The holidays are all about togetherness, being thankful, love, and good eats. You’ve spent hours or even days creating the perfect holiday meal for you and loved ones. All that’s left to do now
is sit down and enjoy your feast.
Hold on a second. What’s that you see out of the corner of your eye? A figure lurks just behind the kitchen doorway. You feel something brush past your foot. Now there’s a head in your lap with pleading eyes that scream “why didn’t I get invited to the party?!”. That’s right, it’s your beloved dog and they are ready to chow down on some of the delicious food you obviously spent the bulk of your week preparing exclusively for them. Looking into those sad, starving eyes your heart crumbles. You pick the juiciest piece of roast meat for them and just as your hand is sliding under the table and their mouth is about to close in on this delicio-WAIT! Let’s put that piece of food back on the table and think for second about exactly what it is your furry friend is about to ingest. It may seem like an act of love to offer up a bite of the meal you’ve been working so hard on to someone you consider a member of your family, but sometimes the best thing you can do is hold back the processed goods and offer them something that is both delicious and healthy.
First, let’s break down what it is about the food you’ve prepared that can cause your pup more pain than you may think.
Not All Dogs’ Stomachs are Created Equal
ASPCA’s website lists a few of the biggest causers of gastrointestinal issues in canines when they are fed “human” food. When you get down to it, food is food and there is absolutely no difference between a “human” carrot and a “dog” carrot. However, as with people, some food is better for breeds, bodies, and preexisting conditions. For example, some vets recommend adding coconut shavings in small quantities to a dog’s meal to avoid diarrhea, while coconut in excess is too fatty and can actually lead to diarrhea. Truthfully there is no black and white rule regarding what your food vacuum can and cannot consume.
This is the main reason why it is always important to speak with your personal vet who knows your dog’s history before adding a new form of food into their diet. It is because all pups are so different that we must be especially wary around the holiday table. Just like us, they may not know that extra bread roll they snatched from the ground was one too many until they feel its protest in their gut. We’re going to provide you with a list of ten food no-noes to watch out for so that your furry family member can have just as good a time as you this holiday season. Instead, substitute with the provided healthy alternatives that will leave you feeling guilt-free while your pup feels full and healthy.
1. Green Bean Casserole
Green bean casserole contains myriad harmful ingredients for your pup’s tummy. These ingredients include onions, which are toxic in large quantities, salt, which should never be given to dogs in excess, and cream of mushroom soup which contains heavy cream. Heavy cream is hard on canine’s stomachs because their body does not produce sufficient lactase. Lactase is the enzyme that breaks down lactose.
Substitute it with: Raw Frozen Green Beans and Carrots
You’ve already been working on your holiday meal for the past decade. Snaps and carrots are an easy zero prep way to keep your dog entertained. As a bonus, green beans add fiber to their diet and create a full feeling that’ll keep them from begging at your feet all night. Carrots, additionally, are a great natural dental chew.
Sweet potato and pumpkin, more specifically. Canned pumpkin pie puree usually contains added ingredients such as sugar and preservatives that can aggravate your dog’s stomach. On top of that, pie crust has enough butter to stop a heart. Not that we’d have it any other way.
Substitute it with: 100% Pumpkin or Sweet Potato Puree
That doesn’t mean pumpkin puree isn’t a fantastic supplement for your furry friend. If you’re even feeling fancy you can add turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon but pumpkin puree alone is a delicious and filling treat. Be aware that these spices in excess can aggravate, not soothe, a dog’s stomach. As with any food, moderation is key.
A tip: Put your puree in an ice cube tray and harden it so it’s easier to dole out as the canine dinner-table begging begins.
3. Grapes and Raisins
It is well-known that raisins and grapes are toxic to dogs. They can be found in holiday staples such as fruit cake and that delicious brown sugar gravy often used as a topping on baked hams. Sometimes if you’re letting your critters eat the leftovers off your plate you can forget about minor ingredients such as these that can not only be unhealthy but potentially very harmful to them.
Substitute it with: Cored Apples
It is also common knowledge that apple seeds are toxic in mass quantities. The meat of the fruit, however, is a great sweet treat for dogs. Like carrots and green beans, it’s a cheap filler that will keep them occupied, if only long enough for you to grab seconds.
Winter soups and chowders are some of my favorite holiday dishes to whip up every season. There are a lot of diverse recipes for butternut squash, split pea, fish, pumpkin, and the classic chicken noodle. They’re all delicious but they all include enormous amounts of spices, seasonings, and almost always salt. This is great for our taste buds and not so great for your pup’s tummy. One of the biggest things you must watch, even when buying pre-made stocks for your dog at the store, is that it has no added salt or onion. Both are very common in grocery broths and both can severely disrupt your dog’s bowels.
Substitute it with: Unseasoned Bone Broth
Instead, invest in broths made exclusively for canine health. This is becoming more popular as people are trying to find tasty ways to add natural supplements such as turmeric and ginger to their dogs’ diets. Honest Kitchen offers a bone broth that is made specifically for your dog’s nourishment. Add it to their regular kibble or as a tasty drink and they’ll forget all about that meat on your plate. Now you get to enjoy your perfectly seasoned holiday soup and your dog gets loads of beneficial supplements.
5. Turkey Bone
A big tradition for some pet owners every holiday season is giving their four-legged family member a turkey bone. While bone isn’t necessarily unhealthy for your dog to consume, the bones of a baked turkey have been slowly drying and becoming brittle as they bake in the oven. This drastically increases the chance for bones to splinter as dogs chew on them, and swallowing a splintered piece of bone could create significant internal damage.
