Our dogs are like children to us, so it’s no surprise as to why owners love to see their pooch join in on the festive fun and spoil them rotten at Christmas. We’re certain that many of you are guilty of wrapping a few presents for your dog to open, buying them a doggy Christmas jumper and wanting to give them a little taster of the delicious Christmas dinner on your plate.
It’s tempting to overly pamper and indulge your dog over the festive period, but unfortunately the season brings a lot of disguised dangers to dogs, especially when festive food is concerned.
Loads of the delicious food we eat over Christmas can actually be really dangerous to feed your dog, so you must do your best not to succumb to those puppy dog eyes begging for a piece of your mince pie.
Christmas foods to avoid
We’re going to give you a list of some of the common festive foods that you might have leftover and laying around in the festive months that you should never feed to your dog. It's not all bad though, there's still lots of Christmas foods you can feed your dog, which your dog will be happy to hear!
Advent calendars, selection boxes, chocolate reindeer, chocolate pennies and even chocolate baubles, you name anything Christmassy and there will probably be a chocolate version of it. We humans love a chocolate or two in the festive season, or more accurately the full box, but unfortunately, this sugary snack isn’t something we can share with our four-legged friends.
Not only is chocolate unhealthy and full of sugar, but it also contains two methylxanthine alkaloids, theobromine and caffeine, and these two chemicals are highly toxic to dogs. Surprisingly, the darker the chocolate, the higher the levels of theobromine. Chocolate poisoning is a real thing, feeding your dog chocolate doesn’t just pose the risk of a stomach upset, it can have severe consequences.
It seems strange that we can indulge on chocolate, but our dogs can’t, but it’s because humans and dogs metabolise things differently. Dogs are unable to metabolise theobromine and caffeine in the same way that we can, so the chemicals stay in the system for a lot longer than they would in people, causing toxicity. Both chemicals in chocolate increase heart rate and blood pressure and has negative effects on the nervous system.
The most common symptoms of chocolate poisoning are vomiting and diarrhoea, but look out for panting, dehydration, restlessness, tremors, convulsion and even total heart failure. If you know your dog has eaten chocolate, contact the vet as symptoms and severity of poisoning can differ from dog to dog depending on how much was ingested and the size of the dog.
Gravy and stuffing
Both an integral component of the Christmas dinner, gravy and stuffing contain a lot of ingredients that are incredibly unhealthy and even dangerous for dogs, so don’t let them lick your plate and eat your leftovers.
Totally tasty but incredibly high in fat and salt, your dog would be your best friend forever if you let them lap up the gravy, but they’d be at risk of piling on the pounds and having some severe tummy upset.
Not only that, but gravy usually contains onions and garlic to contribute to the flavour that makes it so delicious for us humans. Onions, garlic, leeks and shallots are all part of the allium plant family, which is poisonous for pooches and often crops up as part of the Christmas dinner. Containing a substance called thiosulphate, consumption of anything from the allium family can cause your dog a lot of sickness, lethargy, weakness, pale gums, and damage to the red blood cells, which is really dangerous and can lead to anaemia.
Similarly, stuffing is a staple on most Christmas dinners, but it also often contains onion and garlic, so it can be really dangerous. Also, there’s typically loads of herbs and spices in stuffing that makes it so tasty to people, but they can cause your dog a lot of stomach upset.
If you know your dog has eaten something containing onion and garlic, contact the vet and discuss what the best thing to do is.
Although the meat from your Christmas dinner, most commonly turkey, is perfectly safe for your dog to snack on and is a good choice of treat if you really want to indulge your dog to some of your dinners, the turkey bones are not safe.
After you’ve all tucked into the turkey, it can be tempting to chuck your dog a bone to gnaw on, after all, dogs love bones, right?
However, the cooked bones from any meat can pose a real threat to dogs, as they’re a potential choking hazard, they can cause obstructions and cooked bones can splinter. Cooked bones splinter easily, and this is extremely dangerous as it can rip and tear your dog’s insides, leading to a lot of internal damage.
Currants, raisins, sultanas and grapes
Christmas time brings lots of treats for us humans, from mince pies to Christmas pudding and cheese boards. A key ingredient in many of these Christmas delights can be currants, raisins, sultanas and grapes, especially so in the mincemeat of the mince pies we munch throughout the entirety of December.
Every one of these fruits is a member of the Vitis vinifera family, all of which can be dangerous to dogs.
It’s not totally understood how or why these fruits have such severe consequences for our dogs and not for us humans, we just know that it happens, so you must always keep them out of reach.
The symptoms of poisoning from these fruits can vary, some dogs can eat some and be totally unaffected, whereas some can be seriously poorly. Symptoms can range from just an upset tummy, vomiting and diarrhoea to kidney failure and anuria (a lack of urine production).
