We’re back again with another installment of our “Foods You Should Not Feed Your Dog” series. With Christmas just a mere days away, it’s a great time to discuss toxic, dangerous, or just straight up unhealthy foods your best friend should avoid this holiday season.
Onion, Garlic, and Spice – Oh My!
Onion, garlic, shallots, leeks, and chives are all members of the Allium family. With onion and garlic being common staple ingredients in many holiday dishes, it should be known that these foods are toxic to dogs. Whether these flavor enhancers are freshly prepared, raw, in vegetable stocks, dried, or powdered, the risk remains the same. Consumption of any member of the Allium family for dogs may have the unfortunate consequences of anemia, organ failure, and possibly death. This occurs because these foods contain a compound that alters the red blood cell’s shape, resulting in potential rupture. Damage to the cells means less oxygen is transported throughout your dog’s body; thus, causing some serious side effects.
Many spices, such as paprika, pepper, and nutmeg are not necessarily toxic to dogs, but they are notorious for causing gastrointestinal upset and irritation. A small amount may not be bothersome, but it’s a risk that could be easily avoided by only offering prepared food to your dog prior to adding any seasoning. If your dog consumes a large amount of any one spice, contact your veterinarian if they experience signs of vomiting or diarrhea, abdominal pain, or weakness.
Salt is required for dogs to maintain basic cellular function, just as salt is an essential nutrient for us. Too much salt in your dog’s diet though can result in a fluid imbalance that dogs may try to combat by drinking more water. If not closely monitored, high doses of salt can result in dehydration and excessive water drinking could lead to bloat. For the signs and symptoms of canine dehydration, go over to our blog Dehydration in Dogs. For the negative consequences of excess salt to occur, your dog would likely have to consume a lot of salt that simply a few bites of your Christmas dinner wouldn’t trigger. Although, if you are considering having your dogs sample many of your side dishes that also contain salt, you should reconsider.
Skins, Fat Trimmings, and Bones
Despite the exact cause of canine pancreatitis remaining unknown, it’s believed that a high fat diet or large amounts of fat from a single meal is a big contributor to cases of pancreatitis in dogs. For more information, please read What is Canine Pancreatitis? Poultry skins or fat trimmings from ham, if you could guess it, have high fat content.
As discussed in our previous blog Meats to Never Give Your Dog, chicken or turkey with bones in it (especially after being cooked) are so brittle that they splinter very easily. The bones pose as a choking hazard and even if successfully swallowed, there is still a high risk of the bones puncturing internal tissue and organs. If you wish to feed your dog some skinless and boneless turkey, you can safely do so and that would really make for a special treat.
As previously stated, too much fat and too much salt may contribute to several health issues, including pancreatitis. Shelf stable gravies from the grocery store are often high in sodium, so pass on these and opt for homemade gravy, but hold the salt and keep the fat content light. A little won’t hurt, but be careful not to overdo it, if and only if there are no additives, such as onion or garlic.
Stuffing and Dressing
You may be tempted to sneak a bite of stuffing or dressing to your dog because it’s mainly bread and vegetables, right? Sadly, for the reasons mentioned above, you should not offer a helping to your dog. Traditionally, recipes primarily use an assortment of onion, garlic, and herbs to achieve the ultimate flavor profile, in addition to a generous amount of salt. While delicious to us, it is harmful to them. If you’re looking for an opportunity to give your dog a serving of vegetables, check out 10 Vegetables for Your Dog for safe, tasty options this holiday.
Chocolate and Artificial Sweeteners
Chocolates and sweets are an absolute must at Christmas time. Unfortunately, chocolate is poisonous to dogs, even in small amounts. Some people believe that sugar is the culprit behind the toxicity of chocolate in dogs, but that is not the case. Chocolate contains theobromine, something we humans can easily metabolize, while dogs struggle to in a timely fashion. Different types of chocolate contain various levels of theobromine. The following chocolates are listed in order from highest to lowest theobromine levels:
Unsweetened baker’s chocolate
The risk of your dog becoming ill or worse from ingesting chocolate is determined by the type of chocolate, the amount consumed, and your dog’s weight. While one small piece for a large breed of dog may not have noticeable consequences, it is best practice to never feed your dog chocolate as a treat. It has the potential to be fatal. Signs of chocolate poisoning include, but are not limited to:
Vomiting and/or diarrhea
Elevated heart rate
Sugar-free chocolate is also a no-go for dogs, as it is artificially sweetened with xylitol. This potentially fatal additive is found in many household products, such as varying brands of chewing gums, toothpastes, peanut butters, condiments, and vitamins and supplements. Xylitol ingestion by dogs induces a release of insulin in the body; thus, rapidly dropping blood sugar levels, which could result in organ damage or failure in some cases. Other artificial sweeteners, often times found in processed meats, range from erthritol, stevia, aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose. Consuming products with these ingredients may cause your dog minor gastrointestinal upset. While they are not necessarily toxic, they still do not have a place in your dog’s diet.
Grapes and Raisins
Grapes are a classic companion to holiday cheese and charcuterie boards, but the consumption of grapes and raisins poses a severe threat to dogs. While harmless to humans, dogs can develop acute kidney failure within 48 hours of ingestion. In the meantime, dogs often experience vomiting and diarrhea, abdominal pain, and weakness within a few hours. Unfortunately, cases of grape/raisin toxicity can potentially be fatal. There is no well-established toxic dose and it is currently unknown as to why grapes are so poisonous to dogs. This means that any exposure is cause for concern. If your dog experiences any of the following symptoms and may have consumed any amount of grapes (even just one or two), immediately call your veterinarian:
Visible grapes/raisins in vomit or stool
Lethargy and weakness
Anuria (lack of urine production)
Loss of appetite
When preparing your holiday feasts, be sure to check for any runaway grapes on the floor. If you are curious about additional fruits that your dog should avoid, I recommend reading Four Fruits to Never Give Your Dog.
Lion Country Supply would like to wish everyone happy holidays. Thank you for reading!