Around the holidays, you may notice your pup transforming into a small and ferocious furry forager. Her finely tuned crumb radar kicks into full gear, and she can operate more swiftly and efficiently than your actual garbage disposal. And maybe you feed her a little something off of your plate, because (a) you’re filled with the spirit of giving, (b) it’s hilarious to watch dogs eat things from human utensils, and (c) she’s also kind of your best friend.
Hey, we get it—dogs are people too!— except for when it comes to what they should and shouldn’t eat. Unfortunately, a lot of the “people food” we think is harmless could make them... well, sick as a dog. To get a sense of which scraps are fit for fur babies and which might result in an unexpected trip to the vet’s office, we asked Gary Richter, M.S., D.V.M., and veterinary health expert with Rover.com, to tell us what our pups should steer clear of this holiday season.
1. Desserts and Candy
Sometimes the easiest treat to throw to your dog is a small piece of whatever dessert you’re whipping up for a holiday celebration or after-dinner snack. What’s not commonly known is how dangerous these sweet treats can be. Richter gives us the facts:
- First, chocolate can be toxic or even sometimes fatal for dogs because of a compound called theobromine. The darker the chocolate, the more of that compound (the most toxic chocolates are the ones with higher levels of cacao). But the relative level of toxicity is related to the amount ingested, the type of chocolate (dark vs. milk), and the size of the animal (smaller dogs and larger amounts of chocolate are the most potentially dangerous combination).
- Additionally, the artificial sweetener used in a lot of different candies, baked goods, and chewing gum, xylitol, is very toxic for dogs and can lead to low blood sugar, seizures, and liver failure.
- Finally, yeast dough, used in baking bread, rolls, and some desserts, may rise after being ingested and lead to intestinal rupture or obstruction. There's also the possibility of it fermenting after being eaten by your dog, which can cause alcohol poisoning (yes, dogs can get it too!).
2. Coffee and Other Caffeinated Beverages
It's not that we think your dog is going to pull up a seat next to you at the kitchen table and sip on a cup of coffee (although how glorious would that be?), but we know things can get messy and those coffee beans can fall on the floor. Here's why that's not OK, according to Richter.
- Caffeinated products contain stimulants called methylxanthines, and pets are much more sensitive to the effects of these substances than humans are. Ingesting even a small amount can make dogs vulnerable to caffeine poisoning, which can cause hyperactivity, panting, elevated heart rate, tremors, seizures, and collapses. Seek immediate veterinary care for treatment if these symptoms develop in your dog.
We've seen those videos on Instagram where people make their dog sip a beer. It's cute because... dogs, but don't get any ideas. Richter tells us it's not just about the alcoholic bevs either...
- With all the holiday festivities going on, cocktails are sure to be flowing—just make sure to keep boozy beverages out of your dogs' reach.
- Though keeping bottled beverages away from your pet is a fairly known fact, many pet owners don’t know that other foods contain alcoholic properties, such as yeast dough, rich sauces that contain alcohol, or baked goods soaked in hard liquors, like rum. If you notice your dog has a staggering walk, confused behavior, or begins to vomit, immediately bring your animal to a veterinarian, as these are all signs of alcohol poisoning.
4. Macadamia Nuts, Onions, and Garlic
This might sound like a random combination, but they have one thing in common: They aren't good for Bark Ruffalo, and Richter explains why.
- What do these seemingly unrelated foods all have in common? All contain toxins that are extremely dangerous to dogs if ingested. Macadamia nuts, a popular ingredient in cookies and other baked goods, can cause vomiting, tremors, and elevated body temperature. Onions and garlic, as well as similar ingredients including leeks and chives, contain organosulfoxides that can cause an upset stomach and damage to red blood cells.
5. Turkey Meat, Skin, and Bones
As much as you want your BFF to enjoy the holiday meal with you, canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix) might be the better way to go instead of turkey.
- Thanksgiving fare is tempting to share with your dog, but be careful not to feed your dog any turkey scraps as you carve this year’s bird. Dogs who ingest too much fatty turkey meat and skin can develop a condition called canine pancreatitis, which can cause severe diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, and eventual shock. Slipping your dog a small bite of cooked turkey is probably safe, but too much turkey is not smart, especially for smaller dogs.
- Also, avoid feeding your dog turkey bones: Cooked turkey bones, when chewed and swallowed, splinter into fragments that can cause a variety of physical problems, including blocking or perforating your dog’s intestines.
6. Raisins and Grapes (and Grape Juice)
Leave the grapes and raisins for your cheese platter, and do your best to make sure your guests don't drop any on the floor. They seem so innocent, but these little fruits can be super harmful to pups.
- Though small, snackable, and easy to toss to your dog as a treat, grapes and raisins are exceptionally dangerous for dogs: Ingestion can cause kidney failure and, in some cases, even death. If you think your dog has ingested either, or if your dog is vomiting, has diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, abdominal pain, foul breath, oral ulcers, tremors or seizures, call a vet immediately.
The Doggie Bag (a.k.a. The Takeaway)
For all of our dog-loving friends reading this, this is not meant to scare you. It's mostly just to help you become more aware of the lingering foods (especially around the holidays) that you didn't realize could do some serious harm. Consider showing love this holiday season with lots of new toys, dog-friendly treats, and bed cuddles instead of last night's leftovers.