’Tis the season for holiday feasting. But while you may overindulge and loosen your belt a notch, it’s best not to spoil your dog the same way. In fact, during the holidays, your house can be a landmine of foods that can set off your pup’s sensitive stomach.
Whether your dog has a food allergy, which is an abnormal immune system response to a particular substance in a food, or the more common food intolerance, a reaction to the fat, fiber or digestibility of food, certain holiday edibles can lead to digestive tract trouble for your dog. Without further ado, here are the 12 Tummy Troubles of Christmas, in no particular order.
1. Turkey skin and fatty meat scraps. These foods can be high in fat and difficult for your dog to digest. They can also contribute to pancreatitis, a painful inflammation of the pancreas, which can require hospitalization.
2. Gravy. While you may be tempted to slather a little gravy over your dog’s food as a holiday treat, remember that gravy often contains the fatty, oily drippings from poultry and meat. If you still can’t resist treating your dog, pour a little low-sodium chicken broth over his or her food (unless, of course, your dog is allergic to chicken).
3. Any kind of animal bones. Raw bones from the butcher and undercooked meat can be contaminated with Salmonella, which can throw your dog’s digestive tract a curveball. Even cooked poultry and beef bones are problematic, because they can splinter and puncture the esophagus, stomach or intestines or cause a blockage that may require surgery. Some bones are so hard that they can result in tooth fractures.
4. Rawhides can be bad. A rawhide chew may be one way to distract a dog and keep it busy during the family holiday dinner. But rawhides sourced outside of the United States have been contaminated with chemicals or bacteria such as Campylobacter or Salmonella. In addition to potentially leading to tummy upset, rawhide can pose a choking hazard and may cause a blockage in the digestive tract. If you must give your dog a rawhide, look for products made in the U.S., and only give them when your dog can be supervised.
5. Garbage. While you’d never deliberately feed your dog garbage, unsupervised pets are not above counter surfing or diving into the kitchen trash container. This kind of dietary indiscretion can create havoc with a sensitive stomach.
6. Medications and pill pockets. You have figured out a place to keep your prescriptions where your dog can’t get at them, but have your guests? Make sure visitors are keeping potentially dangerous substances out of reach as well.
7. Milk and dairy. Some dogs can be lactose intolerant, meaning their bodies may be deficient in lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose. Too many cheese snacks, snuck under the dining room table, could spell trouble.
8. Holiday ornaments. While technically not a food, low-hanging ornaments may be considered edible by some dogs. Some ornaments may irritate the dog’s digestive tract or possibly cause a blockage. Same goes for presents under the tree; if your dog can chew it and swallow it, it’s best to keep it safely out of reach.
9. Treats. The whole point of keeping your pet on a sensitive stomach diet is to limit his or her exposure to foods that may aggravate the digestive tract. Make sure your guests know not to be fooled by those big brown eyes — table scraps and other treats can make your dog feel miserable.
10. Sugar-free candy and cookies. You may indulge your sweet tooth over the holidays, but it’s not a good idea to share with your dog, especially if those treats contain the artificial sweetener xylitol. This compound is toxic to dogs, and can lead to a dangerous drop in blood sugar, liver failure and even death.
11. Chocolate. During the holidays, there’s typically no shortage of chocolate, which contains methylxanthines (namely, theobromine), substances that can be toxic to dogs. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is for your dog. A small amount of milk chocolate may lead to vomiting and diarrhea, but the same amount of dark chocolate can be fatal.
12. Fruitcakes. While some argue that fruitcakes aren’t really “food,” it’s best to keep them from your dog. Fruitcakes often contain raisins and currents, which can be toxic, and lead to kidney failure in dogs.
The best way to protect your dog’s sensitive stomach during the holidays is to keep him or her from eating anything other than their regular diet. A limited ingredient diet, with quality ingredients that are highly digestible, can help prevent any upset tummies. Don’t forget, stress can be rough on sensitive stomachs, too. So place your dog’s favorite bed in a quiet area where he or she can retreat from the holiday crowds for a little peace and quiet, if needed.