Most of us see our dogs as “one of the family”. That usually means we want to include them in our Christmas meals! However, there are some problematic dishes lurking around the dinner table for our dogs; some dangerous, and some just likely to cause unwanted side effects. Here’s a quick guide to what to avoid (and what you can try!) for your dog’s meals over the festive period.
Table of contents
- What To Avoid: The Poisons
- What To Avoid: The Overly-Rich Food
- What May Be Safe
- Christmas Dinner For Dogs With Food Allergies
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What To Avoid: The Poisons
Let’s go straight to the dangerous stuff first. There are a few things you should definitely avoid giving your dog this Christmas.
Raisins are found in loads of different Christmas foods
But, sadly, can they be very poisonous to our dogs. The tartaric acid found on the skin of grapes (and dried versions such as raisins, sultanas and currants) can cause severe kidney failure in dogs. Sadly by the time the symptoms appear, it is often too late to save them.
There’s no way to tell how many raisins it will take to poison a dog – some will develop kidney failure after just a few of them, whilst others can eat a whole fruitcake and seem to be fine. If you think your dog may have eaten any raisins, then call your vet immediately for advice.
Chocolate is probably the most well-known of the foods that are dangerous for dogs
Christmas is one of the times of the year when vets sadly see the most cases of chocolate toxicity. Dark chocolate is the most poisonous, but milk chocolate or chocolatey baked goods can also cause problems.
Beware of leaving boxes of chocolates on low surfaces, and keep any edible decorations well out of reach. If your dog does manage to eat any chocolate, call your vet straight away.
Onions can also be poisonous to dogs
Fortunately, though, it takes quite a lot of them to cause a problem. As well as causing an upset stomach, onions contain compounds that can damage a dog’s red blood cells, which can lead to serious anaemia.
The most common way for dogs to become sick is after drinking an onion-rich gravy, particularly one made from granules. Keep any jugs of gravy well out of reach, and don’t be tempted to add it to your dog’s food – you might just end up causing more harm than good.
What To Avoid: The Overly-Rich Food
A vet’s schedule in the days after Christmas is packed with appointments for dogs who have overdone it on the food front and are now suffering the digestive consequences. In milder cases, this will lead to vomiting and diarrhoea (“gastroenteritis”). However, in more serious cases it can cause pancreatitis, a painful condition that can sometimes sadly be fatal.
Avoid fatty foods
Things like sausages, brown turkey meat, or giblets including liver or other organs are much more likely to cause a problem. Roast potatoes might be delicious smothered in goose fat, but your dog’s digestion will thank you for avoiding them.
Dairy products are also often a problem
Foods such as cheese, custard, cream, or butter are also rich in fat, and many dogs are lactose intolerant, which will only add to the damage to their digestion.
It’s also best to avoid over-indulging on dog treats, too
These are also very rich, so if you give your dog more than they are used to, then sadly there may be some consequences for your carpet!
What May Be Safe
There is always danger in offering your dog something that they don’t normally eat, and there is no way to predict what will cause an individual dog some digestive disruption. However, if you do want to try giving them something a little different, there are a few choices that are likely to be safer.
White Meat from turkey (or a bird of your choice) is the safest protein choice
It’s tasty but lean, and easy for your dog to digest. Avoid giving them the skin, if possible, as this is much higher in fat.
Veggies can also be a good addition if your dog likes them
Mine enjoys a nice piece of carrot or broccoli, though we’d hesitate at a Brussels sprout. Try to choose steamed ones, as the fat in roast veg is more likely to cause problems.
Stuffing is a tricky one
Avoid those made with sausagemeat, as they will be fatty. A vegetarian one may be a safer choice, though there are a few dogs who will struggle with the breadcrumb part. Make sure they are not heavy on onions, either.
“Gravy” is best added not from the human’s jug, but a custom blend of your dog’s own food
Try soaking a few kibbles or some tinned food in warm water for 10-15 minutes, to create a flavoured “jus” to drizzle over your dog’s meal.
Christmas Dinner For Dogs With Food Allergies
If your dog is known to have issues with their food, then Christmas can be a dangerous time. The safest thing is to stick to feeding them their regular food – you could try varying it a little by warming it up, or adding some warm water to make a kind of sauce!
If you want to try something else, it’s best to go for things your dog has had in the past without issues. If you happen to know that your dog isn’t great with chicken, then don’t be tempted to try turkey either – they are very similar proteins, and often dogs that react to one will also react to the other!
Although we want to give our dogs a bit of a treat at Christmas, feeding the wrong foods can have serious or even fatal consequences. If you want to risk sharing your food, then stick to lean meats and vegetables for healthy, delicious treats that have the lowest chance of spoiling your Christmas (and your carpet!).