These Naughty Holiday Foods Can Be Hazardous For Dogs

18 Dec 2018

These Naughty Holiday Foods Can Be Hazardous For Dogs

The holiday season is all about spending quality time with loved ones and that, of course, includes our pets! Often, holiday celebrations also include a variety of traditional meals and special treats that help make get-togethers even more festive.

As delicious as some of these classic holiday foods are for us humans, many of them can be extremely dangerous for our dogs. Whether pets find a way to sneak some off the table, use their puppy dog eyes to convince guests to give them a taste, or manage to get into the trash when their parents aren’t looking, there are many ways in which dogs can get ahold of dangerous foods and drinks this time of year. Pet owners must be extra diligent during this busy time to keep their pet safe and healthy.

The following foods are harmful to pets and should be kept out of reach throughout both the holiday season and the rest of the year.

Naughty Holiday Foods That Can Be Hazardous To Dogs

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Meat Fat, Skin, and Bones

Perhaps the most likely food item to be given freely to pets during the holiday season is meat scraps. Pet parents often think that fatty pieces of beef, turkey or chicken skin, and ham or poultry bones are acceptable treats, however, these scraps can cause a variety of health issues for dogs.

Large pieces of fat can be difficult for some dogs to digest, so it’s best to avoid giving meat trimmings to pets.

The fat content of turkey skin can potentially cause pancreatitis and the seasonings which are typically used to season the skin of poultry (onion, garlic, spices, and herbs) can cause upset stomachs.

One of the most common meat scraps people tend to give their pets are bones. However, veterinarians advise against the practice. Cooked bones are lower in nutrients than raw bones and can splinter in a dog’s mouth, throat, or digestive system, causing pets to choke or experience serious internal damage.


Between punch bowls and seasonal cocktails at holiday parties, alcohol tends to be more within a pet’s reach throughout the holiday season. Since a dog’s system is not designed to process alcohol in the same way a human’s is, consumption of alcohol – even in minor doses – can be potentially dangerous.

Pet parents should keep all sources of alcohol away from their dogs, including unsuspecting sources such as alcohol-based cakes and flavored extracts. Used for baking, extracts such as vanilla and almond have high alcohol content and may contain essential oils which can be very harsh on a dog’s digestive system.

Chocolate & Sweets

Everyone enjoys a delicious festive dessert, so homes are often filled with high-sugar treats and chocolate of all varieties during the holidays. Its very important to keep pets away from sugar and chocolate, as they can upset a dog’s stomach and even cause serious illness.

Chocolate contains theobromine, a component which is easily digested by humans but toxic to dogs. While a small quantity of chocolate may only produce an upset stomach, large amounts of theobromine can cause seizures, internal bleeding, heartbeat irregularity, and even heart attack.

Various types of chocolate – baking cocoa, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and white chocolate – all have different amounts of theobromine. Dark chocolate is the most dangerous to dogs, with merely 1 ounce being enough to poison a 44lb dog. It is best to be safe and keep all chocolate out of reach of your pet.

Certain Herbs & Spices

While some herbs and spices (basil, cinnamon, ginger, parsley, and turmeric) can be healthy additions to your dog’s diet when used in moderation with a vet’s approval, other common holiday spices can be dangerous to your pet’s system.

Nutmeg contains a component called myristicin which is toxic to dogs. In large quantities, it can cause nervous system damage, seizures, stomach upset, and even death.

Black pepper, while alone is not necessarily damaging to pets, can affect the way a dog’s system absorbs the medication. This increases the chance of accidentally overdosing on prescription medications, so it is best to keep black pepper out of reach.

High amounts of salt can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It can also cause dehydration, as it increases thirst and urination.

Onions and garlic (as well as leeks) are a part of the Allium family, which is poisonous to dogs and cats in the right dose. Onions contain a compound called thiosulphate, which can cause hemolytic anemia in dogs.


Although humans often love how caffeine helps get them through the busy holiday season, it’s important to remember that pets are much more sensitive to caffeine’s effects. Ingesting sources of highly concentrated caffeine such as coffee grounds, espresso flavored desserts, or used tea bags can cause caffeine poisoning in pets in merely 30 minutes.


A commonly used artificial sweetener, xylitol is most often found in peanut butter, sugar-free candies, sugar-free desserts, and chewing gum. When absorbed into a dog’s bloodstream, it causes a quick release of insulin that results in decreased blood sugar, or hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia can be life-threatening if not treated quickly.

Grapes & Raisins

Commonly used in seasonal stuffing, desserts, and snack mixes, grapes and raisins are highly toxic to dogs and should be kept out of reach. Small quantities can result in severe consequences, including kidney failure, digestion issues, and sudden renal failure.
Grape toxicity and its causes are still being studied. Although some breeds are more susceptible to experience it, it is best to err on the side of caution and avoid consumption by all breeds.


Whether served in holiday desserts and meals or alone as a snack, nuts are common in homes throughout the season. Many nuts are very high in fat, particularly pecans and walnuts, and should be kept away from pets. The high fat content can cause digestive upset.

Macadamia nuts are highly toxic to dogs, even in small quantities, causing neurological damage such as tremors, disorientation, and even short-term paralysis.

Bread Dough

While baking holiday rolls or desserts, be sure to keep uncooked bread dough away from dogs. If ingested raw, the yeast in the dough can activate with the moist, warm environment of your pet’s stomach, causing the stomach to distend. This can escalate to an even more dangerous, often fatal, condition called GDV, or bloat.

If You Notices Changes In Your Dogs Behavior

It’s important to be aware of any unusual changes in your dog’s health or behavior during the holidays. If there are signs or symptoms that your dog has consumed harmful foods or drinks, contact an emergency vet immediately so they can be properly treated.

Stay Off The Naughty List With Healthy Treats

If you are in the mood to share some yummy holiday treats with your dog, feel free to give them lean, cooked turkey that is free of flavorings and spices. Or opt for healthy fruits and seasoning-free vegetables such as peeled apples, blueberries, carrots, dehydrated sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli, green beans, and celery.
They will not only love the food but will also love you for keeping them happy and healthy!

article by Pet Gal Kirstie and infographics by Pet Guy Dan.