Can your dogs and cats enjoy the holiday feast?

Most of us think of our pets as furry family members, so we consider sharing our holiday meals with them. We sample along the way, and share a taste with Fido or Fluffy. And we gain a few pounds over the weekend. After the holidays, we exercise or diet to lose the extra pounds. But an extra pound on a 150-pound human it doesn’t affect us like an extra pound affects a 10-pound pet. For us, it’s an increase of .006 in body weight. For a 20-pound pet, that’s an increase of 10 percent!

Consider the calories
Any additional food means added calories, so if you give your dogs or cats an extra morsel, remember to take away a little of their regular kibble or soft food to keep them at a healthy weight. A little taste is fine, but consider these comparisons from Hill’s Pet Nutrition: http://www.hillspet.com/weight-management/human-food-translator.html

What is the equivalent of small piece of cheese, a snack or a hot dog for our pets?
The chart below compares a 20-pound dog and a 10-pound cat to a 150-pound person’s calorie intake.
* 1-oz. piece of cheese to a dog = 1 ½ hamburgers with bun and fixings
* 1-oz. piece of cheese to a cat = 2 ½ hamburgers with bun and fixings
* A cookie to a dog = 1 hamburger with bun and fixings
*A potato chip to a cat = ½ hamburger with bun and fixings
* A hot dog given to a dog = 2 ½ hamburgers with bun and fixings
* A cup of whole milk given to a cat = 2 ½ hamburgers with bun and fixings
Of course, smaller pets will be affected more, and larger animals may have a little more.

Aren’t proteins healthy?
Lean proteins are healthy snacks, so a bite of lean turkey is fine. But be sure the meat is lean. Fats in cheese, bacon, pate, sausage, gravy, turkey skin can cause obesity and contribute to pancreatitis. Pancreatitis symptoms can range from mild discomfort to difficulty breathing http://pets.webmd.com/dog-pancreatitis-symptoms-and-treatment. “A little piece (not more than 1 cm. x 1 cm. per 20 pounds of dog body weight per day) of any of these items is unlikely to cause a problem as long as your dog does not have an underlying health issue.” http://moderndogmagazine.com/articles/do-s-and-dont-s-sharing-food-your-dog/17293#sthash.9i87BqZK.dpuf

Limit Fats and Sugar
Of course, fatty foods and goodies high in sugar content such as that in dried fruit, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie filling can cause diarrhea, especially when coupled with the excitement of the holidays.

Plain pumpkin (NOT THE PIE FILLING) and plain yogurt doled out in tablespoon-size servings can help with diarrhea and constipation. But if the condition lasts longer than 24 hours, contact your vet.

Some foods harm both dogs and cats.
Garlic and onions harm red blood cells.
Grapes, raisins, chocolate, and cause kidney failure.
Xylitol, a sweetener made from the birch tree, is found in baked goods, gum and candies, and some peanut butters, causes liver damage.
So consider the ingredients in stuffing, fruit salads and sweets before you share them with your furry family members.

What medicines are okay for pets?
Humans take an assortment of medicinal products after a big meal and lots of excitement, from Pepto Bismol or Tylenol. Check with your veterinarian before giving any human medicine to your pets, whether prescribed or over-the-counter!

We all enjoy the special foods the holidays bring. Our pets are no different. But look out for them like you would your human children and limit how much you let them splurge.

By Beth Crosby