The holiday season is here and with winter holidays comes a plethora of good food for the whole family to share. Of course, our dogs and cats are a part of our families, and we want to be able to include them in the festivities. Here are some quick tips on what “people foods” are safe to give to your pets in moderation, and which ones you should keep out of reach.

The Naughty List

First and foremost, never allow your cat or dog to consume anything containing alcohol, chocolate or caffeine. So many animals are admitted to emergency veterinary care from having accidentally ingested these items, and the results can be disastrous. For example, chocolate can cause tremors, seizures, arrhythmias, and death.

Another potentially deadly agent that many people are only recently becoming more aware of is a sweetener called xylitol. This substance is used to sweeten sugar free gum, and it is starting to become an alternative to sugar in other products, such as peanut butter. Many people love to give peanut butter to their dogs as a special treat, and now it is very important that you double-check the label and make sure the type of peanut butter you are giving to your pet does not contain xylitol. Peanut butter without xylitol is safe, in moderation, as a treat for your dog.

Salt and salty foods are bad for the health of your dog and your cat. Neither cats nor dogs should consume anything containing onions, chives, or garlic, as even a small lick can be very dangerous for them, causing damage to red blood cells and anemia. Another very dangerous food for both cats and dogs is raisins/grapes. Scientists still are not completely sure why, but these can cause kidney failure in your pet.

The Cats Meow!

It is safe to feed cats any type of grain, but whole grains are best for them, providing healthy fiber. You may also allow your cat to snack on vegetables like carrots, asparagus, peas, winter squash, broccoli, and green beans. These provide essential antioxidants, enzymes, vitamins, minerals and fiber to your kitty. Cats may also safely eat bananas and melons for healthy fat, water and vitamin sources. Melons are known to sometimes help cats with digestive issues.

As for meats, cooked lean meats like poultry are preferable for the health of your cat, but you can also let them have small amounts of moist meats like lamb as a special treat. Fish are also generally safe for your cat, but due to mercury risk, feed tuna and salmon in extreme moderation. Eggs can also offer protein to your kitty, but be sure to avoid using butter or cooking spray when preparing them, as those can make your cat ill.

Although they love the taste, most cats are lactose intolerant and cannot properly digest cow’s milk, so it is actually not very advisable to allow them to drink large amounts of milk.

Dog-Gone Good!

The “yes” list for dogs is similar to cats. Dogs can have eggs prepared with the same restrictions as made for cats, and can also consume fish like salmon and lean meats like chicken in moderation. Both dogs and cats can have very small treats of liver, but do not feed in large amounts or often, as it can cause a condition called vitamin A toxicity, which leads to deformed bones and osteoporosis. For some fruits and vegetables, your dog can snack on apple slices, green beans, sweet potatoes and yogurt. Never allow your dog to consume apricots, as they can make dogs very sick. A healthy grain snack that many dogs enjoy is oatmeal, but it is best to serve them plain oatmeal rather than any type with added flavors.

It is important to be responsible when feeding your pets and to make sure guests and even small children understand what can and cannot be given to your animals. Of course, all “people food” should generally only be given in moderation and as special treats, but it is safe to say that a great many of us love to spoil our pets. Accidents happen, and if you believe your cat or dog has eaten something potentially harmful, seek veterinary care as soon as possible. With some caution, you can share the holiday fun with the furriest family members in a safe way. — Kelsey Hardin

Kelsey Hardin is a crazy cat lady and graduate of the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio. Living back in Columbus where she grew up, she spends her spare time writing, cuddling cats, crafting, spending time with friends, and catching local concerts and theatre shows.