Substitute it with: Raw Bone
Raw, uncooked bone still has moisture in it which reduces the possibility of splinters when dogs chew on it. Additionally, it has raw marrow in it which contains high quality blood and fat components. Raw bone is one of my favorite treats to recommend for dog owners who are striving for cleaner teeth. You’ll commonly hear it being referred to as “nature’s toothbrush” because it takes so long and so much work for dogs to get through that it helps scrape tartar off in the process. It is highly advised that you supervise your dog while they are munching on raw bone, as with any other treat, because they still pose the risk to splinter and if your dog is too rough they can damage their gums or teeth.
6. Seasoned Meats
Probably the most tempting treat to sneak your dog under the table, pieces of meat can contain certain herbs, spices, and especially salt which all have negative impacts on your dog’s stomach. In addition to that, the skin of meat is unhealthy (albeit delicious) with its excess fat and grease and it’s sure to summon some noxious gas from your canine later in the evening.
Substitute it with: Single Ingredient Meat Treats
There are plenty of alternatives to meat scraps that will be just as tasty and more beneficial to your dog. Whole Life carries an abundance of raw freeze-dried meat treats for both dogs and cats which include proteins such as duck, turkey, beef, lamb, cod, and salmon. Additionally, Bravo Basics is a line of frozen raw meat that comes in a chub and can be kept frozen until you’re ready to prepare it for your pup. It is both safe and tasty for dogs to consume it in its raw form. The benefit of both of these products? They contain only one ingredient and have no artificial preservatives or additives.
7. Chips and Dips
Both chips and their dips contain loads of salt and more than likely garlic powder, onion powder, and dairy. Be especially wary of dips that contain nuts, a popular choice around the holiday season, because of the added oils and fat in them. Like coconut oil, nuts in excess can lead to upset stomach or diarrhea.
Substitute it with: Doggie Biscuits
If you’d like your canine friend to have a little something to snack on while you and your loved ones are dining, consider making them their very own doggie biscuits and dip bowl. Fill a tray with your pup’s favorite dog biscuit and drizzle some honey or unflavored nonfat greek yogurt on top.
8. Candy and Sugary Sweets
A lot of sweets contain Xylitol, a chemical that is toxic to dogs and can lead to some fairly serious diseases if ingested by your dog. This can be found in popular peanut butter brands as well so be scrupulous when reading ingredient labels for anything you know has been artificially sweetened.
Substitute it with: Naturally Sweetened Dog Food Treats
YoPup is a sweet frozen yogurt treat that is a great alternative to processed “people” desserts. It uses natural sweeteners like honey and molasses and contains healthy probiotics which aid in your dog’s digestion. Look for sweet canine treats that use sweet potato, banana, honey, molasses, or agave to ensure a healthy dessert for your dog.
We know they want it. We also know it can make them very sick. It’s not the sugar or even the dairy found in chocolate that causes such severe symptoms but the methylxanthines which in excess can cost your dog their life. Dark chocolate, being less diluted with milk and other ingredients, is the most hazardous.
Substitute it with: Carob
Carob used in cooking is the edible pod of the carob tree. It is naturally semi-sweet and used as an alternative in a lot of “chocolate” flavored dog treats. It contains no methylxanthines and is now popular enough that you can find it at common grocery stores if you’re feeling inclined to make your own dog desserts.
Raw egg, milk, heavy cream, and alcohol are all begging to make your poor dog’s insides very upset. Dairy made and marketed for people has a surprising amount of added sugars, as well as indigestible lactose. Some dogs like the taste of alcohol but there are very serious reasons they should never ingest it. Symptoms can range from lethargy to severe seizures. On top of all of this, while dogs’ bodies do have the necessary enzymes to break down bacteria in raw food it’s best to avoid raw egg or any raw meat that hasn’t been sanitized by some standardized means to kill anything harmful that could make your dog sick. Just as with humans, animals are susceptible to the very dangerous salmonella found in under-cooked eggs.
Substitute it with: Raw Goat’s Milk
Raw goat’s milk is fatty and therefore delicious for dogs. It also contains healthy probiotics that aid in digestion. Although it is not legal to sell for human consumption, it is absolutely legal and healthy for your pup to ingest. As with bone broth, goat’s milk can be added to your dog’s food or given as a reward.
When You Fight the Good fight but the Inevitable Occurs:
Sometimes dogs getting into what they shouldn’t is inevitable. Here you are manning this meal you’ve been working on since the beginning of time and you’re trying to stop your niece from filling your dog’s water dish with eggnog. Meanwhile, as your back is turned, someone steals a leg off the turkey and no one can tell if it was your dog or your sneaky uncle. So your dog may have ingested some not-so-good but oh-so-tasty holiday food. What do you do? If it is something that you know will cause a severe reaction contact a vet immediately. If, for example, they ate a whole chocolate cake, assume the risks for their health are great and take immediate action. Some vets will recommend using hydrogen peroxide as a tool to induce vomiting. Use this only if you feel there is no time to get to the vet and this is not a substitute for taking your dog to a professional. However, if your dog consumes a few vittles throughout the holidays and you feel confident they are not at risk, make sure they drink plenty of water. Also, watch their stool and behavior. If anything is coming up or out that shouldn’t be, contact a vet immediately. If they are listless and won’t eat, contact a vet immediately. If they are their normal happy-go-lucky self, you’ve dodged a bullet and are free to sit back, relax, and enjoy the rest of the holidays with your best canine friend.