Table scraps? Not for your pet!

It can be tempting to offer your pet table scraps during the Holidays. But you really shouldn’t, says veterinary doctor, Christian Mercier.

Table scraps? Not for your pet!

Meals are grand—even excessive—affairs during the Holiday season, and include foods we don’t often eat, many quite fatty. Animals aren’t used to eating that type of food, so giving your pets these types of table scraps can lead to various digestive problems such as vomiting, diarrhea and even pancreatitis. “Certain breeds of dogs are predisposed to this,” says Dr. Christian Mercier of the Grand-Mère Veterinary clinic in Shawinigan, “and if they eat very fatty foods that they aren’t used to, the risk of pancreatitis is very real. Therefore, we advise pet owners to avoid giving their furry friends fatty foods as much as possible. If you want to spoil them a little, go ahead, but do so with foods they already know, even when there’s an abundance of choice on the Holiday table.”

Cats aren’t as likely as dogs to eat table scraps and tend to hide when guests are around. This is not the case with dogs. When your dog starts hanging around the table as well as your guests, you may be tempted to spoil them, but it is better to warn them early on in the evening that this behaviour is forbidden! After all, you don’t want to have to rush to the vet for an emergency during your Holiday festivities.

As for the traditional Christmas turkey, of course it is awfully tempting to give the bones to your canine companion, but please don’t! Cooked poultry bones tend to break very easily… and in small pieces like shards, which are very sharp. According to Dr. Mercier, “If your dog swallows this, the chances of perforation in the intestines are significant.” As for the large bones, they can also be dangerous. Dr. Mercier tells us that one Christmas Eve he had to operate on a dog whose jaw and teeth were caught in a pig’s foot bone. “We had to put the dog completely under anaesthesia and take a saw to the bone to get it out.”

What if your dog starts to suffocate after swallowing something?

According to Dr. Mercier, there are techniques like the Heimlich maneuver that can be adapted to pets. “In the case of small dogs, compress the abdomen with your hands. For large dogs, lift the buttocks in the air, wrap your arms around the abdomen and press like you would for a human.”

If your dog starts coughing, Dr. Mercier does not recommend putting your fingers in your dog’s mouth. “But if your dog loses consciousness, you can open their mouth and try to remove the foreign object,” says Dr. Mercier, “If nothing works, it’s a emergency and you should go right away to the nearest veterinary clinic. We’re talking about a matter of minutes!” Since prevention is better than a cure, next time you visit the vet, do not hesitate to ask them to teach you the technique that could save your pet’s life if ever this type of crisis occurs.


Like chocolate? Please don’t give it to your pet! The higher the concentration of cocoa, the more toxic it is. Dogs tolerate it very badly and are likely to have serious heart problems.

What about nuts? According to Dr. Mercier, “We often put trays of nuts on coffee tables during the Holiday season. Dogs may be tempted to try them when they see humans doing so. Be careful, because in general, dogs don’t tolerate nuts well, particularly macadamia nuts.”

When it comes to sugar substitutes, Dr. Mercier’s warning is clear: “Food manufacturers sometimes replace sugar with substitutes such as xylitol. This is very bad for your pet. Xylitol can lead to a persistent and dangerous lowering of blood sugar. Before giving your dog or cat a treat meant for humans, check the list of ingredients. Better yet, don’t have this stuff in your home at all!”

Enjoy a drink or two?

Your guests are sitting in the living room. They put their glasses on the floor and then forget about them. Your dog, attracted by the smell and taste of alcohol, approaches a right-within-reach glass… and starts lapping at it. After a few laps of beer or wine, your dog becomes drunk. They start staggering, lose their balance and seems sleepy. Symptoms could even include vomiting. “It doesn't take a lot of alcohol to get a five-pound dog drunk!” says Dr. Mercier. Therefore, keeping glasses with alcohol out of reach of your pets is highly recommended if you don’t want to see your four-legged friend and Holiday reveller abusing a cocktail. “Fortunately, I still haven’t seen any dogs making inappropriate jokes once they’ve had one too many,” cracks Dr. Mercier, “but I can just imagine the hangover they’d have the morning after!”

You have more questions?

Do not hesitate to contact the nearest Passionimo veterinary clinic.