As we draw closer to that magical time of year where we’re all a little more lenient with what we eat, it’s common for us humans to indulge, banishing the word “diet” from our vocabularies to eat all of our festive favourites. We’re talking mince pies, selection boxes, pigs in blankets, stollen, epic roast dinners, hot chocolates with “the works” and so much more. It’s also a time of year that we maybe forget that, or are more merciful towards the fact that, there are a number of foods dog’s aren’t safe to eat, or don’t benefit their nutrition if consumed.
While the odd treat here and there is harmless for a dog, and it’s natural for us to want to spoil our pets at Christmas too, it is worth being mindful that some human foods can be fatal to dogs (and cats) or play havoc with their bodily function, and should be avoided at all costs. Helping you to keep your dog happy, healthy and satisfied this Christmas, we’ve listed below 12 foods to avoid this Christmas, and throughout the rest of the year.
NB: The list below is not exhaustive, and other potential issues can arise if you’re not careful about the ingredients you feed your dog. Make sure to always be aware of which foods are safe for dogs, and always check the ingredients on any food or drink items you may wish to feed to your pet. Please also bear in mind all treats should be fed in moderation, with daily feeding being adjusted accordingly to ensure weight maintenance and good health. If your dog has allergies please ensure you check the ingredients on any pre-made products, taking care to avoid your dog’s allergens so as not to cause reaction, sensitivity and/or discomfort. Feed any treats as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Always supervise when feeding any treat or food to your dog to ensure their health and safety.
We all love indulging in a little creamy cocoa goodness every now and then, but at Christmas it becomes an absolute staple. However, chocolate is poisonous to dogs, and can cause fatalaties depending on the type of chocolate, amount consumed and your dog’s size. In large enough amounts, chocolate and cocoa products can kill your dog.
Chocolate contains the component theobromine, a toxic component that we, as humans, can easily metabolize. Dogs, however, process it much more slowly, allowing it to build up to toxic levels in their systems. Within large amounts, theobromine can produce various reactions such as muscle tremors, seizures, an irregular heartbeat, internal bleeding or a heart attack, with the onset of theobromine poisonining usually marked by severe hyperactivity.
Different types of chocolate have different theobromine levels, with more bitter chocolates such as cocoa, dark and cooking chocolate, containing the highest levels of theobromine within. The high level of theobromine in dark chocolate, for example, means that it would only take a very small amount to potentially poison a dog of any size. White chocolate, a chocolate type that contains the lowest levels of theobromine, will probably only give your dog an upset stomach with vomiting or diarrhoea. Causing potentially life-threatening consequences for dogs it is best to avoid ALL chocolate at all costs – let’s face it, there are plenty of other delicious snacks available that dogs can eat and enjoy, that are perfectly safe to consume!
The usual treatment for theobromine poisoning is to induce vomiting within two hours of ingestion. If you are worried that your dog may have eaten chocolate of any type and he is showing any of the signs listed above call your veterinarian immediately. [Content Credit: Hills Pet, 30 October 2019, Why Chocolate Can Be Poisonous for Your Dog]
The perfect addition to the Christmas cheese board (in liquid or food form!), most of us love to indulge in grapes at Christmas. However, it’s important to remember that grapes are highly toxic to dogs, even just one or two.
Both grapes and raisins (see below) can cause severe reactions, some that may even be fatal. The exact cause of toxicity in dogs after the ingest a grape is not known, nor is the amount, as some dogs may suffer more severe reactions than others. However, the answer to the question “Can dogs eat grapes” is still a resounding no. Since there is no proven amount that is safe, you shouldn’t be giving your pup grapes or raisins at all. If your dog ingests one or more grapes or raisins, he may show any of the following symptoms; Loss of appetite, lethargy or weakness, abdominal pain/tenderness, dehydration, increased thirst, increased OR decreased urine production, vomotting and/or diarrhoea within a few hours of consumption. [Content Credit: Purina, Can Dogs Eat Grapes?]
If your dog has ingested grapes, treatment is absolutely critical. If left untreated dogs may suffer kidney failure, which can be fatal. Contact your veterinarian immediately, who may suggest you induce vomiting as soon as possible.
