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Holiday dog food: Eat this instead of that

Holidays are a time for indulging in delicious foods with family and friends. Many families want to include their dogs in the fun, without realizing that some of our-best-loved holiday dishes can be harmful or even toxic to them. So how do you help your dog enjoy the holiday feast just as much as you?  Consider the following healthy treat alternatives to classic holiday dishes.

But as you read about these fun and scrumptious foods, remember that treats should always be given in moderation. They also should be a small part of your dog’s overall diet.

Turkey legs vs. cooked pieces of turkey breast

When it comes to the holiday dinner table, nothing is more iconic than a big roast turkey. It may be tempting to serve a turkey leg to your furry friend, but  bones can actually be extremely harmful to your dog. If you want to give your pup a snack during the turkey carving, cut off a few small pieces of turkey breast, ideally without skin or heavy seasonings. Your dog will love a taste of the meat (especially after smelling it all day with his powerful nose), and the leanness of turkey will help prevent holiday weight gain.

Pumpkin pie vs. fresh pumpkin

Creamy, rich pumpkin pie is a classic holiday dessert, but the high sugar and fat content makes it a bad choice for Fido. However, a healthy fall treat is intertwined in all of the sugar, butter and spices….fresh pumpkin! Plain pumpkin (whether fresh, roasted or pureed) is healthy for dog digestion. While you are serving the pie, consider giving a spoonful of plain pumpkin to your dog. You can also freeze 100% unsweetened pumpkin puree in an ice cube tray for a bite-size, frosty snack.

Candies and desserts vs. fresh apple slices

One of the biggest holiday dangers for pets is sweets. Chocolate and xylitol, an ingredient in many sugar-free candies and desserts, are both highly toxic to dogs. Also, the high level of sugar in sweet treats is unhealthy for dogs because it is empty calories. The best sweet alternative is fresh apple, which is nutritious and low-calorie. Chances are you’ll have some delicious apples on hand during your holiday feast preparations, so give a few slices without seeds to your pup. You can substitute other fruits such as pear, banana and melon – just be sure to avoid feeding grapes, fruit seeds or pits and rhubarb.

Sweet potato casserole vs. fresh sweet potato

Nothing smells better than a baked sweet potato casserole, but the fat and sugar from the marshmallows and other ingredients can make your dog sick. Before you assemble your casserole, set aside some plain, cooked sweet potato pieces (or puree) for your dog. Sweet potato is tasty and packed with nutrition.

Green bean casserole vs. plain green beans

Green bean casserole is another holiday classic that may tempt humans and dogs alike. However, it is filled with ingredients that are bad for dogs, including onions, garlic and mushrooms. As an alternative, offer your dog some raw green beans as a crunchy snack. Like many lean and green veggies, green beans are a healthy, low-calorie treat option.

Ice cream vs. frozen plain yogurt

Ice cream tends to make an appearance during holiday feasts, whether atop pumpkin or apple pie, scrumptious cakes or served plain. Sugar and cream (and other harmful ingredients, like chocolate) make ice cream hazardous for dogs. Instead, take some plain unsweetened yogurt and freeze it in an ice cube tray. You can add fresh seedless berries or a dollop of pumpkin puree if you’d like. Once it’s frozen, pop one out for your dog during dessert time for a frozen end-of-meal treat.

Remember, if you have questions about certain ingredients or introducing new foods to your dog, talk to your primary veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist.