Is It Safe To Feed Dogs From the Holiday Table?

Holidays are a time for family, and there's no closer family than your lovable fur child that licks your face and chews your shoes. So, of course, you want to include your dog in all aspects of the holiday celebrations, including the festive food.

However, many holiday foods are dangerous for your pup to eat and may even lurk in places you don't even realize.

Consider this a condensed "survival guide" to feeding your pet only dog safe holiday table foods.

Ten BIG No No's -- Never Feed Your Dog These Foods

1. Garlic, Onion, Shallots, Chives

All members of the onion family can badly harm, even kill, your dog. Thus, this is not an ingredient where you want to take any chances. Aim for ZERO onion, garlic, etc.!

The sulfides in onion family vegetables will oxidize your dog's hemoglobin, the molecule on the red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of the body.

Moreover, onions cause anemia and will weaken your dog even in small amounts. Under a microscope, you see the anemia in purple dots on red blood cells, also called Heinz bodies.

2. Alcohol of Any Kind

Don't allow your dog even one lap! While the smell of alcohol repels most dogs, some will just want to drink whatever you're drinking.

Also, if it's a mixed drink, your dog may be attracted by the smell of the other ingredients. Alcohol will poison your dog's nervous system. It also causes heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and comma. Again, not even a drop... be strict!

3. Chocolate

Most people think it's the caffeine in chocolate that is so toxic to dogs... and it's true, caffeine is harmful to dogs. However, chocolate contains high levels of another chemical, theobromine, that is much more harmful.

While humans can flush this toxin out of their system relatively quickly, dogs cannot, and it just builds up. Dogs with theobromine poisoning get very hyper, and many die of a heart attack. It can also cause muscle tremors and seizures.

The darker the chocolate, the more cocoa bean it has, and thus the more theobromine it contains. It's best to deny your dog ALL chocolate.

4. Coffee & Tea

Like chocolate, coffee and tea contain theobromine and caffeine.

Cooked poultry bones on grey background

5. Cooked Poultry Bones

Raw poultry bones are not that dangerous to dogs. However, after you cook them, they can splinter easily.

Cooking chicken or turkey bones makes them a severe choking hazard, and they may rip your dog's digestive tract. Do not just hand your dog the turkey carcass!

6. Nutmeg, Allspice, Cloves, Cardamom, Cinnamon

Many of the spices that make food "smell like the holidays" are poisonous to dogs! Nutmeg tops this list because even a tiny amount can kill a small dog, so be very careful!

All of the spices on this list, to varying degrees, will attack your dog's nervous system causing seizures, tremors, and sometimes death.

Cinnamon is an iffy one. But most canine experts agree that you should keep cinnamon out of your dog's diet. BE CAREFUL!

7. Xylitol

People often bring sugar-free desserts to holiday gatherings to save on calories and allow people with diabetes to partake in the after-dinner delights.

Many of these sugarless desserts contain xylitol, a sugar substitute that can be very harmful to the point of being deadly, even in tiny portions, so BE EXTRA CAREFUL WITH THIS ONE.

Xylitol causes a surge of insulin, and this can cause a dangerous drop in blood sugar (extreme hypoglycemia), from which your dog can die.

It also causes liver damage, vomiting, and staggering. If your dog eats any xylitol by mistake, get it to the vet immediately. The symptoms of xylitol do not show up immediately.

Raisins on a grey background

8. Raisins

These are dried grapes, one of the most toxic foods for dogs! Avoid them completely!

9. Eggnog

Eggnog is a multiple ingredient offender, so it should NEVER give it to your dog, not one lick!

10. Alcohol

Alcohol is a big no-no! Even the non-alcoholic versions almost always have nutmeg; another big no-no! Further, alcohol is full of fat and sugar, which dogs can't handle well.

Limit These Food Components Too

There are four more ingredients you should watch closely and limit:

Salt - It's very easy for dogs to get sodium ion poisoning if they eat too much salt. It's better to serve them "bland" food.

Sugar - Dogs react to sugar much like a diabetic human does, so it causes a severe spike of their blood sugar which can then come crashing down to dangerous hypoglycemic levels.

Fat - Dogs don't metabolize fats well at all. Trim the fat from the turkey and avoid feeding your dog any food containing butter or oil. Dairy products like ice cream also include a great deal of fat.

