We’re smack in the middle of holiday season, and I don’t know about you, but my appetite is going crazy! I love everything about my family’s big holiday meals, and so do our dogs.
That love of food is something that dogs and people have always had in common. The smells of our forefathers’ food cooking around the campfire is what drew our dogs’ own ancestors to them. So expressing that bond is a wonderful, loving, and healthy part of our relationship with our dogs.
While some of the foods traditionally served this season are appropriate for dogs to eat, others are unhealthy, or worse, dangerous to dogs. Understanding the difference is the key to letting your dog in on the tasty side of the holiday spirit, without an upset stomach or trip to the vet.
Turkey is a safe, lean, healthy meat for dogs to eat, at least by itself. That’s why it’s a common ingredient in many dog foods. And it’s rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that can help improve mood.
Unfortunately, the stuff that we put on our holiday turkeys isn’t so healthy for dogs – things like butter, oil, and seasonings are bad for our pups. And while the meat is healthy, the skin is pretty high in fat, which can lead to pancreatitis.
So if you are sharing some turkey off your plate, make sure you remove the skin, and serve your dog only unseasoned meat.
The holiday ham is another classic and tasty meat gracing many tables this season. While pork can be a healthy part of a dog’s diet, when it’s in the form of ham, it usually should not be given to dogs.
While it’s not immediately toxic to dogs, all the stuff that infuses ham with its rich and unique flavor is just plain bad for them. It contains lots of fat, salt, sugar, and preservatives, which in excess can endanger your dog’s pancreas and kidneys.
Like turkey, brisket meat is itself a healthy snack for a dog. Unlike turkey, though, where the unhealthy stuff mostly ends up on the outside, the fats and spices brisket is cooked in tend to infuse it more deeply, so it’s much harder to find an unseasoned spot of cooked brisket to share. That’s why it’s best to keep brisket away from the dogs.
Just writing about stuffing is making me want to eat some! But as much as I love stuffing, I would never give any to my dogs.
Stuffing typically contains garlic, onions, and shallots, which are toxic to dogs – they contain compounds that destroy red blood cells in dogs, leading to anemia.
Potatoes come in many forms during the holidays – mashed, scalloped, baked, and more! Potatoes aren’t exactly healthy for dogs, but it’s typically safe to share them in moderation, and prepared correctly.
First, never give a raw potato to your dog. Raw potato contains toxic levels of solanine, which is mostly destroyed in the cooking process. You should also remove the skin, as it’s difficult for dogs to digest, and can cause intestinal blockage.
Secondly, as with many human foods, the most dangerous part of any potato dish is usually the seasonings we add to them. However it is prepared, any potato you share with your dog should be largely free of butter, salt, cream, etc. And any potato cooked in garlic or onion should not be shared at all.
Finally, if your dog is diabetic or overweight, I’d avoid sharing the potato altogether, even without seasonings. They are a high glycemic carbohydrate, meaning they can cause a spike in blood sugar, and are largely empty calories besides.
Sweet potato is a fantastic snack for dogs. Not only is it much healthier than regular white potato, dogs really like the taste.
Mostly, the same rules apply as with white potato – always cook sweet potato before giving it to your dog, take the skin off, and only give them sweet potato that doesn’t have other stuff mixed in.
However, the upside is that since it is much better for dogs, being rich in beneficial nutrients like fiber and beta carotene but ranking low on the glycemic index, you can give your dog a much bigger portion!
That’s why I always pick up some extra sweet potatoes during the holidays, so I can cook them up special for my dogs. In fact, they’re the star ingredient in one of my favorite simple homemade dog treat recipes, which I’ve included at the bottom of the article!
I feed my dogs homemade green beans quite often. They make a great doggy snack! They help dogs feel full and provide healthy fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals, but don’t contain many calories.
As long as they are served plain, dogs can eat them prepared any way – steamed, baked, chopped, or even whole and raw!
While cranberry is good for dogs, and a bite or two of plain cranberry sauce won’t harm your dog, I usually just avoid giving any to my dog at all. It’s high in sugar, and is so often made with ingredients that are bad for dogs, like grapes, currants, or brandy.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the desserts, you’re almost universally better off keeping your dog away. There’s just too much sugar in almost every human dessert to be good for your dog, and that doesn’t even account for the many toxic ingredients commonly included in our favorite sweets, like chocolate and raisins.
As you’ve probably figured out by now, the worst part of our holiday foods for dogs is often the seasoning. That’s why I thought I’d make it easier on you by sharing a few of my favorite flavorful herbs and spices that are healthy for dogs to eat. This can help you prepare dishes that are tasty and safe for both you and your four-legged family.
You may recognize several of these seasonings from the ingredient list for our Radiant Canine supplement. That’s because they aren’t just tasty, but also have properties that also make them useful nutritionally. Every bite your dog eats is an opportunity to improve their health.
Parsley is a very versatile dog-safe herb with a natural earthy bitterness that pairs well with many foods. I often use it in combination with dill (another dog-safe seasoning) in potato dishes.
Parsley offers many nutritional benefits as well. It’s naturally antimicrobial, and often used in natural dental care products for dogs and humans. It’s also, surprisingly, one of the most nutrient-rich superfoods, containing antioxidants, fiber, and many vitamins and minerals.
Ginger offers powerful flavor and natural herbal properties. It’s commonly found in many holiday desserts, but it also complements savory dishes as well.
Not only is it safe for dogs, it’s quite beneficial too. It has anti-inflammatory properties that help settle upset stomachs and improve digestion, and it is naturally antibacterial.
Rosemary is a wonderful herb that is easy to grow at home, and is used to flavor a variety of meats and veggies. It is safe for dogs to eat, and it’s associated with good heart and brain health, too.
Cinnamon is a classic winter flavor, and it’s healthy for dogs and humans too! It is a powerful antioxidant that helps to lower blood sugar levels, smooth digestion, improve dental health, and more. It can even help in cancer prevention.
Basil is another great garden herb that gives any dish a peppy Italian zest. It’s safe for dogs to eat, is naturally antiviral, and can also help with the symptoms of arthritis.
Coconut oil is my preferred type of oil to use when cooking for my dogs. It’s got a better balance of the healthy saturated fats that are good for dogs than butter or other cooking oils, so it’s less likely to cause digestive upset, though it’s still a good idea not to overdo it.
As promised, here’s a great, simple recipe for a delicious snack that’s tasty for both humans and dogs, and uses a healthy ingredient many of us have plenty of on hand during the season.
The only ingredients you need are 2 sweet potatoes, and 2 tablespoons of coconut oil!
Dog-Friendly Sweet Potato Chips
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
- Wash and peel sweet potatoes.
- Slice sweet potatoes as thinly and uniformly is possible. A mandolin slicer is best for this, but a sharp knife or vegetable peeler works too.
- Toss slices in melted coconut oil.
- Lay slices in a single layer on a baking sheet – you’ll need more than one sheet!
- Bake for 2 hours or until crispy and brown, flipping chips halfway for even cooking.
- Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving.
Wishing you and your dog the happiest and healthiest holiday season,
Dr. Edward Tuk
Our Radiant Canine nutritional supplement provides the powerful nutrition of over 45 unique veterinarian-selected ingredients, like parsley, ginger, cinnamon, and more, to help see dogs through many years of healthy holidays.
And one of the ingredients in our delicious Nutrient Heaven treats are naturally healthy sweet potatoes, for the beneficial fiber your dog needs in a delicious form that'll get their tail wagging!
Click on one of the products below to learn more!