It can take an hour for symptoms to begin, and about 1-3 days for kidney failure to occur, so contact your vet as soon as you know they’ve ingested one of these fatal fruits so you can figure out what the next steps are. If they’ve only just eaten it, your vet might decide to induce vomiting, so it gets rid of the toxic substance before the fruits are properly digested and cause toxicity.
Pigs in blankets
Pigs in blankets are a simply delicious addition to our dinners, many people seeing them as an absolutely fundamental part of a Christmas dinner. Both humans and hounds find bacon and sausages super tasty, they’re packed with flavour and smell mouth-wateringly good.
One pig in a blanket would be the utmost high-value treat for your four-legged friend, but they’re super high in salt and fat and they’re incredibly calorific so you shouldn’t ever give your dog one as a tasty titbit.
You could argue that us humans shouldn’t be eating them either as they’re really unhealthy, however, our dogs are much more sensitive to salt and fat than people are. It can lead to your dog piling on the pounds, having an upset tummy and even sometimes acute pancreatitis.
Many brands of sausage also contain ingredients like garlic, leeks and onions, which is what helps to make them even tastier. However, as we know, these are toxic ingredients for dogs, so it’s better not to risk it. It’s unlikely that your dog will suffer from an extreme reaction to pigs in blankets, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Try not to succumb to those puppy dog eyes when you take the pigs in blankets out of the oven, we know it’s hard! Our dogs have a sense of smell that’s between 10,000 and 100,000 times more powerful than ours, so the delicious smell will be torturous for your poor pooch.
Macadamia nuts and walnuts
Nuts are never a good snack to feed your dog, whether they’re salted peanuts, cashews, pistachios, you name it. They can have a negative impact on the doggy digestive system, the pancreatic system, they can be choking hazards and the ones with shells on can cause internal tears. All nuts are high in fat, so don’t let your pooch pinch your peanuts on the regular as they’ll start putting on weight.
However, two types of nuts we commonly see around Christmas time, macadamia nuts and walnuts, are actually toxic to dogs, causing severe problems if ingested. Walnuts are difficult to digest which can cause tummy upset, but they also contain a toxin named tremorgenic mycotoxin, which can cause seizures and other problems.
Macadamia nuts are considered to be even more poisonous than walnuts, so it’s essential that you keep these out of your dog’s way. Their toxicity is just as bad as that in grapes and raisins, with the potential to have a severe impact even in the tiniest quantity.
Currently, the particular toxin in macadamia nuts that’s so poisonous is actually unknown, we just know that it can cause problems such as temporary paralysis, tremors and other neurological problems. Get in touch with your vet if you’re aware that your pup has treated themselves to this snack.
Human desserts and sweets
Christmas calls for indulgent foods, so your house might be filled with tins of treats and sweets to enjoy after your dinner, or just whenever you fancy, after all, it’s Christmas!
Of course, these treats will be packed with sugar and other ingredients which are not only unhealthy for people, but will be really unhealthy for dogs, leading to a poorly stomach, vomiting and diarrhoea. Also, if any of these sweets are labelled as being sugar-free, they’ll most likely contain an ingredient called xylitol, which is a sugar substitute. However, xylitol is highly poisonous. If your pooch ingests xylitol, it’s imperative that you get them to the vets as soon as possible to figure out the next steps.
Other Christmas staples to avoid:
- Anything containing alcohol or caffeine.
- Cheese is a tasty treat for dogs, but too much can cause tummy problems. Keep the cheeseboards out of reach.
- Although most veggies are fine for dogs, don’t feed them if they’re covered in fatty extras, honey and seasonings.
- Ingesting some common Christmas plants can cause stomach upset. Holly, mistletoe and ivy are all considered toxic. Christmas tree pines are spiky which can cause internal rips and tears.
What to do if your dog eats something they shouldn’t have
It all depends really on how much and what your dog ate. If you’re certain that your dog has eaten something bad, contact the vet to see what your next steps should be, your vet might need to provide medication and induce vomiting in some scenarios.
Even though Christmas is an exciting time, for both people and pooches, there’s lots of hidden dangers for dogs lurking in the festivities.
Instead of feeding them your Christmas dinner…
Christmas is the time for giving, so why not treat your dog to a new toy to unwrap on Christmas day. One good option for a gift is a puzzle game/fun feeder, this allows you to fill it with tasty, dog-friendly food to help distract them when you’re busy cooking the Christmas dinner. These types of toys also keep your dog’s brain busy, so hopefully they’ll be pretty tired and want a snooze later. This works perfectly if you’re wanting a little Christmas catnap too!
A cold, crisp Christmas morning is the perfect time for a dog walk, so get out and about for a winter walk. Hopefully this should tire them out from the start so you can have a nice and relaxed Christmas day.