As furry family members, we want to include our pets in every part of our lives, especially when we get to celebrate special occasions. How many photos of Fido in a party hat are splashed across your social pages? Yes – we know all about that! And while our Good Boys and Cute Kitties are seated at (or under) the dinner table, we might laugh or giggle when they happen to steal a piece of ‘human food’, or we might give them an extra handful of treats because it’s Christmas and we’re feeling generous.
This leniency or indulgence can be life-threatening to pets. Here’s why you shouldn’t overfeed your pets during the holidays.
Some foods are dangerous to pets
If you look at the list of foods NOT to feed your pets, you’ll see that most of these items will be served on the holiday dinner table. Aside from the toxicity of some foods (garlic, onions, raisins, citrus fruit, avocado, etc.), many dogs can’t tolerate high-fat foods. Eating too much fatty food could trigger pancreatitis, which is a very severe condition that, if not treated early enough, may even be fatal. If you suspect that your dog has been at the table scraps or Granny has been sneaking chicken fat to your pets, this needs to be nipped in the bud straight away!
Keep a close eye on your pets and if they are showing symptoms of toxicity (poisoning) or pancreatitis, they will need immediate veterinary care. Symptoms can include:
- signs of abdominal pain (hunched back)
- abdominal swelling
- refusal to eat
Obese pets are unhealthy
Sure, holiday treats and food-focused celebrations won’t balloon your skinny puppy or slinky kitten into a pudgy dog or fat cat overnight, but bad habits start somewhere. And once your furry friend has your guilty conscience in their paws, it will be very difficult to change their eating patterns in a healthy way. Fat pets are unhealthy pets who endure unnecessary pain and live shorter lives, so be very conscious of what and how your pets eat these holidays.
Make your kids and other family members aware of your pet-feeding rules, for your pet’s sake.
Bad habits are tough to break
Whether you give in to your pet’s puppy-dog eyes and give them an extra treat, or whether you include your pet in the chow-down at the dinner table, once they know they can get away with begging for extra food, it’s a habit they will come back to time and time again.
Why? Because it works!
Aside from the impending obesity (which comes with its own health problems), your pet’s begging behaviour won’t simply go away on its own after the festive season. The lure of a food reward means they will always try their luck.
So, how can you include your pet in the holiday celebrations without risking their health?
If you absolutely must indulge your pet with a holiday treat, make them work for it.
This means spending time playing with your dogs in the backyard or at the park, and engaging your cats around their scratching posts or with their cat toys to help them burn off excess energy. You can start and end playtime with the appropriate dog treats or cat munchies, to ensure they are getting a healthy pet treat that’s just right for their system.
And you don’t have to wait for 1 January before you start exercising with your pet – get a head-start on your New Year’s resolutions and keep the whole family healthy these holidays!