Nuts - Nuts are a choking hazard, are very fatty, and cause intestinal stress in dogs. It's best to avoid them.

Beware of Hidden Toxic Foods

Garlic Powder

This ingredient is prevalent in processed foods. You'll find it in the sausages we add to the dressing, pre-made stuffing mixes, turkey gravy mixes, sauces, salad dressings, and frozen foods to enhance the flavor and often in very high quantity.

People sometimes sprinkle garlic and or onion powder on their turkey. Also, keep in mind that onion and garlic in powder form are much more concentrated than raw onion and garlic cooked into dishes, so it does not take much. One bite of sausage for a small dog can lead to significant problems.

Sweet pumpkin  pie on grey background

Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Pie Spices

While pumpkin and sweet potato are lovely for your dog, even healthy, the spices often added to these main ingredients at holiday time are not.

Note: You’ll often find these spices in other treats like cookies, cupcakes, and fruitcake this time of year.

The "Greens" Your Aunt Martha Brings

Many people, especially old timers and gourmet cooks add nutmeg to greens!

So, if Aunt Martha comes in with a big dish of her famous collard greens with a "secret ingredient," pull her aside and ask her for your dog's sake. Nutmeg can also show up in green bean casserole and other vegetable dishes.

The Secret Ingredient in A1 and Many Other Sauces

It’s best not to give your dog any sauces unless you know what’s in them or they're homemade.

The Size of Your Dog Matters

Big and small dog

Generally speaking, it takes more harmful food to hurt a big dog versus a smaller dog. Thus, if you have a Chihuahua or a small terrier, for example, you'll need to be much more careful than someone with a big Labrador Retriever. The same goes with kids versus adults on the human side.

How to Serve Your Dog a Holiday Feast

Okay, with all these restrictions, how does your favorite canine join in with the holiday celebration.

One solution that works well is:

  • Make your dog a special holiday platter with safe holiday food.
  • Use a festive platter that is very distinctive from the people’s dishes.

This way, the whole family (and guests) can enjoy feeding bites of acceptable holiday food from this special platter to the pampered pooch!

Are Turkey, Duck, or Goose Safe For Dogs?

Turkey, duck, and goose meat is healthy for your dog, as long as you don't feed them any part of the skin seasoned with salt and potentially harmful herbs.

Therefore, cut chunks from the interior of the bird you are serving. Both dark and white meat is suitable for your dog. If your bird is extra salty or was "pre-brined" (read the package), limit the quantity more. You can also cut a piece of the bird off before you season it and bake it separately.

How About Potatoes or Pumpkin for Dogs?

Potatoes are great. You can just mash a bit of the boiled potatoes before adding the butter, milk, etc., and put that on your dog's holiday platter.

Don't leave your pup out when it comes to the sweet potato casserole or pumpkin dishes, either. Just cook some plain sweet potato and or pumpkin and put this in the designated dog dishes.

These foods are extra healthy for your dog and will look festive when you place them with the just of the holiday spread. Don't add sugar, salt, sugar, or seasonings.

Is Cranberry Safe for Dogs?

A LITTLE cranberry will not kill your dog, but it can harm it if your pup overeats the sauce. Why? Well, because there's so much sugar added and because it can cause calcium oxalate stones in your dog's bladder.

So, it's much better to add color to your dog's special holiday platter in other ways. Add some slices of red apple and carrot sticks, both very safe foods.

You can add a few strawberries, too but don't overdo it as they may contain a lot of sugar which is not suitable for your dog.

What Vegetables are Safe for Dogs?

Dogs can also nibble on green beans (just set some aside for them before you make the green bean casserole), broccoli, and any kind of lettuce (some dogs love it, believe it or not).

Dog's holiday dinner

There you have it... a beautiful holiday dog feast with all the rich colors of the holiday as well. Your pup can stay safe and not feel left out.

Make an Announcement to Your Guests

When you have a crowd of people over, it's impossible to watch what everyone does. Furthermore, many of your guests may think it's perfectly fine, and even in the holiday spirit, to slip your dog some goodies.

To counter this, ding the wine glass and make a special announcement that you don't want people to feed the dog anything but what you put on the specially designated holiday dog platter. Be firm but polite and tell the kids twice... and ask their parents to tell them again.

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