, cranberry sauce, whole wheat flour, eggs, and cornmeal in a bowl to form a dough-like consistency. Add an extra teaspoon of chicken broth if mixture is too dry.
  3. Shape the dough however you’d like using your hands or cookie cutters; place on baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 25 minutes or until browned. Turn off oven and let treats sit for 30 minutes to dry out.
  5. Remove and make sure they’re cool before serving them to your pet.
  6. Seal in an airtight container and store in the fridge.

Sweet Potato Pumpkin Pet Treats

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups brown rice flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup mashed sweet potato
  • 1/2 cup 100% pure pumpkin purée
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 egg

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together brown rice flour and cinnamon.
  3. In a separate bowl, mash sweet potato. Add pumpkin, water, and egg to sweet potato and mix until thoroughly combined.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix together with a spoon until you’re left with a thick batter.
  5. Roll out the dough and cut out shapes using cookie cutters or shape them into bite-sized pieces, place treats on baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes, flip them over, and continue baking another 10 minutes.
  7. Allow the treats to cool completely before serving them to your pet. Store any remaining treats in an airtight container for future use.

Apple, Oat, and Peanut Butter Treats

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup old fashioned oats (aka rolled oats)
  • ½ cup flour
  • ¼ cup peanut butter (Xylitol-free)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 apples

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 300° F.
  2. Peel, core, and grate both apples.
  3. Mix the oats, flour, peanut butter, egg, and apples until well combined.
  4. Roll out your dough on a flat surface until the dough is approximately 1/2 inch thick; use cookie cutters to cut out shapes.
  5. Place the treats onto baking sheet & cook for 15 minutes; remove and let cool.
  6. Seal in an airtight container and store in the fridge.

Holiday Barkuterie Board

Ingredients:

Sweet:

Savory:

  • Swiss cheese, thinly sliced
  • Cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
  • Cottage cheese
  • Jerky treats
  • Dried meats like salmon or beef

Directions:

  1. Choose your serving platter. Instead of a traditional wooden charcuterie board, choose a pet-safe serving platter to prevent splintering. For extra mental stimulation, try using a lick mat or puzzle board.
  2. Start by prepping the produce and cheese using cookie cutters. If you want to get extra creative, use holiday-themed cookie cutters to add even more festive cheer.
  3. In the center of the board, make a small triangle using a small bowl of peanut butter, a small bowl of honey, and a small bowl of cottage cheese.
  4. Starting at the edge of the board, arrange the snacks with bigger foods on the bottom, working your way down to ensure you include everything you want on the board. This will also make it easier to layer, placing smaller treats on top of bigger ones for a fantastic snack display. And remember: You can put as much or as little as you want on your cat or dog’s charcuterie board!
  5. Serve and watch your pet go to town on their very own holiday charcuterie board! Store any leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate.

Most importantly, always consider your pet's dietary needs and consult your veterinarian before making major changes to their diet. Remember to offer homemade holiday treats in moderation, avoid potential choking hazards, and create a safe and enjoyable environment for your four-legged friend.

An ASPCA® Pet Health Insurance plan can help you with eligible costs for covered conditions like surgery expenses for accidents and help provide peace of mind that your pet can receive the care they need. Check out our online resources to learn more about your insurance options and get a free quote today. The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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