iHeartDogs is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you.
Every year, pets are rushed to the vet during the holidays because they ate something they shouldn’t. It might seem fun to include your dog on Christmas by giving them delicious table scraps, but many foods are bad for dogs, with some being life-threatening. Thus, it’s best to avoid these toxic foods altogether to keep your pup as healthy as possible.
Before your holiday festivities this year, familiarize yourself with which human foods are safe for dogs and which ones aren’t. When in doubt, always look up whether or not a food is pet-safe before serving it to your furry friend.
Unsafe Holiday Foods for Dogs
Most Christmas gatherings have some form of alcohol at them. Alcohol is more than just unhealthy for dogs; it can cause severe poisoning. Even small quantities could lead to seizures and trouble breathing, so if your dog sneaks a lick of your alcoholic beverage, visit the vet right away.
Xylitol is an alternative to regular sugar. It’s the ingredient that keeps sugar-free snacks tasting sweet. Many people prefer products with xylitol instead of sugar because xylitol has fewer calories, doesn’t raise blood sugar levels, and can reduce the risk of tooth decay. A variety of human products contain xylitol, including some peanut butter, candy, mints, mouthwash, toothpaste, gum, and vitamins.
Any amount of xylitol can result in severe side effects in dogs, including seizures, liver failure, or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). In extreme cases, dogs could die from it. If you’re planning to serve human food to dogs, always check the packaging to ensure there’s no xylitol in it.
Caffeine will likely be present in some beverage options at your holiday get-togethers, but like alcohol, it’s poisonous to pets. Dogs who ingest caffeine could have a variety of negative reactions, such as raised blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias, loss of muscle control, tremors, seizures, or gastrointestinal problems like vomiting and diarrhea.
4. Turkey/Chicken Skin & Bones
While unseasoned turkey or chicken meat can be a healthy and tasty snack for dogs, the skin and bones should be avoided. The fat and skin of these meats have a high fat content that could easily upset your dog’s stomach. Puppies are especially likely to suffer from vomiting or diarrhea after eating those parts of the poultry.
Also, even though dogs are known for chewing on bones, turkey and chicken bones are not safe. Cooked bones can easily splinter, which could scratch your pup as they chew. If they swallow part of the bone, it could cause a blockage internally. Thus, if you want to give your dog something to chew on, find a pet-safe product instead, not your holiday leftovers.
5. Onions and Garlic
Onions and anything cooked with onions can be toxic to dogs. The vegetables contain N-propyl disulfide, a compound that isn’t safe for your furry friend, regardless of if it’s raw or cooked. Dogs who ingest onions may experience vomiting, diarrhea, breathing problems, or a loss of appetite. Onions can also damage red blood cells, so you should seek veterinary assistance right away. Other foods in the onion family, such as garlic, leeks, and chives have similar effects on dogs.
Most people know that chocolate is toxic to dogs, but why is that the case? Chocolate contains theobromine, which comes from the cacao bean, so it’s similar to caffeine. Dogs can experience a variety of symptoms after eating chocolate, including vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, restlessness, increased urination, and a rapid heart rate. In some cases, it could lead to severe symptoms like seizures, tremors, and heart failure. That’s why it’s essential to seek veterinary help, even if your dog only ate a little chocolate.
Christmas candy and other sweet desserts are a favorite holiday delicacy for many people. Unfortunately, dogs cannot enjoy sweets with their humans. Sugar isn’t considered toxic to dogs, but it can be difficult for their bodies to process, often resulting in digestive issues like vomiting and diarrhea.
We often add spices to our foods to make them taste better, but dogs don’t need any flavor enhancers. A plain piece of meat is much safer for them than one drowned in other ingredients. Too much spice can cause a burning sensation on your dog’s tongue and lead to excessive thirst and digestion problems like gas, diarrhea, and vomiting. Dogs cannot understand why the food feels that way, and they may suffer from long-term gastrointestinal problems as a result.
