No matter how good our pup's table manners may be, the holidays are a feast of dropped goodies, unguarded plates, and under-the-table turkey bites. How do we guarantee our dogs can get in on the holiday fun without getting sick?
It's important to go into food-centric holidays like Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas knowing what your pup can and can't eat -- and sharing this information with well-meaning friends and family who like to sneak our dogs a little somethin'-somethin' on the sly.
To that end, we've broken down some of the most common foods we see around these holidays, sharing which ones are safe for dogs and which should be avoided. Happy snacking!
Puppy Eyes Are A-Okay
Safe Holiday Foods for Dogs
- Roast Beast (Turkey, Ham, Chicken, Beef, etc.). Protein is a large part of your pup's diet. Cooked, lightly seasoned meat--the "roast beast" of the occasion--can be a nice treat for your dog, and good for her energy levels!
- Mashed Potatoes. Yup! Potatoes are fair game for dogs. Just avoid any seasoning, like salt or gravy. These aren't toxic for dogs, but large amounts of salt, sugar, or spices can give your pup an upset stomach.
- Plain Pumpkin or Sweet Potato. The health benefits of plain pumpkin and sweet potato for dogs are astounding. That's why many vets recommend pumpkin or sweet potato puree when a pup has an upset stomach. However, be sure you're only giving your dog plain veggies -- the spices we use at Thanksgiving and Christmas often include nutmeg, which can be fatal for dogs in large quantities.
- Carrots. Cooked or fresh, your dog will love the crunch of a delicious carrot! All the vitamins in carrots that are good for humans are just as good for your pup, so it's safe to give him a crunchy snack while you're chopping up the side dishes.
- Berries. Blueberries in particular contain antioxidants that are great for humans, and even better for dogs. Make sure to stick to small quantities with any "human foods" you give your pup. Too many berries can lead to a sour stomach and diarrhea, which is definitely NOT what you planned on giving your pup for Christmas!
- Green Beans. Green beans are another tasty, vitamin-packed treat for dogs AND humans. Skip the seasoning (butter is okay, but too much salt or spices can upset your dog's stomach) when you share this treat with your pup.
Okay, Maybe Just A Little...
Holiday Foods Dogs Can "Try"
- Cranberry Sauce. This family favorite is technically safe for dogs (there are no ingredients that make it poisonous), but it's VERY high in sugar. Because dogs' metabolisms work so differently than ours, high amounts of sugar can affect them in different ways. Also, watch out for cranberry sauce brands that include raisins, grapes, or currants -- these are all toxic for pups!
- Apples. We put apples in the "just a little" category because the cores and seeds can be very dangerous for dogs. The seeds contain trace amounts of poisonous ingredients, which ingested in large quantities can cause a TON of problems. However, the flesh and skin of an apple is perfectly safe for your pup -- just make sure to skip the pumpkin pie spice to avoid nutmeg.
- Corn. Corn is another one that's okay for your pup to try, but not in huge amounts. In fact, corn and rice are often the starch components of dry dog food. Like apple cores, though, corn cobs can be a major choking hazard for dogs. So, it's fine to let your pup try your creamed corn casserole, but don't let her run away with the cob!
- Yogurt. Dogs need probiotics, almost more than humans do! Plain yogurt, Greek yogurt in particular, can be a very beneficial snack for dogs, especially if they're still young. The vitamins and probiotics in yogurt are helpful for boosting the immune system. We put this in the "just a little" category, however, because dogs have trouble digesting lots of dairy. A spoonful or an ice-cube sized "pupsicle" is a great choice. A full tub? Not so much.
- Macaroni and Cheese. Thanksgiving's most highly-contested side dish! If you're serving mac and cheese at your family dinner, your pup can sneak a bite. However, be aware of how much dairy your pooch is getting. Also, the starchiness of pasta makes it an "empty snack" for dogs, and having too much in one sitting can give your dog tummy troubles.
- (Cooked) Eggs. Eggs are basically pure protein. Like humans, dogs can enjoy the health benefits of egg whites and the vitamins stored in the yolk. Also like humans, however, eggs MUST be cooked -- dogs can pick up diseases and digestion issues from raw egg yolk.
- Peanut Butter. What dog doesn't love a scoop of peanut butter?! Peanut butter is in the "just a smidge" category because some brands contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener that is toxic for dogs. You also don't want to give your dog too much of the good stuff, because peanut butter is high in fat and calories and can cause both weight gain and dietary issues if your pup has too much on a regular basis.
- Fish. Fish is another protein we love, and popular at many holiday meals! While humans love the Omega-3's we get from fatty fish like salmon, dogs shouldn't have entire filets of fatty fish. This is because dogs don't digest fat in the same way we do -- similar to fatty, high-calorie peanut butter, fatty fish can wreak havoc on a dog's tummy if he has too much.
Nope, None For Me!
Holiday Foods That Are Dangerous (or Poisonous!) For Dogs
- Chocolate. We all know chocolate is bad for dogs, but it bears repeating! The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is for a dog to eat.
- Desserts with Xylitol. Artificial sweeteners, particularly xylitol, are extremely dangerous for dogs. Even a small amount can cause major damage. If any friends or family are bringing over health-conscious desserts, keep these out of reach of your pup.
- Bones. Movies and TV shows depict our dogs chowing down on meaty bones, but fresh bones--poultry in particular--are actually very dangerous chew toys. The bones can splinter and form a major choking hazard. Instead of sharing turkey bones from the table, get your dog a pup-friendly chew toy to celebrate the occasion.
- Alcohol. In the same way that too much alcohol is dangerous for humans, alcohol can be highly toxic for dogs in large quantities.
- Onions. Both onions and garlic are part of a vegetable family that can cause major problems for both dogs and cats. An accidental nibble isn't fatal, but large amounts of onions put too much thiosulphate in a dog's bloodstream, which can cause anemia.
- Grapes and Raisins. A toxin in grapes (and raisins, which, y'know, are just dried grapes) can be extremely dangerous for dogs, causing sudden kidney failure. Desserts, dressings, pastries, and fruit salads with raisins or grapes in them should be kept well out of reach.
- Raw Dough. Yeast, which allows dough to rise, loves warm, dark environments. And what better environment to "rise" than a puppy's tummy? Raw dough can expand in a dog's stomach, causing great discomfort. Your pup might want to snack on cookie dough and bread dough, but keep it away from those puppy eyes.
- Nutmeg. This spice is delicious for humans, but can cause tremors and seizures in dogs. In fact, nutmeg can directly interfere with dogs' central nervous systems, even acting as a mild hallucinogen!
The Ideal Puppy Plate
We just chucked a lot of information at you. At the end of the day, if you're comfortable letting your pup snack on some "human food" for a special occasion, that's up to you! Consult with your vet before starting any new diet or treat regimen for your dog. And like many "special occasion" treats, human food should only ever be given in small amounts.
Here's what your pup's Thanksgiving "plate" might look like:
- Dinner: A small piece of turkey or chicken with no seasoning and a tiny dab of cranberry sauce.
- Sides: A tablespoon of mashed potatoes, a couple of green beans, and a crunchy carrot.
- Dessert: Plain pumpkin or sweet potato puree and a small handful of berries or apple slices.
Now, your pup can dig in at the dinner table with you!
From the Frenchie family to yours, we wish you a very happy (and safe!) Thanksgiving!