Holiday Food Dos and Don’ts for Pets

dog eats santa's cookies

With the holidays just around the corner, food is sure to be top of mind as we attend back-to-back holiday parties and host guests from out of town. As the chaos of prepping and serving holiday food ensues, it’s important to remember that some members of family should not partake in all the eating activities: pets.

Several foods common at holiday gatherings are harmful to pets, so it’s important to stay vigilant about what your pet may be snacking on throughout the holiday season. To keep your pets happy and healthy throughout the entertaining season, here are my top five dos and don’ts:

1. Store foods properly.

cat in fridge eating food

The safest way to keep human foods away from cats (or limber dogs!), is to keep them stored safely in cabinets and drawers out of pets’ reach.

2. Keep an eye out for harmful ingredients.

boston terrier dog eyes onion

When it comes time to cook, ingredients that can be harmful to pets often drop to the floor unnoticed during the meal-prep process. Make sure these ingredients stay on the table and out of pet’s mouths:


The exact reason why grapes and raisins are bad for dogs is still being investigated, but both have been observed to cause acute kidney failure in dogs, and thus can be fatally toxic.


Most people know that chocolate is bad for dogs, but many don’t know why. Chocolate contains a caffeine-like ingredient called theobromine, which, depending on the dosage consumed, can lead to symptoms like hyperactivity, drooling, vomiting, and on the more serious end, heart arrhythmias.


Onions are rich in thiosulphate, an ingredient that can cause damage to red blood cells in both cats and dogs, resulting in a condition known as hemolytic anemia.


A sugar substitute found widely in sugar-free candy and gums, xylitol is highly toxic to pets, with just a small amount causing low blood sugar, seizures, liver failure and even death.

3. Treat them with natural foods you know are safe.

pets eye table food

There are certain holiday ingredients that can be nutritious for pets in moderation. While I don’t recommend feeding your animal companions blueberry pie or green bean casserole from the table, you can look for these ingredients in pet foods:


A great lean protein for your pets, turkey is something the whole family – pets included – can feast on during holiday meals. It’s also a great alternative for pets who may have sensitivities to chicken.


pumpkin is a great source of natural fiber for dogs and cats, and it is actually used by many vets to keep pets’ digestive systems running properly. Wellness TruFood Tasting Pairings recipes for cats and dogs is a natural, convenient way to ensure they’re getting their fill of fiber this season.


Popular among humans and animals alike, specific foods from the legume family like chickpeas and lentils are packed with protein, fiber, iron and vitamins that can help your pet’s digestive health.

Green Beans

Many people forget that greens are an important part of our pets’ diets as well. Vegetables like kale, spinach, and green beans are rich with antioxidants and vitamins that help support whole-body health in pets, much like they do in humans.

4. Avoid over-treating.

pets eating table treats for Christmas

While indulging is often a popular activity for humans during the holidays, “over-treating” pets can lead to more harm than good. While it’s tempting to encourage good behavior with treats, giving dogs too many treats can lead to things like GI upset and pancreatitis, not to mention added calories. Opt for an occasional treat that is rich with natural sources of nutrients, like the Wellness TruFood CocoaChia Bakes, made with coconut oil and chia seeds, to keep your pet feeling full, happy and healthy.

5. Toss the bones.

dog eats table scrap bones

Splitting the wishbone is often a family tradition after holiday meals, but be sure to keep these bones away from dogs and cats. Smaller bones can splinter and become lodged in or pierce the digestive tract, while larger bones can cause damage to your pet’s teeth. Stick to bones that have been made for pets to safely consume.

About Dr. Al Townshend, Veterinarian with Wellness Natural Pet Food:

Dr. Al is a graduate of the University of Georgia School of Veterinary Medicine. Prior to joining Wellness Natural Pet Food, he honed his skills in two large metropolitan animal practices, before establishing the Eastern Shore Animal Hospital in his hometown of Chestertown, Maryland. Dr. Al is a firm believer that superior nutrition is the key to a pet living a long, happy, and healthy life. He’s a contributing author of the text “Canine Sports Medicine” and has received the coveted “Golden Stethoscope Award” for his contributions above and beyond the call of duty in bringing veterinary care to the dogs of the Iditarod.