- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
We absolutely love this time of year. The days may be short and dark, but holidays are around the corner bringing festive traditions, joyful cheer, and lots of tasty treats. We’re not the only ones salivating over the smells coming from the kitchen. Chances are, your dog’s pretty excited too. You may be tempted to include your pooch in the feasting, but many of your favourite holiday dishes can be unhealthy, or even dangerous for dogs. You may opt to find a pet sitter on Rover, but if your four-legged family member is sticking close to home, and close to the dinner table, here are some do’s and don’ts to keep everyone healthy and happy this holiday season.
Keep out of Paws’ Reach
With holiday feasting comes holiday baking. And while it’s highly doubtful that you’ll be serving raw dough (at least not on purpose), many baked goods call for allowing yeast dough to rise. This takes some time, so be sure to keep rising dough away from curious noses. Yeast can cause bloating and even stomach twisting.
Onions and Garlic
Onions and garlic are part of the Allium family, along with chives, shallots and leeks. They add a ton of flavour to holiday dishes, from potatoes to stuffing. But these veggies can be toxic for dogs, even in small amounts. They can cause gastrointestinal issues or blood cell damage. Keep the doggy garlic breath at bay and load plates directly into the dishwasher. A few licks can potentially cause a lot of damage.
Milk and Dairy
When it comes to dogs consuming dairy products, some seem to have no issues, while others experience very unpleasant side effects from gas and bloat to vomiting and diarrhea. Dogs can’t produce much lactate, the enzyme that breaks down dairy, so it’s best to avoid it rather than finding out the hard way. Do everyone a favour this holiday season: cover the butter dish and skip the cheese snacks.
One too many may give you a hangover, but even one drop can be dangerous for your dog. Gastro issues and discomfort, and even breathing difficulties are some of the symptoms your dog may experience if he’s a boozehound. Keep the mulled wine and egg nog reserved for human consumption only.
Nuts and oranges abound during the holiday season. Walnuts, almonds and pecans are best served in pies or hung in stockings. Nuts contain too much fat and oil for your dog to safely digest.
Chocolate, Coffee, and Caffeine
We humans may be addicted to our caffeine and chocolate, but it’s dangerous for our furry friends. Both contain methylxanthines, which can cause gastrointestinal distress, dehydration, hyperactivity and even abnormal heart rhythms. Semi-sweet or dark chocolate is more toxic than milk or white chocolate but to be on the same side, keep candies and desserts out of reach of your canine companions.
Everyone knows a dog loves a bone, but best be sure it’s not a poultry bone. Challenging as it may be to keep a dog from his bone, turkey and chicken bones are both choking hazards and can cause abdominal tract damage. A small piece of meat is a fine treat, but leftover bones should be composted or thrown out safely before your dog can get to them.
Now that you’ve seen the “don’t list”, here’s a fun list of “do’s” to enhance your pets’ holiday experience.
Safely Spoil Your Dog
Simple Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes aren’t just superfoods for people, they’re great for dogs, too. They contain powerful antioxidants, promote digestive health, and can fight pet obesity. Dehydrated sweet potatoes can be found in pet stores or on-line, but all you’ll need are sweet potatoes to whip up this healthy dog snack at home. Dr. Gary Richter, the author of the Ultimate Pet Health Guide and member of Rover’s Dog People Panel, explains, “the closer to fresh, whole food diets you feed, the healthier your dog is likely to be.”
Canadians are bonkers about their frozen yogurt, and lots of our dogs are too. If your dog isn’t lactose intolerant, plain yogurt is a terrific treat. It’s packed with probiotics and is a great source of protein. Avoid sugary flavours and steer clear of artificially sweetened products. Many use Xylitol, a common sugar substitute that is extremely toxic to dogs.
Here’s a simple recipe for fro-yo dog treats. This requires a thick Greek yogurt, though you can also achieve the right consistency by straining regular yogurt through cheesecloth. (Bonus: dogs love the drained-off liquid, too!)
- Fill a squeeze bottle with thickened yogurt
- Pipe out to create small dollops on foil-covered trays
- Store in a covered container in your freezer to garnish meals, use as training treats, and more.
Variation: This idea comes from blogger Cooking with Janica. Blend regular yogurt with a little banana and/or peanut butter, and then pour into a silicone mould (bonus for dog shapes) and freeze.
Stuffing’s not just for birds! The classic Kong or other puzzle toys can keep your dog busy and happy so you can get party-ready or prep your holiday feast. To give your dog a seasonal stuffing, simply mix together these ingredients, making sure to avoid any bones from the turkey.
- Handful of dried cranberries
- Chopped or sliced plain, cooked turkey
- Chopped, cooked green beans
- A few tablespoons of peanut butter
- Warm water or bone broth as needed
Mix until you have the right consistency for filling the KONG. Pro tip: freeze your stuffed KONG for an extra challenge!
Traditional holiday pies can contain all sorts of nasty ingredients that aren’t healthy for dogs. This dog-friendly variation on pumpkin pie is tasty, nutritious, and packed with fiber-rich pumpkin. Check out the end results, perfect for holiday photo-ops.
- Unsweetened applesauce
- Oat flour (choose gluten-free if your dog is sensitive)
- Unsweetened pumpkin (this organic pumpkin is made just for dogs!)
- Plain yogurt (optional)
- Mix flour and applesauce and roll into a dough ball.
- Divide equally into 24 pieces and press firmly into mini-muffin pan to form crust.
- Bake at 350 for 8 min.
- Let cool before removing from pan.
- Mix mashed banana and pumpkin purée.
- Divide mixture into 24 servings and fill baked pie shells.
- Optional: add a dollop of yogurt to finish.
Whatever you’re eating and wherever you’re feasting, enjoy!