3. Dried Fruits
At Christmas, it’s common for us all to indulge in fruity, festive favourites such as Christmas cake, mince pies, hot cross buns, Christmas pudding and dried fruit and nut mixes, as we begin snacking our way through this magical time of year. However, as with grapes, there are certain dried fruits that are highly toxic to dogs. It’s thought that the dried versions of the fruits are more likely to cause severe symptons, and potentially fatal kidney failure in dogs. [Content Credit: vets-now.com, “Can dogs have grapes, raisins or sultanas?“]
Raisins, currants and sultanas affect different dogs in different ways, but can be poisonous to dogs and also potentially poisonous to cats, and they should be avoided the same way grapes are avoided (as they are indeed dried grapes). Although the cause of the toxicity, as with grapes, is unknown, it is important to make sure they are out of reach of your dog to ensure your pet’s safety. The symptoms after ingesting these dried fruits can vary, so your dog may exhibit a possible variety of symptoms. Refer to the symptoms of Grape Toxicity detailed above for further information on symptoms for dried raisins, currants and sultanas.
NB: Christmas is a time of year many of us like to get our aprons on and get messy and creative in the kitchen. If you are baking with dried fruits, be sure to keep them out of reach of your dog or cat at all times.
If left untreated, dogs may suffer renal failure from consuming these named dried fruits. This can be fatal. If your dog eats a raisin, or any dried fruits noted above, take action fast and call your veterinarian immediately.
4. Onions and Garlic
Onions, chives, leeks and garlic are all part of the allium family, all staple ingredients in human cooking, and all toxic to dogs. They contain a substance called tiosulphate, delivering a toxic compound that damages the oxygen-carrying substance found in red blood cells called hemoglobin.
Either cooked or raw, consuming any member of the allium family can cause hematologic changes in dogs. If your pet has eaten any garlic or onions they may only experience gastrointestinal irritation, but it could also lead to hemolysis, damage caused by ruptured red blood cells, resulting in anaemia, and in more severe cases can lead to organ damage, organ failure, or even death.
Whether the products are fresh, cooked, or in a dried/powdered form, such as in spices, the toxic compound in onions, garlic and other members of the allium family remains present. Causing clinically important changes to your dog’s hemoglobin levels, with potentially detrimental results, you should always ensure these household staples are kept out of reaching distance of all dogs and cats. [Content Credit: petmd.com, Are Onions and Garlic Bad For Your Dog?]
5. Raw Potatoes
The humble potato – a staple in human cooking all year round, and a key ingredient in the makings of chips, hash browns, mash, and many other essential comfort foods, potatoes are an integral part of the weekly shop for many homes, and often play an integral part in the canine diet too.
Whether you feed your dog a DIY or complete raw diet, or use a ready-made complete kibble or wet food, potatoes are likely to be a key ingredient in your dog’s dinner. But should dogs eat white potatoes? The answer is: it depends.
White potatoes are rich in natural nutrients, delivering a good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, iron, magnesium and many other key nutrients your dog needs to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. However, potatoes are only safe for dogs to eat if they’re prepared correctly, and fed in safe quantities! If you feed your dog too many, or don’t prepare them properly, you could be putting your dog at risk of poisoning.
Raw white potatoes contain solanine, a compound that is toxic to some dogs and also found in other foods such as white/green potato skins and tomatoes. Consuming solanine can cause heart problems, difficulty breathing and stomach upsets [Credit: meandmypets.com]. Cooking white potatoes reduces the level of solanine within, therefore making it safe for most dogs to consume, even on a daily basis. Baking or boiling a potato, with nothing added to it, is the ideal way to feed this humble earthy ingredient to your dog, delivering valuable nutrition that helps him to maintain a balanced, healthy diet.
Sweet potatoes are a healthier, and often preferred, option both for dogs and humans, because they are more nutritious, have a delicious sweet taste, and do not produce the toxic compound, solanine. Sweet Potatoes contain Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium, Iron, and other nutrients beneficial to both human and canine diets, and are a great addition to keep your dog in top form. However, every dog is different, so when feeding any type of potato to your dog it is always recommended to start with just a small amount to make sure he has no problem digesting it. Please bear in mind, any potatoes fried in oil, such as chips, potatoes with butter, or potatoes with cream, are not healthy for dogs and should be avoided just like raw white potatoes.
NB: Sweet potatoes are suitable for consuming raw, because they do not produce the compound solanine. If your dog has diabetes, he should not consume any potatoes because they can cause blood sugar spikes [Credit: akc.org].
