The Thanksgiving Spread—Plenty Means Plump for People and Pets

The Thanksgiving Spread—Plenty Means Plump for People and Pets

Thanksgiving is the official start of the holiday season – and the start of holiday weight gain for both people and their pets. With plates piled high with turkey and dressing, sweet potato casserole, and pumpkin pie, it’s natural to want to share this banquet with our pet loved ones. While sharing our holiday meals with our pets seems innocent and even caring, those extra calories and pounds can put your pooch or feline friend at risk for serious weight gain and health threats. Overweight pets have higher risks of developing type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, and more.

Hold the treats

There’s no doubt that holiday treats turn into measurable weight gain, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), a group of veterinarians and veterinary healthcare experts dedicated to raising awareness of the dangers of pet obesity and providing obesity prevention and weight loss techniques. They performed a study of 32 adult dogs and cats over the 2006 holiday period to determine just how much weight pets gained during the holidays. The study found the average weight gain was 0.3 pounds for dogs and 0.37 pounds for cats during the period from November to January. Each pound on a dog equals approximately 5 to 7 pounds on a person, and an extra pound on a cat is similar to a weight gain of 7 to 10 pounds. This means that the dogs studied were gaining the equivalent of 2 human pounds, and cats gained an equivalent of 3 human pounds over the holiday season. While the average American gains slightly over a pound from Thanksgiving Day to New Year’s Day with overweight and obese individuals gaining significantly more, it is clear from our study that we are sharing more than good cheer with our pets each holiday season.

The average person will consume over 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day. Much of this comes in the form of fatty and sugary foods that delight the palate but deposit around our midsection. For pets, these high calorie meals mean that even small treats – 4 to 6 ounces – pack on the pounds even faster than the usual fare of doggy bones. APOP estimates that dogs will be fed an extra 500 calories or twice the normal number of calories for a 20-lb dog, while cats will receive an extra 200 calories or almost 80% more calories than the average cat needs.

If you’re inclined to share your holiday buffet with your pet, there are some simple guidelines you can follow to help kick off the holiday season safely and leave you with no regrets when you and your pet hit the scales January

Reach for the veggies

If you decide to share your plate with your pet, reach for vegetables. Carrots, broccoli, celery, and asparagus are some of the tastiest and healthy treats you can give your dog. The crunchy consistency and low calories make them a smart choice for both two and four-legged party goers. If you’re looking for a savory Thanksgiving Day goodie for your cat, try giving two ounces (about half a handful) of salmon. The omega-3 fatty acids provide health benefits for the heart, eyes, brain, joints, and immune system and as long as you keep the portions small, the amount of extra calories is minimal.

Foods to avoid for both cats and dogs include onions, grapes, raisins, and macadamia nuts. The biggest mistake pet lovers make during the holidays is simply overindulging. It’s fine to include your pet in the celebrations; just keep it in moderation. Be sure to tell your friends and family not to feed the pet guests. If everyone at the party sneaks even a little to a pet, it can quickly add up to a dangerous amount. Assure them the pets will get their own Thanksgiving meal when everyone is served.

Serve pets at their own “table”

As you serve your company, take your pets to their food bowls for their meal (see sample Thanksgiving Day Menu). This will prevent begging and keep the focus on the camaraderie at the dinner table. A pet with poor table manners is at least a distraction and at worst a disaster. Too many holiday gatherings have been ruined by a cat jumping on the table or a dog dumping the dumplings. Keep the pets at the pets’ table and the people at theirs and your Thanksgiving Day meal will proceed more smoothly.

The holiday season is a time to reflect on the year’s blessings and connect with loved ones. Overindulge in affection and eat in moderation and your holiday season will be the most enjoyable ever.

Dr. Ernie’s Thanksgiving Day Menu for Dogs – 210 calories

This meal is for a 20- to 50-lb. dog. Reduce or increase portion size accordingly.

Salad Spinach, baby carrots (4), and apple cubes (6 1⁄2” cubes) – approximately 25 calories

Main Course
Turkey – roasted breast without the skin – 2 ounces – approximately 75 calories
Cooked sweet potato – 1⁄4 large sweet potato – approximately 40 calories
Green beans – 1⁄2 cup – approximately 8 calories

Canned pumpkin – 1⁄4 cup – approximately 20 calories
Graham crackers (plain) – 1⁄2 sheet (2 crackers) – approximately 30 calories
Honey – 1⁄2 teaspoon – approximately 12 calories Cinnamon spice – pinch