In the holiday movie “A Christmas Story,” the bumbling father played by Gavin McCloud walks into the kitchen only to see the neighbor’s dogs beat a hasty retreat — carrying the feast with them. While it’s a hilarious scene in the movie, it’s not one I would ever want to see in real life.
Pets may not always “get” the holidays, but we do know they are drawn to the delicious smells and tastes of a feast, even if it is a tofurkey. It’s for this reason, unfortunately, that emergency veterinarians find themselves with much more business over the holidays.
Holiday feasts are often marked by excess. People tend to eat until they are uncomfortable, and then, just maybe, have a bit more. Celebrations may also be accompanied by the distractions of guests, games, songs and preparations. Then there’s the dreaded clean-up. With so much going on, it’s important to be particularly cautious with your pets this time of year.
Common holiday food that could harm your dog
Because we want to share our holidays, and because it’s hard to resist those big eyes, we may carve off “just a bit” for the dog. Before you give in though, stop and think carefully.
Mostly, the food we eat, in small amounts, is not dangerous. Be aware, however, there are exceptions. The metabolism of dogs is considerably different from our own, and some pretty surprising things (frequently associated with holiday meals) can be toxic and even fatal:
Chocolate— The most famous of these dangers is chocolate, and for good reason. Chocolate can cause serious problems. Avoid this risk all together and never let your dog have any chocolate. Learn more about this danger here.
Xylitol— Holidays are a time for baking. Many are concerned about sugar in baked goods and some will use xylitol as a sugar substitute. Xylitol can cause severe drops in blood glucose levels for dogs, resulting in seizures, and in some cases, severe liver damage. Even a small exposure to xylitol can be deadly. Gum, mints and candy are likely sources, but xylitol can be found many places. Even just a few cookies or muffins have been known to cause toxicity and even death.
Unbaked bread dough— Bread dough that contains yeast can cause serious problems. The yeast may expand in your dog’s stomach, resulting in fermentation and leading to alcohol production.
Alcohol— Speaking of alcohol, be sure your dog does not have access to alcohol in any form but especially in sweet and attractive drinks. Alcohol can have many of the same acute results it does in people.
Onions and other bulbs— Onions and other bulbs including garlic, leeks and chives can be very toxic. The result can be signs from nausea to a severe form of anemia that, in extreme cases, can be fatal. These foods are toxic to dogs (and cats) weather they are cooked, raw or powdered. If they are part of your recipes, take precautions so that pets don’t eat the foods that include them.
Raisins and grapes— Raisins and grapes can also be toxic and cause severe vomiting that leads to kidney failure a day or so after ingestion.
Garbage— Do not consider your dog a garbage disposal. Their stomach and intestines are generally not accustomed to eating rich foods. Meat trimmings are often high in fat and can result in gastrointestinal problems as mild as “fullness” to vomiting and diarrhea and even to conditions as severe as pancreatitis.
Do not give your dog bones and turkey carcasses. Oh sure, they enjoy them, but broken and chipped teeth, bones lodged in their mouth and throat and impactions in the stomach and intestines can result in severe discomfort and sometimes a need for surgery. Those few moments of enjoyment can lead to serious problems later.
Tips for your dog at the holidays:
- Enjoy the day with your pet, but remember that moderation and precautions are the key. Provided your dog has no health problems, like a history of pancreatic or liver/intestinal problems, a slice of turkey is perfectly fine. Fatty foods should be avoided
- Avoid foods that contain the products above
- If your dog is seen eating anything toxic or exhibits any unusual signs, call your veterinarian or the veterinary emergency clinic. As always, early intervention reduces the chances of serious problems
- Do not leave your dog unattended. He might well raid the dinner before you do
- The surest way to avoid holiday food issues is with a simple rule. If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t let your dog eat it. That includes eating too much
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
5 Holiday Toxins Your Dog Should Avoid
Veterinarian Vanessa Yeager discusses the top 5 most common dangers to your dog this holiday season. Learn about the deadly side effects of ingesting raisins, chocolate, antifreeze, and other harmful substances.
Should my dog be eating that?
This is a common question nearly every pet owner apprehensively contemplates at some point, especially around the holidays.
