This is the time of year where we all look forward to celebrating the holidays. It is not uncommon for us to want to include our four-legged family members in our holiday meal. While turkey and ham are delicious and eagerly accepted by our pets, it is not always in their best interest enjoy these meals with us.

Firstly, many of the foods that we enjoy during the holidays are rich and fatty. Our pets are not used to digesting these sorts of foods, so even small amounts can lead to stomach upset. Commonly, the pancreas (an organ that sits near the stomach and aids in digestion) will become inflamed and painful. Pets with pancreatitis typically develop a decreased appetite, lethargy, painful stomach, and vomiting. At times, it can be so bad that they need to be hospitalized.

Secondly, bones found in meat can cause tooth fractures, intestinal blockage, and ulcers. Bone fragments scratch the delicate surface of your pet’s stomach and intestines. We do not recommend feeding your pet any size or shape of bone.

Finally, weight gain results from feeding your pet table food. Even a small bite of meat, gravy or stuffing can contribute significantly to obesity. A couple of tablespoons of rich food can easily meet most of your pet’s daily calorie requirements (and don’t forget about the calories from their regular meals or treats given the same day). The long-term effects of overfeeding include diabetes and joint disease.

We encourage everyone to include their pets in their festivities this holiday season, because they are important family members. Healthy alternatives to table scraps are steamed baby carrots, sweet potato or broccoli. However, ultimately what your pet really wants is simply to be part of the family.