Updated: Nov 10, 2020
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As the holidays get closer and closer, it’s time to start preparing our pets (and ourselves!) for the season! The hectic days full of parties and visitors can often make life with pets difficult over the holidays, but some training, tips, and treats should help to make the holiday season more enjoyable for you and your pet. In the second part of this three part series [Read Part 1, Read Part 3], we’ll look at some different treats you can share with your pets over the holiday season.
If you're anything like me, you probably want to give your pets treats over the holidays to help them celebrate with you! It can be tempting to buy all the pretty holiday treats, rawhides, and chews that pop up in stores this time of year, but those treats can often do more harm than good. Many contain dyes and other ingredients that our pets really don't need to ingest. Besides that, if they aren't something your pet has eaten before than often upset your pet's digestive system... and nobody wants to add cleaning up a poosplosion to the stress of the holidays!
For treats that are easier on your pet's digestive system AND on your budget, consider setting aside some of the food (and even the scraps!) for your holiday meals as treats for your pets. Remember to always check the ingredients before giving your pet any “human” food as a treat! With smaller bodies and faster metabolisms than us, it’s best for our pets not to eat foods that are high in sugar or salt -- even if you are just giving it to them as a special holiday treat! Additionally, some foods that are safe (or even healthy!) for humans to eat can be toxic to our pets. For dogs and cats, consider using the common holiday foods listed below as treats. Remember to feed everything in moderation! If it's your pet's first time trying one of these foods, starting with a tiny taste is always best.
Squash: Our pets love the skin and other scraps that are leftover after preparing a squash for the humans.
Apples: Yes, even the core! Just make sure to cut it into smaller pieces to keep it from being a choking hazard.
Canned pumpkin puree: Make sure it is plain, with no added pie spices. Pumpkin can help regulate the digestive system. It can help to resolve diarrhea AND constipation!
Unseasoned turkey or chicken: Boiled chicken or turkey breasts are some of our favorite training treats!
Cranberries: Fresh or frozen cranberries are yummy, simple treats! Avoid sauces or canned cranberries.
Carrots: Low calorie, teeth cleaning goodness! If you're cooking the carrots, give them to your pet before adding salt, butter, or other seasonings.
Potatoes: Potatoes are a common pet food ingredient. Plain potatoes are great! Once the salt, garlic, etc has been added, they become a humans-only food.
Peanut butter: Make sure to check the ingredients, and avoid any additives that are toxic to your pet.
Yogurt: Another great option for your pet's digestive system!
Homemade, low sodium bone broth: Once you've eaten all the yummy meat off of those bones, boil them up in some water! Just make sure not to add any salt before giving it to your pet.
Avocado: Make sure to remove the skin and pit to avoid choking hazards.
(Do you have a parrot, reptile, or exotic pet? Check with your veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist to see which fruits and vegetables are safe to incorporate into their diet!)
Ok... I know that avocado probably isn't the first "holiday" food that comes to mind, but at our house it is often a party food because it's one of the times they get eaten up quickly before tey turn brown! It really is a good treat for pets. Yes! I’m not messing with you! Avocado can actually be good for our dogs and cats! Although many sources will tell you that the levels of persin, an oil soluble compound, in an avocado make it toxic to all our pets, the persin levels in the flesh of the avocado (the part that humans eat) are not toxic to dogs and cats. In fact, there have been no reported cases of avocado poisoning in dogs and cats! Feeding your dog or cat small amounts of avocado can give them many of the same health benefits we get from avocados. The healthy fats, protein, and antioxidants in avocados can give your pet healthier skin and a shinier coat! However, avocados can be toxic to parrots, rabbits, horses, cattle, etc. As always, it’s a good idea to check with your veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist if you aren’t sure about adding certain foods to your pet’s diet. Now that you know that avocados can be safe for dogs and cats, let’s talk about something that is NOT safe for dogs! Xylitol, a natural sugar substitute found in many “sugar free” foods, can be extremely toxic to dogs. While it is safe for humans to eat, even a small amount of xylitol can cause extreme and sudden hypoglycemia in dogs. Keep any and all foods containing xylitol out of reach of your pets or even out if your home entirely. Something as simple as a pack of sugar-free gum that your pet grabs out of someone's purse could enough to poison your pet. If you set aside some of these yummy treats for your pet as you prepare your holiday meals, you’ll have plenty of treats to last you for months to come! To preserve fruits,veggies, and meats to last throughout the year, you can freeze or dehydrate them. No food dehydrator? No problem!
You can dehydrate fruits and veggies right in your oven!
Pre-heat your oven to 170°F
Chop your fruits and veggies into slightly larger than bite size pieces (they’ll shrink as you dehydrate!) and spread them on baking sheets.
Place the sheets in the oven with 1.5-2 inches between each rack, and crack your oven open slightly.
It can take anywhere from 4-8 hours to fully dehydrate fruits and veggies. You’ll need to stir/flip the food every 30-60 minutes to help in the process.
Leave the dehydrated food out overnight before placing it into containers.
Since you’ll be leaving your oven slightly open throughout this process, it’s best to keep your pet out of the kitchen for safety. Close the door to the kitchen or set up a gate/pen around the oven to keep your pet away. Leaving the food out overnight before packing it away can also be a big temptation to your pet! Crate or shut away your pet during the night or set out the food in a room your pet can’t access.
If you do choose to freeze your holiday treats for your pets, get creative!
Fill an ice cube tray with some holiday treats and a little water or bone broth to give your pet treats in a novel way. Pro tip: Give messy treats to your pet in their crate to contain the mess and reduce clean up time! If you don't have an ice cube tray handy, stuff and freeze Kongs or other puzzle feeders with a mixture of treats and your pet’s regular diet.
Looking for ways to use these treats to help you and your pet enjoy the holidays amidst all the craziness of the season? Check back for the final post in this series, full of tips to use treats and training to your advantage over the holidays! Has your pet tried any of these holiday foods? How did it go? Let us know in the comments!