Stuffing often has a lot of ingredients added to it, many of which aren’t safe for dogs, such as spices, onions, garlic, and butter. This food may cause digestive problems, but if your dog eats too much of it, they may face severe concerns like pancreatitis. Even if you know your stuffing doesn’t have any toxic ingredients, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
For humans, gravy is the perfect topper for many holiday foods, including potatoes, meat, and stuffing. Sadly, as tasty as it is, dogs shouldn’t have it. Gravy contains high amounts of sodium and fat and may also have ingredients that are toxic to dogs, such as onions and garlic. Dogs who accidentally ingest gravy might experience dehydration, trouble urinating, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and kidney damage.
Bone broth, such The Honest Kitchen Instant Beef Bone Broth, is a healthy alternative to gravy. Bone broth can enhance the flavor of your dog’s food while also improving areas of their health, such as joints, skin, coat, energy, and heart.
11. Grapes and Raisins
Even though fruits are known for being healthy, grapes are a fruit dogs should avoid at all costs. Grapes and raisins can lead to kidney failure in dogs, but it may take several days for that to occur. In the meantime, dogs could experience vomiting, diarrhea, or difficulty urinating. Even if your dog seems fine, take them to the vet right away if they ate a grape because doing so could save their life.
The reason grapes are so dangerous for dogs is because they contain high concentrations of tartaric acid and potassium bitartrate, which dogs are sensitive to.
12. Walnuts and Macadamia Nuts
Walnuts should be avoided for dogs because they’re high in oil and fat. Eating walnuts could put your dog at risk of pancreatitis. Whole walnuts could also become a choking hazard or cause a blockage.
While macadamia nuts are smaller, they’re poisonous to dogs. Dogs who eat macadamia nuts may experience muscle weakness, paralysis, vomiting, or hyperthermia. Visit the vet immediately if your dog accidentally ate macadamia nuts.
What Holiday Foods Are Safe for Dogs?
Since so many human foods can cause illness in dogs, it may be overwhelming to celebrate the holidays with your four-legged family member. Luckily, there are plenty of human foods that dogs can safely eat for the holidays. Whatever food you give them, make sure it’s plain without added salts and seasonings. Click here to see a detailed list of pet-safe holiday foods.
How to Protect Your Dog From Toxic Foods
Keep Your Dog Away from the Kitchen and Dining Room
Wherever you’re planning to cook and eat during holiday festivities, make sure your dog cannot enter those rooms. As much as dogs love to be part of the fun, toxic foods could easily be spilled and then gobbled up by your dog before you can react. Keep your dog in another room, crate them, or use a baby gate to separate them.
Gates like the Cardinal Gates Auto-Lock Pet Gate and the Wiscky Retractable Baby Gate are just a few options for keeping your dog out of a certain area of your home. A sturdy crate, such as the Midwest iCrate Wire Dog Crate, is another way to ensure your dog is securely out of the way while you cook and serve food.
Never Leave Food Sitting Out Unattended
It’s normal to leave food on the counters so everyone can come and grab their own servings, but if that’s how you do it, make sure your dog is never alone in the room that has food sitting out. Many dogs will go to extreme lengths to get good-smelling food, so you may find food knocked off the counters or parts of the food licked by your dog if you’re not careful.
Cover Your Garbage
If your garbage can is within your dog’s reach, make sure it has a lid to make it difficult to access. For dogs that know how to open garbage lids, baby locks or locking trash cans can be a lifesaver.
The Simplehuman Semi-Round Kitchen Trash Can is one example of a locking trash can that can prevent pets from accessing the garbage inside it.
Sweep Immediately After Cooking and Eating
Dogs are masters at finding microscopic crumbs on the floor. So, after you cook, make sure you sweep to ensure you remove potentially toxic foods from the ground. Then, as tedious as it may be, you should sweep again after eating since some of your family members might be messy eaters, especially if you have kids at your holiday festivities.
Have a Detoxifier in Case of an Emergency
Detoxifiers like the Dr. Cuddles ReadyRESCUE product can save your dog’s life in an emergency. If your dog ingests something they shouldn’t, you can quickly give them this product to potentially save their life. Depending on what they ate, they may not make it to the vet in time, so it’s good to have a product like this in your home.
Keeping Your Dog Safe This Holiday Season
Now that you know what holiday foods to avoid serving to your dog, you can be extra cautious when cooking and eating special meals. When in doubt, stick to giving your dog food and treats made specifically for dogs to ensure they stay as safe and healthy as possible. Dogs are part of the family, so they deserve to be just as safe as your human family members this holiday season.