6. Sugars and Sweeteners
Sugar and sweeteners are bad for pets and people in general, as they’re simply not healthy. However, there are certain sweeteners that are detrimental to your pet’s health, and large amounts of sugar in your dog’s diet can put your dog at risk of weight issues, teeth problems and diabetes to name a few.
So, let’s start with sugar. Too much sugar can do the same thing to dogs that it does to people. Although it is a necessary component of the canine diet, just like with humans (carbohydrates are broken down into sugar or glucose by the body, and are therefore essential to live and operate), certain sugars, mainly added sugars like those found in sweets and processed foods, can be harmful to your dogs health. Excessive amounts of sugar can cause inflammation all throughout the body and leave your dog with various reactions such as an upset tummy, vomiting, dental issues (that may lead to dental disease if left untreated), weight gain and obesity (which can lead to heart disease, joint problems, lethargy and difficulty breathing when your dog is carrying additional weight), metabolic changes, and, if your dog continues to gain weight or consume excess sugar, diabetes [Credit: petmd.com, 6 Reasons Why Your Dog Shouldn’t Have Sugar]. Added sugars give no real added value to your dog’s overall diet, yet deliver some potentially long term and dangerous health issues. Therefore, it is recommended you continually monitor your dog’s sugar intake to ensure they are consuming a healthy, balanced diet.
The effects of artificial sweeteners vary depending on the sweetener in question. Although not recommended still to be consumed by pets, aspartame, for example, is probably more or less harmless in normal quantities, although it may cause an stomach upset. Sweeteners such as xylitol, however, are potentially lethal to your dog’s health and wellbeing, and so it is important to be aware of products that commonly contain this artificial sweetener to ensure you avoid feeding them to your dog at all costs.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol, and one which looks and tastes almost exactly the same as refined sugar. However, it is much, much lower in calories and is therefore widely used in the human food industry. Its risk to your dog’s health is the same as chocolate, with them both being highly toxic to dogs if ingested. Causing potentially life-threatening hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), rapid liver failure, seizures or even death it’s important to check the ingredients on any ready-made food product before feeding it to your dog, to make sure it doesn’t contain xylitol. Common foods you may have in your kitchens, or find in your supermarkets, that use xylitol include sugar-free or low-calorie peanut butters (thought to be one of the most common causes of xylitol poisoning in dogs! [Credit: arunvetgroup.co.uk], reduced-calorie spreads and condiments, sugar-free gums, sweets and mints, mouthwash and toothpastes (xylitol can reduce plaque buildup on teeth and so can be found in many dental products), low-calorie ready meals and low-calorie cooking sauces.
When it comes to sources of sugar that are safe to be fed to dogs, there are still a number that can be used, and we’re totally in support of feeding them a sweet treat every now and then! It’s all about making the right choices though, not only to keep your pet safe, but also to keep them in the best condition and ensure they maintain a healthy and balanced diet. Some sugar sources that you can feed dogs include honey, maple syrup, black strap molasses, brown rice syrup, stevia and pure coconut syrup, all delivering a welcomed nutritional boost and taste delicious! Remember, if you are letting your dog indulge on a little sugar, make sure it is fed in moderation to avoid any short or long term reaction. [Credit: Animal Wellness Magazine, “Sugar alternatives for dogs“].
There are a number of spices that are perfectly safe for dogs to consume, and deliver an array of nutritional benefits to their health, particularly to those with specific health conditions. Turmeric, for example, provides a whole host of health benefits to dogs, cats, horses and other animals, as it is a natural anti-inflammatory, relieves joint pain, promotes cardiovascular health, helps intestine and bowel health and so much more (to find out more about Turmeric, its benefits to your pets health and including it in your pets diet take a look at our range of products from The Golden Paste Co.). However, there are certain spices that should not be consumed by dogs, and one is often fished out from the back of your kitchen cupboards every Christmas – Nutmeg.
Nutmeg is a spice commonly used at Christmas, whether it’s been added to hot drinks and soups for a festive twist or basted on poultry and added to cakes. If your dog consumes nutmeg it can cause severe stomach upset as well as have detrimental effects on the canine nervous system which can lead to potentially severe consequences. A highly toxic and dangerous spice for dogs, nutmeg can cause a dog to become overly excited and then increasingly exhausted and drained, and has even led to death. For all these reasons it should be avoided and kept out of reach of all pets, all year round. Other toxic spices dogs should avoid include salt, onion, garlic and cocoa.