This time of year, more goodies whipped up in the kitchen mistakenly fall to the floor and are quickly whisked away by your four-legged vacuum cleaner. Having a gaggle of relatives and friends over for festive holiday parties consumes our attention, leaving the family dog up to his own devices. This can spell disaster for your pet.
There are a lot of potentially toxic substances out there. In fact, anything can be toxic - even water! Excessive water consumption can cause cerebral edema (swelling of the brain) and this can be lethal. Of course, achieving water-induced toxicity is incredibly difficult as you would need to consume several liters of water in a short amount of time, but it can happen.
The point is that overabundance of anything (no matter how innocent) can cause serious damage for your pet.
Here are the top 5 holiday toxins you should know about, why they're toxic, and what you should do if your pet gets his paws on them:
5 Reasons Not To Feed Your Dog Grains
By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Breed Selection Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books
One of a series of 13 feeding articles. See the complete list. +
→ 5 Reasons Not To Feed Your Dog Grains
Grain means rice, wheat, corn, soy, barley, millet, rye, quinoa, oats, pasta, bread, and so on.
Wheat, corn, soybean, barley, rice, oats, sorghum. why is there so much grain in dog food? Common sense says dogs aren't livestock, right?
Ah, good questions. Follow the money.
Did you know that bagged and canned dog food didn't even exist until the past hundred years or so? That's when entrepreneurs with dollar signs in their eyes foresaw an industry in which pet owners would pay them for the convenience of ready-made bagged and canned diets for their pets.
All these entrepreneurs needed was. ingredients.
Obviously dogs were meat-eaters, so meat needed to be in the recipe. But it couldn't be too much meat. Too expensive.
Wait, what about all the crops being produced across the vast Midwest and Central Plains of the US? The farm belt was producing huge quantities of grains and cereals, some of which wasn't fit for human consumption because of mold or other contaminants.
Could cheap grain unfit for human consumption be used to replace much of the meat in pet food? Would pet owners complain? Would they even notice?
The answers are yes, no, and no.
Oh, a few people complained, but were shouted down by the burgeoning pet food industry. "Dogs do just great eating grain," said the pet food company shills. oops! I mean pet food scientists, not shills. My bad.
Marketing firms spent an enormous amount of money training both pet owners and veterinarians that grains were great for dogs. It worked for decades.
Dog owners began noticing all the health problems.
- Grain is hard for a dog to digest, because his digestive tract is not designed for eating it. A dog's digestive tract is short and straight – perfect for digesting meat – but grain requires a longer, more winding digestive tract.
Many dogs end up excreting grain only partially digested, and then you'll see soft stools or copious stools. Some owners aren't even aware that their dog is producing much more waste than he would be if he were actually digesting more of his food.
On the plus side, there's really only one thing: cost.
- People on a tight budget who are struggling to feed their dog might need to substitute some grain for the far better, but more expensive, meat.
If you must feed some grain, I recommend quinoa and oatmeal, which are less likely to cause allergies or blood sugar spikes.
Be careful not to accept legumes in place of grain! Dog food companies have discovered that consumers are avoiding foods with grain. Unfortunately, instead of doing the responsible thing and replacing that grain with MEAT, they've replaced it with a different cheap protein: legumes (peas, lentils, beans. ).
Legumes are NOT the kind of protein that's well-digested by dogs. Legumes can cause intestinal discomfort and flatulence. And they're high in unneeded carbs.
Even more ominously, there is suspicion/concern that feeding too many legumes – as meat substitutes – might be triggering a specific form of heart disease in some dogs.
About the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.
What Can Dogs Not Eat? 12 Dog Foods to Avoid
What can dogs not eat? The holidays are a time of family and feasting, and they are a special time to share with your dog. The winter season is as magical for your pet as it is for you. They’ll love to watch you decorate and investigate wrapped gifts in wide-eyed wonder, but it’s important to remember that this is a dangerous time of the year for pets.
The holidays are one of the busiest times of the year for veterinarians. With the temptation of toxic treats, dangerous décor, and poisonous plants, the potential for a mishap skyrockets. To make sure the holidays are worry-free for you and your dog, here are twelve dog foods to avoid.
