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5 Foods for Your Pet to Avoid This Holiday Season

Cute puppies eating strawberries

Written by The Halo Team

November 29, 2023

What Can Dogs Eat During the Holidays?

Many pet owners may not realize the stress certain human foods put on a dog’s digestive system, and some holiday foods are unsafe for dogs to eat altogether. It’s healthier for your dog to maintain its usual diet during the holidays, whether you use commercial dog foods or feed your dog raw meat.

If you feel the need to offer a special tasty treat over the holidays, look for healthy alternatives, such as dog biscuits and synthetic bones, rather than providing nibbles of your family’s dinner.

Learn the answers to what human food dogs can eat, including what dogs can eat on Thanksgiving and what human foods may cause food poisoning and liver failure.

Human Foods That Are Unsafe for Dogs

Chocolate and Sweets

While you may crave a dark chocolate truffle during the holiday season, chocolate is actually toxic to your canine companion. Chocolate contains two substances that are potentially lethal to dogs: theobromine and caffeine.

The speed at which chocolate side effects appear depends on the size of your dog and its sensitivity to the substance. Some dogs may have extreme reactions to even a tiny dose.

It’s also best not to feed your dog sugary treats, even those without chocolate. Just like humans, many dogs on a high-sugar diet have more chance of experiencing an upset stomach, weight gain and even diabetes.

Artificial sweeteners like xylitol are also dangerous to dogs. You may find this sugar substitute in peanut butter, commercial baked goods and ice cream.

Always check the labels on peanut butter before adding a dab to a toy or anything else your dog licks. If possible, choose unsalted peanut butter.

Gifts for you or your dog don’t have to be food-related during the holidays. Instead, buy your pet a new snuggle blanket or squeaky toy, and treat yourself to a custom dog ornament that captures your furry friend’s personality.

Onions and Garlic

Maybe you’d never slip your dog a piece of candy or cookie. However, you occasionally spoon small quantities of the family casserole into its dish for a delicious treat.

Unfortunately, many human foods contain onions and garlic, plants from the allium spp genus. These foods can make your dog sick.

Avoid feeding your dog anything with onion flakes, cooked onions, leeks or garlic. You may be surprised at all the party foods that conceal allium spp, such as vegetable dip, soup, meatballs, pizza, taco meat and cocktail wieners.

Keeping your pet on its regular dog food can help sidestep unnecessary problems. In addition, many commercial dog foods offer health benefits for a dog’s body, from supporting its immune system to providing essential fatty acids.

What Vegetables Can Dogs Eat?

Not all vegetables are forbidden to most dogs. While a dog’s stomach is much different from a human’s, your pet can occasionally enjoy a treat of vegetables like celery, green beans and carrots. Other human foods dogs can snack on include small quantities of Brussels sprouts, broccoli, celery, peas and spinach.

Consider portion size to prevent a choking hazard if your dogs eat carrots as a healthy snack. Cooked carrots are also an option and may be easier for senior dogs to eat. However, avoid canned green beans or carrots with too much salt.

Raisins and Grapes

Fruits are another category of human foods that may be toxic to dogs. Grapes and raisins top the list of fruits your dog should never eat.

Since even small amounts of raisins or grapes may be dangerous, you should safeguard your pet from accidental exposure. Supervise small children who might feed snack items to the family dog, and limit access to trash containers and compost heaps. Compost heaps can also contain tomato plants and cherry seeds, which are toxic to dogs as well.

Raisins may pop up in many holiday recipes. To protect your dog, check ingredients carefully before sharing. Raisin-filled cookies, breads, trail mix, granola and stuffing are just a few human foods dogs shouldn’t eat.

What Fruits Can Dogs Eat?

Fruits such as apples and pears may be fine for an occasional healthy treat for your dog if you remove all seeds and cores. Other fruits safe for most dogs include pumpkin, bananas, cantaloupe, blueberries and cranberries. Oranges and mangoes are also okay in moderation and are good sources of vitamin C.

Since every dog is unique, always ask your veterinarian before supplementing your dog’s diet. Remember that just because a food is safe for dogs, it doesn’t mean your dog’s stomach will tolerate it.

Dog eating natural food from a bowl

Fatty Foods and Bones

When feeding dogs bones, make safety a priority. Never give your dog cooked bones from a stew, grilled steak, chicken wings or roasted turkey.

The cooking process makes bones brittle. As your dog eats and chews, the bones may splinter, causing damage to the intestinal system. Big pieces of bone can also cause blockage.

However, even if you feed your dog uncooked bones, there are potential dangers. Raw meat and raw eggs can contain salmonella bacteria, which could make your dog sick.

Finally, bones from pork, especially the rib bones, contain too much fat for your dog’s digestive system. Excess fat from bones and foods such as avocados, cheeses and macadamia nuts can cause pancreatitis in dogs.

Choose artificial chew bones as an alternative way to pamper your dog during the holidays. These products freshen breath and clean your dog’s teeth while providing an occasional treat.

Alcohol and Caffeine

Fresh water is the best beverage for dogs, but you may want to occasionally supplement dog bowls with unsalted bone broth, diluted fruit juices or commercial dog beverages. Always check the ingredients first, and talk to your veterinarian before adding anything to your dog’s natural diet.

Steer clear of giving your dog caffeine or alcohol. Dogs’ bodies don’t metabolize alcohol properly, so alcohol poisoning can occur quickly.

The side effects of caffeine are more potent in dogs than in humans. Too much caffeine can result in hyperactivity, increased heart rate and, eventually, heart or respiratory failure.

Don’t let visitors or family members offer your dog spiked holiday punch or eggnog, chocolate treats or other human food that’s unsafe for dogs. Instead, provide them a list of dog-friendly gifts or foods dogs can eat safely.

Other Important Tips for Keeping Your Canine Safe

Treats — Not Scraps. Provide dog-safe treats for your guests to give your dog, instead of feeding them food from the table—which may cause an upset stomach.

Dog-Safe Decorations. If you’re putting up plant-based decorations, make sure they are dog-safe. Many popular decorations, including holly, mistletoe, poinsettias, and tinsel can be poisonous to dogs if ingested.

In Case of Emergency. If your dog ingests any food or decoration that they were not supposed to, and it may be poisonous, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 right away. They are open all day, every day, and will work with you to assess the situation and help your pet. Note that a consultation fee may apply.

Travel Guidelines. Finally, if you plan on traveling during the holidays, make sure to check USDA’s Pet Travel guidelines as far in advance as possible. Some travel destinations require pet owners to take action beforehand, like acquiring a health certificate, updating vaccinations, getting diagnostic testing, or administering medications.

Keep Your Dog Safe This Holiday Season

You’ll enjoy the holiday season more when your best friend is healthy. Dispose of unsafe foods securely, and ensure others know your dog’s diet restrictions. Avoid the foods mentioned above, such as macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins, chocolate and cooked bones, and provide foods that are safe for dogs.

Finally, give your pet the freedom of a Halo Collar 3 this year. GPS signals help you locate your pet while allowing it space to sniff and roam within a secure field. You can set up and store 20 fences so your dog can stay safe when visiting family and friends.

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