Untitled design v2

Thankful for Dogs this Thanksgiving!

November 20, 2023 Drs. Renee Streeter and Bradley Quest

With many considering pets members of the family, we want them to be part of every celebration. With the holidays upon us, and many households holding holiday parties and gatherings, it is important to watch what our dogs eat. Many visiting friends and family members may not realize that some of the common foods we eat can be very dangerous for dogs. Even though people generally mean well, it is always good to keep an eye out for a pet’s well-being. Here are some specific things to watch out for:

Dietary Indiscretion

Since many dogs have a “scavenger” appetite, they may eat scraps from plates left on coffee tables or may even rummage through the trash for morsels, so it is important to make sure that friends and houseguests do not leave food within easy reach, and it may also require making frequent “trash runs” and clean-ups during get-togethers. Remember to keep the garbage somewhere in the house where dogs cannot access it, as this can lead to a dog’s natural dietary indiscretion to eat anything he can find. In addition, this means that visitors may need to be reminded not to feed pets. Avoid giving dogs any kind of bones; especially cooked, even large bones should be avoided. Large bones may seem okay, but many dogs can bite down on them with great force, causing tooth fractures (and expensive dental surgeries).  Bones from fowl, such as turkeys or chickens, should always be avoided as they can cause serious problems such as gastrointestinal blockages or even intestinal perforations.


Chocolate is one food that is high on the list that dogs should never get. Since chocolate may be plentiful around the house during the holidays, make sure that it cannot be reached by a pet. Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine. These compounds can act as a diuretic, making dogs excessively thirsty, and may also cause vomiting, diarrhea, and a high heart rate. Dark or baker’s chocolate has the highest level of theobromine, making it more potent and dangerous to dogs than other forms of chocolate. If a dog does ingest chocolate, you should call the ASPCA’s poison control or a local emergency vet to help determine if the dog needs immediate medical attention. ASPCA’s poison control number is 888-426-4435. Some online calculators can help as well such as Veterinary Information Network's (VIN) veterinary partner calculator which can be found at https://www.veterinarypartner.com/ChocToxCalc_vetPartner.html.

Delicious Drinks

Any food or drink containing caffeine or alcohol should also be avoided for dogs. Dogs have sweet receptors in their taste buds, so avoid leaving glasses of alcohol, sweetened coffees, teas, or energy drinks in places where dogs can access them. Dogs are much more sensitive to caffeine than humans due to their inability to metabolize it efficiently. Ingesting caffeine can lead to a range of adverse effects in dogs, including restlessness, increased heart rate, tremors, vomiting, and, in severe cases, even death. The stimulant properties of caffeine can have a significant impact on a dog's central nervous system and cardiovascular system. Small amounts of alcohol may result in lethargy or a dog “not acting like himself.” Large amounts can be more serious and may cause vomiting, respiratory difficulty, seizures, and even death.

Peanut Butter

Many holiday treats may also contain peanut butter. While peanut butter itself is not a problem, be sure that it does not contain the artificial sweetener, xylitol. Also note, beware that many candies and sugar-free gums may also contain xylitol. In dogs, xylitol causes insulin to be released, resulting in hypoglycemia, or severely low blood sugar. In large amounts, it can cause liver failure. Some symptoms may include general weakness, vomiting, and if enough has been consumed, seizures.

Onions, Garlic, and Chives

Holiday dishes commonly contain garlic, onions, or chives. While these vegetables add flavor to human food, they can be highly toxic to dogs. These are all members of the allium family and should be avoided with dogs as these foods contain thiosulphates that can cause anemia, which can result in lethargy, pale gums, and elevated heart rate. 

Grapes and Raisins

Fruit is a popular holiday snack and, while some fruit is perfectly fine for your dog in moderation, others should be avoided. Grapes and raisins can cause kidney problems for dogs; this is important to remember as many holiday treats contain raisins such as fruit cakes and raisin cookies. Fruits such as apples, cherries, plums, and peaches can be okay for dogs as long as all seeds or pits have been removed. The seeds or pits of these fruits contain a cyanide compound which can lead to hyperventilation, collapse, shock, and even death if enough is ingested.

Raw Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are a holiday staple and, while cooked potatoes are okay for your pet, raw potatoes should be kept out of reach. Raw potatoes contain a compound called solanine which can be poisonous to dogs. Symptoms of eating raw potatoes include vomiting, diarrhea, and dangerously low heart rates if large amounts are eaten. Unripe tomatoes also contain solanine, so it is best to avoid feeding dogs tomatoes as well.


Nuts are a common holiday snack but be sure to keep them out of reach of dogs. Macadamia nuts can cause vomiting, weakness, and muscle or nerve incoordination. Black walnuts should also be avoided as they can cause the same symptoms seen with macadamia nuts. Almost all nuts contain shells that can be digestive and choking hazards for dogs if swallowed whole. 

Fats and Meats

Meat fat and grease can cause digestive upset, and, in larger amounts, meat fat can cause pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can be a serious and painful condition, so it is best to avoid giving dogs the fat trimmings or grease from pans.

Most of the foods to avoid are “dose-dependent” meaning that the more a dog eats, the worse their condition may become. It is also important to remember that the size of a dog matters. Generally speaking, a smaller dog will be at more risk than a larger dog if the same amount of hazardous food is consumed.

But we are not all doom and gloom! One way to help dogs feel like they are part of the holiday fun, and avoid giving them food that they shouldn’t have, is to have some of their favorite treats available! This will keep your best friend from feeling left out and will allow guests to spoil the household pets. Putting some safe foods for your pet in a holiday-themed bowl or jar will show guests what they can give. Just put in the amount your dog is allowed to have and then when it’s gone you and your guests will know that your furry friend had just as much holiday cheer as they can handle.

Another option is to get your pup a new feeding puzzle they can play with or fill a Kong with cinnamon apple sauce or plain canned pumpkin and freeze it for prolonged party time. Although we love to talk about what your pet can eat, what they really want is attention! Take them for an after-dinner walk, which will help you make room for pie while allowing them to feel loved and appreciated by all!

This content is the property of BSM Partners. Reproduction or retransmission or repurposing of any portion of this content is expressly prohibited without the approval of BSM Partners and is governed by the terms and conditions explained here.