There are also a number of other kitchen store-cupboard essentials that you may not know are also toxic to your dog’s health when consumed in large quantities, or straight. Baking powder and baking soda, for example, are both highly toxic if ingested alone and/or in large quantities. Common signs and symptoms of baking soda toxicity includes vomiting, often the first clinical sign of toxicity, diarrhoea, depression, lethargy, tremors, seizures, shortness of breath and disorientation. However, these are normally only present when particularly high quantities are consumed at once, over 10g/kg of body weight for example. [Credit: Pet Poison Control, Baking Soda]
Avocados have fast become one of the trendiest health foods on the market, with more of us consuming avocados on a daily or weekly basis than before. Although not technically a seasonal food, as we now consume so many avocados it’s important to include them in this list.
Avocados contain the toxic component “persin”, a fungicidal toxin and fatty acid derivative that is harmful to most animals and can cause serious health problems if consumed in large quantities. Persin is present in all parts of an avocado including the leaves, fruit, bark and seeds, and it is not yet confirmed exactly what amount of persin is lethal. However, large amounts can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, myocardial damage, choking (when the stone is ingested), pancreatitis (due to its high fat content) and more, and so should be kept out of reach of pets at all times. [Credit: akc.org]
9. Cooked Bones and Fat Trimmings
We all enjoy a little alcoholic indulgent at Christmas and New Year, right!? Although it is unlikely any responsible pet owner would allow their pet to consume alcohol it is important to make it clear that alcohol has a far stronger effect on dogs than humans, and can cause various symptoms if ingested, even in small amounts.
It’s very easy to forget the affects alcohol can have on our pets and how important it is to keep alcoholic and caffeinated drinks away from their reach and view. Alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, and affects pets extremely quickly if ingested causing dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature. Intoxicated animals can also experience a number of other health problems including seizures and respiratory failure, and should be kept out of your pet’s reach [Credit: petinsurance.com]. There are, however, a number of specially crafted beverages that you can feed pets, with a novelty twist we know you’ll love – click here to be taken to our delicious selection of Woof & Brew beverages, tonics and more including the infamous Pawsecco, ChamPaws and Bottom Sniffer “Beer”.
11. Dairy Products
Human dairy products can pose problems to your pet’s health for two reasons; their high fat content, and the difficulty pet’s have digesting the milk enzyme, lactose.
Dogs also lack the enzyme required to digest lactose (a type of sugar found naturally in the milk of most mammals), which means it’s very difficult for them to digest dairy products. This affects some pets more than others, as with humans, and can cause gas, dairrhoea and other gastrointestinal problems. Although tolerated by most dogs in small quantities, for example a teaspoon of plain yoghurt or a small cube of cheese, and not highly dangerous to pets, it is safe to avoid dairy products all together. Lactose-free milk products are now widely available and pose no risk to dogs, delivering an ideal substitute to dairy products for our pets.
Dairy products all deliver a high fat content, so, as with other high-fat foods, they can increase your dog’s risk of developing pancreatitis, a disease in which your dog’s pancreas becomes inflamed. Pancreatitis can cause anything from mild discomfort to a severe, life-threatening illness, so you should always monitor your dog’s total fat intake to ensure they are maintaining a healthy, and balanced, diet.
A delicious snack, at Christmas and all year round, nuts are a staple ingredient in many popular shelf-bought products and recipes, including biscotti, brownies, fruit & nut mixes and more. However, some nuts are toxic to dogs, with some specific nuts and seeds being more dangerous than others.
Dogs can have some nuts, although preferably unsalted and definately non-coated in any case, while others should be avoided. Nuts that have been deemed safe for dogs to eat (although with supervision and fed appropriately for the breed in question) include peanuts, almonds and cashews, fed in moderation due to their high fat content, which can, if overfed, cause vomiting and diarrhoea in dogs. Nuts that dog owners should avoid feeding their dogs include macadamia nuts, black walnuts and pecans.
Macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs, even in limited quantities. A few macadamia nuts can put a risk on your dog’s health, causing real, short-term neurological problems including tremors, dizziness, weakness, vomiting, hyperthermia and even temporary paralysis. Dogs are the only species in which signs have been reported, but to be safe, we’d recommend keeping macadamia’s clear from your pets’ paws this Christmas. [Credit: msdvetmanual.com]. Pecans and walnuts are not only too high in fat, but are also too large and difficult for dogs to digest. They often cause an upset stomach, even in small quantities, and are best avoided and kept out of your dog’s reach at all times [Credit: dogster.com].
It is important to remember that all nuts can pose a health risk, depending on the individual dog, so dog owners should always take caution when adding nuts to their dog’s diet. For example, nuts are not suitable for dogs with sensitive stomachs, or conditions such as Pancreatitis, as they will likely experience vomiting or diarrhoea following ingestion due to their high fat content. Nuts with their shells should also be avoided for all nut types, as they present the risk of tearing tissue as they move through your dog’s digestive tract. For PetMD, Dr. Carol Osborne, DVM and integrative veterinarian at Chagrin Falls Pet Clinic, states “Larger nuts, like whole pecans and walnuts, by virtue of their size alone can cause stomach and/or intestinal upset, or even an obstruction in a very small dog”. However, note that certain nuts and seeds can provide a whole host of beneficial nutrients to dogs including Omega 3 fatty acids and protein, and therefore some non-toxic nuts can be fed in moderation, and with supervision. Be sure to avoid those mentioned above, and as always, if you have any specific concerns regarding your dog’s diet or anything he may have ingested contact your veterinarian immediately.
What else should you avoid?
The list compiled above is not exhausted, and there are still a number of other food and/or drink products that should not be consumed by our pets, yet are present in our human diets all year round. Always take care when handling or consuming any of the following products around pets, ensuring they are kept out of reach at all times for their safety.
- Mouldy or “gone-off” Foods – This can cause food poisoning to your pet, as well as develop tremors in some pets as a result of ingesting certain moulds.
- Caffeine – Caffeine toxicity is highly dangerous to dogs, with the symptoms being very similar to those of Chocolate and Xylitol, and can be just as, or even more, serious. These symptoms include muscle tremors, seizures, irregular heartbreat and hyperactivity. Be sure to keep all caffeine-containing products out of reach of your pets, including tea, coffee and energy drinks.
- Salt – As with humans, eating too much salt can make a dog increasingly thirsty, and can also cause excessive urination. Too much salt can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, depression, tremors, high temperature, seizures, and, in more severe cases, sodium ion poisoning if consumed in large quantities.
- Persimmons, Peaches and Plums – The problem with these fruits is not the fruit itself, but the seeds or pits. Seeds from persimmons can cause problems in a dog’s small intestine, and can also block the intestines. That can also happen if a dog eats the pit from a peach or plum. Containing cyanide, the pits of peaches and plums and poisonous to people and dogs. People know not to eat them, but our pet’s dont!
- Mushrooms – Are they toxic? It depends. There are about 100 types of mushrooms that are toxic to pets, and people, but they’re not the ones often sold in supermarkets. These readily-available mushrooms have been considered safe and non-toxic to both dogs and humans. However, depending on what type of mushroom is accidentally ingested, poisoning can be seen even with just a small bite. If your dog consumed a wild mushroom be sure to contact your veterinarian immediately.
- Bread Dough – Yeast/bread dough needs to rise when it’s baked, and it will do so in any warm environment whether that’s your oven or pet’s digestive system! Keep fresh dough away from pets, and seek veterinary advice immediately if you have found your pet has consumed any.
The best advice we can give, as pet owners ourselves, is to treat any food as “an unknown”, doing the relevant research before allowing your pet to ingest it, and also being aware that you don’t actively need to feed these foods to your pet – they may be able to access them without your permission. Providing your pet with a balanced and healthy diet is extremely important, and should be considered at all times.
Buying your pet their own Christmas treats can be a great way of distracting them from wanting or stealing your food. Take a look at our Christmas Shop today for a delicious selection of pet-friendly gifts, stocking fillers and snacks they can safely indulge in this festive season. For the safety of your pet this Christmas, also be sure to clear away any leftovers, ingredients, plates, cups and glasses so they are out of reach of your pets.
If you suspect that your pet has accidentally eaten any of the products listed above, over Christmas or at any other point throughout the year, contact your veterinarian immediately to seek further advice and, if required, the necessary treatment.