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4 Ways to Help Your Dog Have a Stress-Free Holiday!

Gatherings can be lots of fun for both you and your pup. But holidays can also be stressful for dogs, especially if they consume unhealthy human foods. It's important to know which foods are safe for dogs to eat and to make sure your guests (who often don’t see the harm in sharing “people” food) aren’t feeding Fido under the table.


Equally important is having a safe place where your pup can retreat if they feel overwhelmed; even the most socialized dogs can experience discomfort in crowds. Fortunately, a little advanced planning goes a long way when it comes to festive gatherings. Follow 4 simple tips to help your dog have a safe and stress-free holiday!

Woman carving a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.
Salt, fat, seasoning, and spices make many holiday foods toxic for dogs. Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

1. Serve Foods That Dogs Can Eat


Many “people foods” are okay for canines, including carrots, Brussels sprouts, green beans, plain cooked turkey, and pumpkin puree. But when cooked with various types of seasonings and spices, these holiday foods can become toxic instead of nutritious. So if you desire to give your pup something directly from the table, keep a bowl filled with dog-friendly nibbles that anyone can grab from and give to your pup.


This bowl could include chopped carrots that you set aside before cooking the rest for your side dish, plain sweet potatoes, a few bites of plain cooked turkey (sans bones), or even your dog’s regular treats or kibble! Your pup will still feel like they’re getting something amazing from the table, even if you’re just handing them their own normal food. Don’t forget that moderation is key. Too much of a good thing can still lead to a trip to the vet. Whatever you decide to feed your pet, research how much they can safely eat (it depends on their weight and the type of food).


2. Don't Forget Which Foods Are Toxic For Dogs


Be warned that many holiday foods are toxic for dogs, causing dangerous diseases like pancreatitis and liver failure. These “no-go” foods include:

  • anything especially rich, fatty, spicy, or seasoned, including many holiday meats

  • onions and garlic, often found in casseroles, stuffing, and mashed potatoes

  • excessively salty foods, such as bouillon, broths, stock, and gravy

  • cooked animal bones, which pose a choking hazard

  • pumpkin pie, which is loaded with sugar and spice

  • baked goods, which are often sweetened with xylitol

  • raw or undercooked meats and uncooked dough

  • citrus, grapes, and raisins

  • nuts

  • chocolate

  • milk and dairy

  • alcohol

Make sure your dog can’t fetch these toxic foods from the table, off the floor, or from the trash, and remind your guests of the harm in sharing table scraps. An unplanned trip to the vet is one sure way to spoil the holiday fun! Here’s a full list of “people” foods dogs can’t eat.


3. Make Your Own Holiday Dog Treats


Another fantastic way to include your dog in the feast is by making your own dog treats. Whip up a batch of homemade dog treats using canned pumpkin puree and all-natural peanut butter. (Just make sure you’re not using spiced pumpkin pie filling or peanut butter with xylitol.) Or freeze a few bites of plain shredded turkey, canned pumpkin puree, all-natural peanut butter, and unsweetened cranberries inside your pet's favorite Kong, creating a pup-safe holiday treat your dog can enjoy while the humans sit down to eat.


You can also pick up dog-friendly treats from one of Seattle’s many pet bakeries, including The Seattle Barkery, Downtown Dog Lounge Bakery, and Puddles Barkery, found at the Ballard Farmer’s Market and other stores around Seattle.


4. Prepare a Quiet Place Where Your Dog Can Be Alone


Aside from ensuring your pup doesn't eat things that they shouldn't, you'll want to prepare a place where your dog can retreat if they aren’t feeling the social vibe. This can be a quiet room or a kennel covered by a blanket. Make sure that all guests (including children) know that if your dog is in that place, they should be left alone. Keep an eye on your pup to determine if (or when) they may need a break from the event. If your dog is showing signs of distress, escort them to their safe place and close the door (or block off the area) so other dogs can’t follow. Check on your dog frequently to see when they’re ready to rejoin the group.


Visit the ASCPA website for more stress-free holiday pet-safety tips.


Written by Wendi Black

Edited by Kallie Sims and Jen Swanson



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