Holidays with Dogs: Part 1 – The Main Course

Here we go again; it is that time of the year…The Holiday Season!

Photo by HSUS

While the very mention of the season conjures up all sorts of things for different people, one thing is fairly certain to come to mind for everyone: holiday eats and treats. Some of these might be foods toxic to dogs.

Many of us cook and eat an unusual amount of rich foods over the next two months. There may be something of our prehistory in play here. In the winter, it is time to stock up on calories and overindulgence doesn’t seem like bad idea. You get the picture: turkey, gravy, buttered biscuits, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, followed by honey glazed hams, icing covered cookies, eggnog; it goes on and on!

What, you might be asking, does this have to do with dogs and families? Unfortunately far too often, it has all too much to do with dogs and families.

Some of the foods that we so joyously devour can be quite toxic to our canine friends. Most people are aware that chocolate is a no-no for dogs but a new sweet danger has come on the scene in the past few years with a tongue-twister of a name: xylitol. It is an artificial sweetener that hides in many everyday products, from toothpaste to chewing gum, vitamin supplements to peanut butter. That’s right, the old doggy favorite, peanut butter. Signs of xylitol poisoning in dogs include weakness, lethargy, collapse, vomiting, tremors, seizures, jaundice, malaise, black-tarry stool, and even coma. So, go to the cabinets and check those labels and when in doubt, always call your dog’s veterinarian.

Also on the list to be kept out of Fido’s food bowl: onions, garlic, grapes, and macadamia nuts. Too much fat, butter, or even olive oil from those latkes, might leave us with mild stomach upset but can cause serious complications for dogs such as pancreatitis. Cooked bones can be very dangerous to pets so keep trash cans tightly lidded and out of dog reach. Take care to properly dispose of wrapping and packaging from meats and other interesting smelling foodstuffs too. A cunning dog can follow its nose to take advantage when your back is turned, and packaging can become an intestinal blockage leading to a midnight run to the emergency veterinary clinic (guaranteed to ruin anyone’s good cheer).

Just in case, keep the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Phone Number (888-426-4435) and the number of both your regular veterinarian and your local 24-hour emergency veterinary clinic on your refrigerator or programmed into your phone.

First Friends suggests that families with dogs explain to the small people in the family that not all people food is good for pets, and that they must always ask a trusted adult before offering even a taste of people food to pets. This goes double for well meaning but non-dog-owning guests*!

Enough with the Bah Humbug; let’s get on the how to have a good time while keeping everyone safe! There is no need to despair that your dogs are being left out of the gastronomic fun! Here are some lovely and easy recipes that you can use to put together special holiday meals for your dogs.

Rachel Ray offers “Peas on Earth Cakes” with whole grains, peas, and chicken – preparation time 10 minutes, cook time 10 minutes.

From happyME, “Pumpkin-Nutter Pup Pie” Kong Stuffing Treat (This one is easy enough that kids can help. It is messy fun for the whole family!)

  • 1/2 can of pure canned pumpkin (not the sugary pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/4 cup of smooth sugar-free peanut butter
  • 1 mashed banana
  • A sprinkle of cinnamon

Mash the banana and mix together with the other ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Stuff your Kong (or other stuffable food toy) and freeze.

There are more tempting, and healthy, recipes for your dog here.

Another way to keep the peace around the house this busy time of the year: Keep a stash of pre-stuffed food toys in your freezer as ready pacifiers for dogs in need of distraction. Make sure your dog has a safe and quiet place to enjoy their goodies, though, out of the way of foot traffic. This is a great use of a comfortable, covered crate. (Depending on the treat you may want to lay a towel over the mat in the crate, for easier cleanup.)

First Friends is wishing everyone out there a safe and happy holiday season!

*House Guests, Decorations, and Vacations Plans, Oh My – but we’ll get to those in the next few blog posts.


I am a wandering hedge-scholar. Feet in the dirt, head in the clouds, dog by my side!
Scroll to Top