One of the infamously toxic foods for dogs, chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, and it can be deadly if enough is eaten. Chocolate puts stress on a dog’s heart and nervous system and can cause pancreatitis. During the holidays and all other days, keep chocolate far out of reach.
A dog’s nose can cause all kinds of trouble. Don’t leave toxic food in reach, for their sake!
Xylitol is a hidden danger for dogs that might go unnoticed. It’s an ingredient that’s often overlooked and is extremely toxic to dogs. Xylitol is used as a sweetener in many foods, including sugar-free foods, candy, some peanut butter, and chewing gum. If you are absolutely set in sneaking your dog a bite of peanut butter or anything baked just make sure it does not contain Xylitol. And candy—well, candy is never good for dogs, so it’s best to keep that away in general.
3. Currants, Raisins, or Grapes
A lot of people know that grapes are toxic for dogs, but this danger extends to raisins and currants as well. These can cause serious impact to your dog’s kidneys. So, when you’re making your favorite fruitcake or breaking out the currants for a seasonal dish, be sure not to share—or put them anywhere that your pup can reach.
Some holiday traditions involve breaking out the spirits for a drink, but be sure to keep alcohol away from your dog. Liquor can kill a small dog even in small amounts, and even less concentrated drinks (such as beer) can be dangerous. Wine is doubly dangerous with grapes and alcohol involved. Even if you’ve seen or heard of other people sharing a drink with their dog… don’t do it. It’s not worth risking your dog’s life.
Other dangerous drinks to watch out for during the holidays include coffee and tea. Caffeine from any source is bad news for canines, so keep those peppermint mochas, lattes, and Earl Greys out of reach.
I know what you’re going to say—you give your dog peanut butter all the time, so what’s the big deal? The fact is that nuts are a mixed lot for dogs. Some of them, like peanuts and almonds, they can get away with in small doses. Others, like macadamia nuts, are extremely toxic and can cause serious sickness. Although nuts are rarely fatal for dogs, certain types like the macadamia can cause vomiting and fever. They also present a choking hazard. If you put out a bowl of nuts during the holidays, make sure it isn’t within your dog’s reach. And unless you know a particular nut is safe, it’s better to avoid sharing as a precaution.
Garlic is another one of those invisible ingredients that can cause harm to your dog. It’s easy to forget that a dish has garlic cooked into it. Mashed potatoes seem innocent enough, and you might be tempted to drop a spoonful for your furry friend. If those potatoes were cooked with garlic, though, they should be kept far away from your dog. Garlic can cause damage to red blood cells and even if it doesn’t show any immediate symptoms, it can cause long-term damage such as anemia.
8. Onions and Chives
Onions and chives are closely related to garlic and share the same danger. They damage red blood cells and have the potential to cause anemia in the long-run. Like garlic, your dog might not present any symptoms when they eat onions or chives, but eating it causes invisible damage that catches up later in life.
Mushrooms, like nuts, are a complicated case. Many mushrooms are safe for dogs—but some are not. Mushrooms are also influenced by where they are grown, and what conditions they are grown under. Your best bet is just to keep mushrooms away from your dog to be safe. There are too many risks, and the wrong mushroom can cause anything from stomach upset to seizures or death.
10. Unbaked Dough (Yeast)
If you’re baking anything with yeast, keep the dough away from the edge of the counters and guard it closely. If your dog eats unbaked dough, it will produce ethanol in their system and the dough can expand in their stomach, causing severe stomach pain. Bread is not great for dogs, but if you are stubborn about sharing, wait until after it’s cooked.
11. Turkey Bones and Trimmings
Everyone’s heard the phrase ‘give a dog a bone,’ but what they don’t tell you is that when poultry bones are cooked, they become brittle and splinter easily. As excited as your dog might be over fragrant turkey bones perched tantalizingly on the platter nearby, don’t let them take that risk. It can perforate their esophagus, stomach, or intestines and put their life in serious danger. Instead, save a piece of turkey meat just for your dog. They will absolutely love it, and it is a safe way to indulge. Stay away from giving your dog raw meat or trimmings, though, as anything with a high fat content can make your dog sick.
