By: Dr. Laci Schaible, DVM, CVJ
As the holidays roll around and our plates overflow with home-cooked goodness, remember that many holiday foods are bad for dogs and can even be toxic. From savory mashed potatoes and gravy to sweets and treats, learn which foods to avoid sharing—whether it’s letting them lick the plate or setting aside a bowl full of scraps.
Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
Packed with dairy and oh-so-delicious butter, this dish is 100% off limits. Heaping amounts of fat in this beloved side dish are likely to cause gastrointestinal (GI) upset at best—in the form of urgent diarrhea—or pancreatitis at worst.
Gravy is equally harmful and incredibly heavy in sodium and fat. Because it’s so tasty and requires no chewing, this side dish would likely be lapped up in record time if you leave your plate unprotected. However, there’s a high probability of it coming back up while you’re enjoying your own holiday meal.
Meat Fat, Bones and Skin
Turkey carcasses and fat drippings are perhaps a dog’s dream from heaven, but they can cause serious complications for your dog’s gastrointestinal tract. Dogs should not be offered meat with bones, excess fat, skin or drippings, as these pose grave risk for conditions such as gastrointestinal blockage or injuries. They can also lead to more complex diseases like pancreatitis.
Casseroles and Spreads
While green bean casserole may sound like one of the healthier options on the table, the name is deceiving. Holiday casseroles like this one are laden with heavy creams, butter, oils and salt as well as garlic and onion—both of which are toxic to dogs. Even if a dish is based around a vegetable that is safe for dogs, such as green beans or sweet potatoes, when it falls into the casserole category, it is not one to share with your pup.
Dogs should also not be given dairy products. Avoid the heavy appetizers, such as cheese balls and fatty dips and spreads. Most dogs do not tolerate dairy well, and the holidays are not an ideal time to test the limits of their GI tract.
Stuffing is a fatty, sodium-packed food that contains onions and garlic, which are both toxic to dogs.
Holiday fruitcake poses as a bread but is really more of a dessert. It is deadly to dogs, as it is loaded with raisins. Even just a few dropped raisins can be fatal to dogs, causing kidney failure.
While humans may love apple pie, pumpkin pie and chocolate pie, these rich and sweet desserts can be very dangerous for dogs. Dogs will go to far lengths, or to counter-top heights, to indulge in this risky vice. Don’t leave the candy bowl or kitchen counter unsupervised and within a paw’s reach—even for a moment! While not all desserts are toxic to dogs like chocolate is, desserts are never a safe bet.
Artificial sweeteners, such as xylitol, can be deadly in small quantities. Save the after-dinner sweets and treats for the humans.
Tips for Avoiding an Emergency Vet Trip
It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but you may find yourself making a trip to the emergency veterinarian if your dog indulges in foods from the table. While there are several healthy holiday food options for dogs, always proceed with caution and only give a little at a time.
Remember, if your dog isn’t acclimated to a variety of foods, introducing multiple people foods at once can be overwhelming to their GI system.