What are the most dangerous foods for dogs at Christmas?

What are the most dangerous foods for dogs at Christmas?

Health & Safety

Christmas is a lovely time of year and one that lots of us particularly enjoy for the food, whether we admit to this openly or not! There are few things that dogs enjoy more at any time of the year than food too, and so our interests intersect quite neatly during December in that respect.

During the festive season, a lot of us are apt to overeat, eat things we wouldn’t normally allow ourselves to have, and generally be much less controlled around food than normal.

On the subject of control around food, whilst ours might slip somewhat at Christmas, self-control around food is something few dogs tend to exhibit at any time of the year! They are also very opportunistic and often, lightening-fast about eating things when the chance arises, and the consternation and shouting of their owners when this happens tends to be read as a cue to eat it faster, rather than to stop.

Coupled with this, us dog owners invariably have a lot going on at Christmas, both in terms of the season’s practicalities and also enjoying ourselves along with everyone else. Between the sheer quantity and range of food we have around and a level of distraction that might mean our eyes aren’t on the dog as much as possible at the same time as our dog’s eyes are firmly fixed on all that food, Christmas can be a dangerous time for dogs when it comes to eating things they shouldn’t have.

A wide range of Christmas foods are toxic or poisonous to dogs, and in fact most Christmas food is bad for your dog to some degree, even if it is only because it is so fatty, sugary or sweet. However, there is a sliding scale in terms of how dangerous different Christmas foods are to dogs, ranging from those that might give your dog a mild stomach upset if that, through to those that could potentially kill them outright.

Additionally, not all foods that are potentially very poisonous to dogs are foods that dogs would tend to particularly go out of their way to eat; although you really never can be too careful in that regards, as some dogs will eat almost literally anything. Finally, the availability of food has to be factored in too; if something is very toxic and also appealing to a dog but the average household doesn’t have it around or eat it at Christmas, it is unlikely to be a problem for many dogs.

This means that the most dangerous Christmas foods for dogs are those that combine three specific traits:

  • A high level of toxicity, so that eating only a relatively small amount of it would pose a threat to your dog’s health.
  • A high level of desirability to your dog, meaning they are that much more likely to try to eat it rather than disregard it if the opportunity arose.
  • A high level of availability of such food at Christmas, so the chances of an opportunistic dog managing to eat it increases.

Using these three factors as our benchmark, this article will tell you the five potentially most dangerous Christmas foods for dogs.


Chocolate is something we enjoy all year round, but at Christmas is becomes one of our staple foodstuffs and something we’re highly likely to eat a large amount of.

Chocolate toxicity and chocolate ingestion is actually the number one reason for dogs needing veterinary treatment around Christmas overall! So, what makes chocolate such a big danger to dogs at Christmas?

  • There’s lots of it around.
  • It is often left on tables and in reach of dogs.
  • Dogs think chocolate is delicious, and will eat as much of it as they can find.
  • Just a couple of bars of milk chocolate is enough to make an average-sized dog quite ill, and far less would be needed for small breeds like the Chihuahua.

Mince pies

Most people enjoy mince pies, although some people have very strong opinions to the contrary! What goes into the average mince pie can be really variable even between store-bought brands, but when you factor in homemade mince pies too, the potential ingredients list that is harmful to dogs gets much longer.

Some of the things that might be in mince pies that are dangerous to dogs include alcohol, macadamia nuts, sultanas, and raisins.

Why are mince pies so dangerous to dogs at Christmas?

  • They are small and portable and easy to put down and forget, particularly if served on plates at parties or being eaten by children.
  • Many people leave mince pies out for Santa, forgetting that the dog will be more than happy to be “Santa” if that means eating the whole box.
  • The sweet, sugary pastry of mince pies is particularly appealing to dogs.
  • Mincemeat is largely made up of ingredients that are all individually quite acutely toxic to dogs.

Roast dinner scraps

If you’re thinking of scraping the remains of your Christmas dinner into your dog’s bowl, think again! You should be very speculative if you’re planning to give your dog their own carefully planned mini portion of your Christmas roast, but never give them the scraps.

Whilst on the surface of it meat, veg and gravy are dog-safe (if rich), it is the hidden ingredients that pose a problem for dogs at Christmas. These include onion or garlic, all widely used as part of gravy, stuffing and basting, potentially sultanas or raisins in the stuffing, and a range of other unknowns too.

Why are scraps from your roast such a danger to your dog at Christmas?

  • Many dog owners actively feed their dogs these scraps, and in a large quantity.
  • Abandoned plates on the table will be rich pickings for a dog left unsupervised.
  • Every ingredient of your roast is highly appealing to your dog.
  • Many of the less obvious ingredients are acutely toxic to dogs.

Christmas cake or pudding

Christmas cake and Christmas pudding are two very different foodstuffs, and often people who love one of them will be ambivalent about the other! However, both such foods contain a number of common ingredients that are toxic to dogs, including sultanas and raisins, potentially macadamia nuts, potentially alcohol, and even maybe a coin in the case of the pudding if you’re making a traditional one at home!

So, what causes Christmas cake and Christmas pudding to be a Christmas danger for your dog?

  • Packed with toxic ingredients
  • Often left half-eaten on tables or the arms of chairs on plates and in bowls.
  • Smell and taste sweet and so, very appealing to your dog.

Turkey bones and carcasses

Finally, turkey bones and the carcass from the roast; or if you eat other birds such as goose, duck, chicken and so on instead or as well, these can be a real hazard for your dog.

Any type of bone not designed for and prepared especially to be safe for your dog is a potential danger, but the bones of birds are fine and sharp and once cooked, very brittle. This means they can cut or puncture your dog’s mouth or the roof of their mouth, as well as splintering internally and causing lethal perforations.

So, what makes turkey carcasses from the Christmas roast dangerous to your dog?

  • The bones and carcass will be one of the most appealing foods for your dog and once they smell them, they may go to great lengths to get to them.
  • A carcass left on the worktop whilst you eat might well be in reach of a larger dog, or one who can jump or climb; particularly if you shut your dog out of your sight to stop them from begging whilst the family eats!
  • Bones left on plates on the table can often be easily gotten to by dogs.
  • Your dog might manage to fish the carcass out of the bin if it is not properly secured.
  • There are a huge number of small, sharp bones in the carcass, all of which your dog is likely to eat and any of which can pose a huge danger.
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