If your dog slurps eggnog out of your mug while you’re distracted, chances are they will probably be fine. But, eggnog is not good for them, either. A lot of dogs are lactose intolerant, and nutmeg is toxic to dogs in high concentrations. Combine that with potentially raw eggs and a lot of fat and sugar, and you end up with a drink that isn’t very dog-friendly. There’s a chance eggnog could make your dog sick, so save yourself and your dog some trouble by keeping this holiday staple out of tongue’s reach.
Gunther the beagle stares down a cup of hot eggnog with hopeful eyes.
Other Holiday Hazards:
Toxic foods aren’t the only thing your dog might be tempted by this holiday season. Antifreeze is extremely poisonous despite its sweet scent. Electrical wires and string lights can shock your dog if chewed through, and decorations such as tinsel, ornaments, or wrapping paper can range from a sharp shard hazard to a choking hazard to potential blockages if ingested. Certain holiday plants are poisonous to dogs, as well. Poinsettia is the most well-known, but watch out for mistletoe and holly, too.
Although it seems like the holidays are filled with a long list of potential poisons, there are plenty of safe treats that you can share with your dog. Green beans, sweet potatoes, turkey, and cranberries are all safe and festive treats that your dog will love. And, as long as you’re vigilant with the wrapping paper, you can include your dog in any gift-giving, too. More than anything, though, they will appreciate extra time spent together.
Joey the beagle dreams of holiday treats, unaware of how dangerous some of them can be.
Hope this guide on what can dogs not eat was helpful. These dog foods to avoid should be kept away from your dog to avoid any potential issues.
1. Hazardous Gifts
If you have a pet, you’re on high alert when hazardous items come into your home. Be as conscientious when you are a guest by adding special tags to gifts that aren’t pet friendly, so your host can place them out of reach of curious cats and dogs.
We’ve created a printable gift tag template so you can mark gifts and other items as hazardous to pets.
2. Ribbons, Bows & Other Décor
Gift ribbons and similar decorations can cause serious harm if pets ingest them. Household décor with moving or hanging pieces or electrical components can also pose a threat.
“As soon as gifts are opened, take the ribbons, strings and wrapping paper away,” advises Dr. Harris. Cats especially love playing with ribbons and strings. This can be quite dangerous for your pet if they do not know how to play with them safely.”
3. Holiday Plants
Holiday plants can also pique your dog or cat’s interest.
“At Christmastime, you may have new plants in the house that are poisonous to pets. Lilies are particularly toxic to cats, and azaleas, holly, mistletoe and poinsettias are also poisonous. Be cautious and aware of what’s coming into your house,” advises Dr. Harris, otherwise, “Pets may sniff and eat them.”
4. Certain Ingredients
Holiday meals contain some favorite, seasonal ingredients, and although they’re tasty to humans, many are harmful to pets. When creating your holiday pet safety checklist, be mindful of ingredients that could be harmful to your dogs and cats.
You already know to avoid chocolate, but you’ll also want to watch for grapes and raisins in your cookies and cakes, along with chopped onions and garlic that may be used in an array of recipes. Dr. Harris says, “These ingredients can be, unfortunately, toxic for our pets.”
Xylitol is another ingredient toxic to pets. This sugar alternative is found in an array of foods from cake and cookie mixes to yogurt and peanut butter. It is also found in most types of chewing gum.
5. Purses & Coats
Your pet’s curiosity and the scents of new guests may lead them to root through your guests’ purses or winter coats. This can seem harmless and even comical at first, but your dog or cat could find medications, chewing gum and other harmful items.
According to Dr. Harris, “Ibuprofen can cause severe adverse effects to our pets and the decongestants we use in the winter months also pose a major threat.” Place your guests’ belongings in a coat closet or a closed-off room where your pets won’t have access.
By following these holiday safety tips for pets, you can avoid many seasonal risks to your pet and enjoy a fun-filled, safe holiday. It’s always wise to prepare for the worst-case scenario, though, so keep your veterinarian’s number in your phone and ask about their emergency procedures during the holidays.
We also recommend adding the number for the Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) to your phone: (888) 426-4435. They’re available 24/7, including holidays, though they may charge a fee for any services provided.
For more holiday tips from our experts, visit our Pet Expertise page.