Yes, there are some holiday foods dogs can eat. But it’s important to know many holiday staples can make your dog sick, and others are downright dangerous for dogs to ingest. Below we cover the safety of common holiday foods, and offer tips to keep your dog safe from risky seasonal fair. Let’s start with the main course:
Can Dogs Eat Turkey?
No, with one small caveat. Dogs can gobble a few bite-sized pieces of white meat turkey breast from the holiday bird. The rest of the turkey, however, is off limits. Dark meat and skin are too fatty and can give your dog an upset stomach. Too much fat in her diet can cause obesity and other health concerns, and a one-time consumption of a large amount of fatty food can cause a bout of pancreatitis.
Can Dogs Eat Turkey Bones?
No. A drumstick bone may seem like the perfect special treat for your dog, but it is actually dangerous. Most bones from cooked meats, including turkey, chicken, ham, and T-bone steak, are brittle and breakable in your dog’s strong jaws. Letting your dog gnaw on turkey bones puts her at risk of ingesting small shards of broken bone that can become lodged or cause small lacerations in her digestive tract.
Can Dogs Eat Christmas Ham?
It’s wise to keep your glazed Christmas ham off limits from your dog. Ham is loaded with fat, which can cause gastrointestinal problems and pancreatitis when overeaten. It also a has very high salt content. Dogs, like humans, need small amounts of salt in their diet, but too much ham can overload your dog with harmful sodium. While a small bite of Christmas ham won’t hurt your dog, it may give her a taste for the highly processed meat and she’ll beg for it ever after. You’ll never enjoy a ham sandwich in peace again.
Holiday Foods Your Dog Shouldn’t Eat
Though there are many dog holiday safety issues—such as lights, ornaments, decorations, and candles—holiday foods are a top concern. There’s no hiding those delicious smells from your dog’s powerful nose. Cookies baking, turkey roasting, gravy simmering—these are as tempting to your dog as they are to you, and he’s going to spend the holiday season counter surfing and sniffing out those special morsels. Here are the most dangerous holiday foods for your dogs:
Chocolate is toxic to dogs year round, but it’s more of a risk around the holidays when there’s an abundance of chocolate around the homestead—chocolate chip-laden Christmas and Hanukkah cookies, gifts of chocolate from coworkers, and overflowing dessert tables. Dark chocolate is especially dangerous because it contains the most theobromine and caffeine, the compounds in chocolate that affect your dog’s cardiovascular and nervous systems, and leave her body slowly. Small dogs are at greatest risk because it takes less chocolate to cause ill effects.
Highly dangerous for dogs, xylitol is a naturally derived sweetener used as a sugar substitute in chocolate, candy, baked goods, and even some toothpastes. In dogs, xylitol causes a dangerous drop in blood sugar, and liver failure.
Garlic and Onions
Keep garlic, onions, and all other alliums away from your dog during the holidays, and throughout the year—whether they’re raw, cooked, or powdered These fragrant and flavorful vegetables contain a compound that causes hemolysis in dogs, a condition in which red blood cells break down, ultimately leading to anemia. Keep those bags of onions and garlic for the stuffing, potato latkes, green bean casserole, and mashed potatoes in a high cabinet until ready for use, and then throw the peels out where your dog can’t reach them.
While fancy and festive, macadamia nuts can poison dogs, causing rear-leg weakness, vomiting, and diarrhea. It doesn’t take a large quantity of macadamias to cause symptoms, so contact your veterinarian if your dog eats any amount of the macadamia nut brittle.
Send your dog on a walk with a family member, or have her relax in her dog crate while you wrestle with the 15-pound turkey, or prepare the roast for the oven. If she’s underfoot, she may snatch a bite of raw meat or lick the counter where the raw meat was sitting. This puts her at risk of salmonella or listeria poisoning, and other food-borne illnesses.
Don’t leave your dog in the dining room with half-finished glasses of wine. She will lap up the drinks and put herself at risk of alcohol poisoning. Freestanding dog gates are helpful for keeping your dog out of “no-go” zones when you’re busy entertaining guests.
Unbaked Bread Dough
Challah or sourdough bread dough left to rise on the counter within paws’ reach is a recipe for disaster. When your dog eats raw bread dough it continues to expand in her stomach, causing pressure and discomfort as her belly distends. Additionally, the fermenting yeast releases ethanol into your dog’s bloodstream, which leads to alcohol poisoning. Because the glutinous dough is difficult to vomit up, your dog may need her stomach pumped.
Rich, Fatty Foods
Thick gravy, macaroni and cheese, trifle, and kugel: holiday tables are spread with an abundance of heavy, high-fat foods. These foods, especially in combination and in high quantities, will at the very least upset your dog’s stomach.
Holiday Foods Your Dog Can Eat
Admittedly, the “don’t eat” list is longer than the “have at it” list, but there are foods your furry family member can enjoy. When readying the holiday menu, put these items on the shopping list:
When you’re chopping carrots for the roasting pan or the turkey stuffing, give your dog a few raw chunks to chew on. You can also give her cooked carrots, as long as they aren’t tossed with butter, oil, or seasonings.
When you sit down to your holiday feast, your dog won’t feel left out with a small amount of plain, roasted sweet potatoes in her dog bowl. Unfortunately, she shouldn’t partake of the rich candied yams with marshmallows on top, or the sweet potato pie.
Apples are a common ingredient in many dog treats. So, when everyone is enjoying apple pie for dessert, offer your dog a few slices of raw apple for a sweet treat. Just make sure the apple slices are free from seeds or the tough core.
While traditional green bean casserole is too rich and topped with crunchy, dangerous-for-dogs alliums, plain green beans are a healthful holiday treat for your best friend. Chop boiled or steamed green beans down to a safe size, and serve them up without any seasoning or fats.
Pumpkin pie is off limits, but you can confidently treat your dog to mashed or diced cooked pumpkin during the feast. Rich in beta-carotene and fiber, pumpkin is another common ingredient in dog treats.
Your dog is no doubt near the top of things you’re grateful for this holiday season. Let her enjoy safe holiday foods with you, keep her away from dangerous seasonal grub, and you’ll toast her good health come the new year. Cheers!