Safe—and Hazardous—Holiday Foods for Dogs
It’s the most wonderful time of year—for feasting! What traditional dishes are safe for furry family members—and which should be kept far from sniffing snouts? Read on to find out.
It’s a main course on holiday tables from Thanksgiving to New Year’s—and a main ingredient in many commercial dog treats and prepared foods. Cooked turkey meat is perfectly safe for dogs. But be sure if the bird is left unattended during long hours of defrosting or brining that it’s in a spot where your dog can’t reach it. Uncooked poultry can contain disease-causing bacteria, such as E. coli and parasites like Toxoplasma Gondii—which are not the kind of holiday guests you want.
Remove the skin before you give turkey to your dog. It’s probably been rubbed with spices, butter or other fatty ingredients that could cause pancreatitis, or other digestive issues. Pancreatitis is an inflammatory reaction within the pancreas that can cause abdominal pain and vomiting and diarrhea.
Remember to be sure there are no bones in any of the turkey meat you share with your dog. Not only can they be choking hazards, but they’re brittle, especially after being roasted, so they can easily splinter and pierce the stomach and intestinal lining. Stick with boneless slices or chunks and you’re guaranteed to have at least one (wagging) guest who won’t be picky about white or dark meat.
A favorite Christmas (and any special occasion!) food for many, tamales date back past the Aztecs and Mayans. And while there are as many varieties as there are types of Christmas cookies, here we’ll talk about popular pork tamales. While the pork shoulder sliced up to stuff inside the tamales is safe on its own, tamale recipes usually call for simmering the meat in a rich sauce brimming with chiles—which are definitely not good for dogs. Chiles contain a compound called capsaicin, which can create an unpleasant burning sensation in the mouth, throat and rest of their digestive tract.
While the corn from which the masa (corn flour) is made is fine for dogs to eat, other ingredients in the masa filling are problematic for pups. Spices and lard often found in masa are not healthy for dogs.
Be especially careful with tamale corn husk wrappers. Soaked in wonderful flavors—and smells—they’re tempting for four-legged family members. And dangerous. While not toxic to dogs, cornhusks can be a choking hazard. They can easily lodge in the throat. They are not digestible, so they can clog intestines. Keep them away from your pup.
While they’ll undoubtedly draw your pup to the kitchen as they fry, these Hanukkah favorites are not good for dogs. The fried potato pancakes are usually made with onions, which are toxic to dogs. Members of the allium family (which also includes chives, shallots and leeks), onions contain a compound called N-propyl disulfide that leads to the breakdown and destruction of red blood cells.
Spuds, latkes’ main ingredient, are safe for dogs to eat if they’re cooked. But be sure not to let your dog/sous chef taste the potatoes when they’re still raw. White potatoes are in the nightshade family and contain solanine, a compound that is toxic to canines. Cooking potatoes reduces the level of solanine to an amount that’s safe for dogs to process. If you’re serving mashed potatoes during holiday celebrations, those are OK to feed your dog—but skip the salt, butter and gravy.
While there are definitely holiday foods you need to be careful to keep away from your dog, there are lots of ways to safely—and deliciously—include furry family members in the festivities. Filling a KONG with your dog’s seasonal favorites not only gives them a yummy treat, it provides instinct-satisfying enrichment that makes for a happier, healthier holiday. Try this holiday Gingerbread KONG stuffing recipe for a safe holiday alternative.