As you prepare for holiday get-togethers and all the tasty food that comes with them, don’t forget to think about your pets.
Festive celebrations with plenty of guests and food can be the perfect environment for dogs to sneak some human food, whether it’s dropped from the dinner table or snagged from an appetizer display.
Prevention is the best practice, and while you should try to keep everything out of reach and warn guests not to fall for those begging puppy dog eyes, it's still important to have a plan in case your dog gets into something they shouldn’t.
To help your dogs have a safe and happy holiday, we talked to Indianapolis-based veterinarian Kristi Crow about 10 common holiday foods—from turkey to cookies—and whether they're safe for dogs.
(While dogs can eat some of these items, owners should not intentionally give them human food.)
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When it comes to turkey, certain parts of the bird can be dangerous while others are fine. For example, plain, white turkey meat on its own should not cause any harm, but meat that's well seasoned, has skin on it, or is still on the bone can cause harm.
Seasonings, as well as fatty or greasy meat or skin, can trigger stomach upset. If the seasoning blend contains garlic or onion powder, both of which are toxic to dogs, it can harm their red blood cells.
Bones are another big concern with turkey. All bones can be dangerous, but cooked bones are especially susceptible to splintering and causing internal damage. If your dog eats a cooked bone, you should consult a veterinarian as soon as possible.
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Similar to turkey, plain ham is likely fine, but it can be dangerous if a bone or heavily seasoned piece is ingested. It is also one of the fattier meats, which can be harmful to dogs.
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Red meats like steak and brisket are another popular holiday food, and like other meats, the seasoning, fattiness, and bones can cause problems if ingested by a dog.
With any meat, an owner might think it’s a special treat to give a dog a little piece in its bowl. Generally, lean, plain meats will be OK, but most veterinarians advise against giving dogs foods and protein sources they don't typically eat because it could trigger an allergy or stomach upset.
“Many of these proteins we’re talking about may be fine for one dog, but if another dog is allergic to it, it could cause an unnecessary veterinarian visit in the future,” says Crow.
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Cheese might be the star of your charcuterie board this holiday season, but it probably shouldn’t be the highlight of your dog’s dinner.
Cheese is another food that is typically fine if dogs consume small amounts. However, it is often high in fat, which can trigger gastrointestinal upset and pancreatitis.
“Rich, creamy, really fatty foods, those really savory products for us can elicit pancreatitis in our pets,” says Crow. “If there’s a high enough fat concentration, that can trigger inflammation of their pancreas.”
With cheese boards, owners should also be cautious about any cheese mixed with chives, garlic, scallions, or other members of the onion family because those can be very toxic to dogs.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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Unseasoned green beans are safe and can even be healthy for dogs. Just make sure they don’t have too much seasoning or salt.
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In small doses, baked or boiled potatoes should be fine.
“It should not be a big deal, but we don’t want to add on any unnecessary calories if possible," says Crow.
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Most owners know that chocolate is bad for dogs, but they may not know how much or what kind can be dangerous.
Generally, the darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is, and the smaller the dog, the more likely they are to get sick from a small amount. Chocolate poisoning symptoms, which include vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, and seizures, typically appear within one to four hours. If your dog has ingested chocolate or is showing symptoms, you should consult a pet poisoning hotline.
With sweets and candy, you’ll also want to be cautious about anything that is sugar-free. Sugar-free sweets often contain xylitol, which can cause problems for dogs.
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It’s a good idea to keep all desserts, including baked goods like Christmas cookies, pies, and cakes, away from dogs because they often contain a variety of ingredients that can be toxic.
Be especially cautious with baked goods containing chocolate, caffeine, raisins, or macadamia nuts. These are all toxic to dogs.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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Macadamia nuts are the biggest nut concern when it comes to dogs, and they are often baked into holiday cookies. Symptoms include vomiting, abdominal pain, and lethargy, and they usually arrive within 12 hours. If you know or suspect your dog has consumed a macadamia nut, you should consult a veterinarian or pet poison hotline.
Other nuts that are less common but still toxic include English walnuts, horse chestnuts, and ginkgo nuts.
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When baking this holiday season, make sure you keep yeast doughs out of your dog’s reach, as these can rise in their bodies and cause serious, life-threatening bloating issues.
This holiday season—and all year round—it's important to have a plan in case your dog eats something toxic. This can include knowing your veterinarian’s hours and phone number, as well as where the nearest emergency veterinarian is.
You should also write down the numbers for a 24/7 hour poisoning hotline, like the Pet Poison Helpline or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. These services often charge a fee, but they can help you determine whether your pet needs immediate treatment and can potentially help you avoid an unnecessary veterinarian visit.