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The tree is up, the fairy lights are sparkling, and you’ve ordered the turkeyopens in a new tab — Christmas is officially around the corner. It’s the time of year for families and friends to exchange giftsopens in a new tab, sip mulled wine, and gather around the table for a delicious festive feast.
But what about our favorite four-legged family members? You may have already purchased a squeaky Santa for your dogopens in a new tab to unwrap, but you probably can’t help but feel that their everyday dog food seems a bit bland for Christmas Day.
Sure, there are some special Christmas treats and limited edition dog food available, but the real question is whether it’s possible to plate up some of your traditional turkey dinner for your furry friend. Or, perhaps it’s too late — your dog has already eaten a plate of stuffing while your back was turned and now you’re freaking out about whether or not it was safe for them to eat.
Whatever the case, with the help of expert vet Dr. Kate McCrossan, a veterinary surgeon, we’ve put together a guide to what dogs can and definitely cannot eat this Christmas.
Can dogs eat turkey?
Turkey, the star of the festive show, can be a healthy meat and a great source of protein for your dog. It’s often the primary ingredient in dog food due to its rich nutrients, including riboflavin and phosphorus.
However, it tends not to be coated with skin, salt, pepper, and gravy in dry dog food. Roasting a turkey as we usually do in butter, oils, and seasoning makes it a rich and fatty food that has the potential to cause digestive upset for dogs.
So, how can we share turkey with our dogs? “If you want to feed your dog a small amount of turkey to satisfy their craving without giving them too many extra calories, stick to the plain, skinless white meat pieces free of seasonings and gravy,” says Dr. McCrossan.
“While both white and dark meat portions of a turkey aren’t toxic for dogs, dark meat and turkey skin have high fat content. Feeding your dog plain, white meat is a better protein source and it also avoids the risk of an upset pancreas, which can lead to severe health concerns,” adds Dr. McCrossan.
You can also repurpose turkey giblets by slicing them into bite-sized bits for your dog, steering clear of the turkey neck due to its small, potentially hazardous bones. Despite the classic idea of giving dogs bones, it’s a risky move. Bones often splinter, posing a choking hazard — or worse, the chance to puncture your dog’s digestive tract. So, let the humans handle the wishbone this year.
Can dogs eat stuffing?
If plating up a Christmas dinner for your dog, it’s essential to leave the stuffing out. Although delicious, the usual spices, butter, and additional ingredients are too rich for dogs.
“Onions, garlic, leeks, shallots and chives all belong to the allium family and can be found in most types of Christmas stuffing. These plants contain a compound that can damage a dog’s red blood cells and can cause life-threatening anaemia or gastroenteritis,” says Dr. McCrossan.
If your dog has consumed foods with onions or other allium family members, consult your veterinarian for guidance. Symptoms of poisoning may not immediately show, so seeking advice is crucial even if your dog appears unaffected.
Can dogs eat roast potatoes?
Roasted, baked, fried, mashed...what were we talking about again? There are many delicious ways to enjoy potatoes, but can our dogs enjoy them as much as us? Well, the answer depends on how you’re cooking them.
“Dogs can eat potatoes as long as they’re plainly cooked and offered in moderation,” says Dr. McCrossan. “Roasted potatoes, prepared without spices, butter, or salt are the best way to let your dog enjoy this part of the dinner. It’s best to avoid raw or boiled potatoes as they contain solanine, which is not safe for dogs.”
Can dogs eat parsnips?
Good news — parsnips are safe and good for dogs. “When consumed in moderate amounts, these root veggies are a wonderful source of fiber, and this will result in your dog feeling fuller for longer,” says Dr. McCrossan.
Gently cooked, peeled parsnips are the best way to feed them to your dog. Although raw parsnips aren’t toxic, they can be difficult to digest and a potential choking hazard. If you don’t know by now, dogs and seasoning don’t mix, so avoid adding that delicious honey glaze or salt and pepper for now.
Can dogs eat chocolate?
Chocolate is probably the most well-known toxic food for dogs. “Chocolate contains theobromine, a chemical which is similar to caffeine. Dogs are particularly sensitive to theobromine and it can be poisonous to them. Theobromine can make dogs unwell in a number of different ways, but its main effect is to cause an overstimulation of their muscles, including their heart,” says Dr. McCrossan.
If your dog does consume any chocolate, contact your vet as soon as possible. It can be helpful to know what type and how much chocolate your dog has consumed.
Your dog may be OK if they eat a small amount of chocolate, and if they are a larger dog, they usually can tolerate more. The darker and more expensive chocolates usually have more theobromine and are more likely to be harmful to dogs.
Can dogs eat cheese?
If you’re nibbling at a cheese board on Christmas Eve and your dog is giving you the eyes, it is safe to treat them with a little bit of cheese. While certain cheeses such as cottage cheese, mozzarella, parmesan, Swiss, and cheddar are OK for dogs to have nibbles of due to their lower fat content, some cheeses should be avoided.
Cheese can carry some benefits for your dog; it contains protein, calcium, vitamin A, essential fatty acids, and B-complex vitamins. These are all beneficial to your dog’s health, as long as too much isn’t ingested.
“However, blue cheeses, or those with herbs, garlic or other add-ins should be avoided. Goat cheese, brie and feta all have high levels of saturated fat, which makes them unhealthy for dogs to consume,” says Dr. McCrossan.
If your dog gets an upset stomach easily, cheese may cause sickness or diarrhea. If you are not sure if your dog can handle cheese, try giving them a small amount. If they react poorly, avoid giving them cheese in the future. Some dogs can actually be lactose intolerant and will feel very sick if they eat cheese.
Can dogs eat Brussels sprouts?
“Yes, dogs can eat Brussels sprouts, but they should be cooked and served in moderation,” says Dr. McCrossan.
Some dogs (and many humans) may not like the bitter taste of Brussels sprouts, but it is safe to add one to their dish. Never feed your dog raw Brussels sprouts as they can cause digestive issues.
Overall, dogs can enjoy a few nibbles of plain turkey, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, certain cheeses, and a few roasted potatoes at Christmas. Avoid giving your dog any seasoning or toxic ingredients such as onion, garlic, or chocolate, and warn any dinner guests not to give the dog a bone.
So, if you want to plate up something special for your dog this Christmas, now you know exactly what they can enjoy. Although it might be best to buy a few extra dog treats if you have any doubts about the human food.
One final note from Dr. McCrossan: “Dogs that have long-term illness or health conditions may not tolerate any diet changes, so it’s best to treat them with a new toy instead. It’s also important to discuss any diet changes with the vet if your dog is on a prescription diet.”
Of course, if you are getting a new toy for Christmas, she says it's important to supervise your dog just in case they dismantle it to pieces and swallow some of the plastic.
No one wants a trip to the vet at Christmas, so make sure to keep an eye on all furry members of the family.
Note: While caution was taken to give safe recommendations and accurate instructions in this article, it is impossible to predict an individual dog’s reaction to any food or ingredient. Readers should consult their vets and use personal judgement when applying this information to their own dogs’ diets.
Nuala is a writeropens in a new tab with a background in PR. She has worked with brands including Jollyes, Universal Studios, and Amazon. Based in Northern Ireland, she is now doing what she loves most: writing with her clingy cockapoo Bobby by her side.
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