3 Dangerous Holiday Treats for Your Dog

Johnna Devereaux C.P.N.

With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to loom large, the holidays are bound to look different this year. While traditional events like big holiday gatherings may be put on hold in 2020, some things will stay the same: That is, an abundance of candy and other sweets and treats around the house. And if early buying trends are any indication, many Americans are stocking up on their favorite treats. 

As dog owners, we should always be mindful about what we feed our dogs. After all, what goes into their bodies impacts that overall health and well-being. 

But some foods are more harmful than others, and a little bit can do a lot of damage. 

The problem is, dogs are notoriously nosey, and, if left to their own devices, can sniff their way into a box of chocolate left out on the counter. 

In this post, we explore which foods you should never give your dog, and explain why the ingredients can be harmful or life-threatening. 

3 Foods You Should Never Feed Your Dog

Let’s take a look at the top 3 offenders—where only a little bit can do a lot of damage:


Chocolate contains the chemicals theobromine and caffeine. Dogs are unable to metabolize chocolate like humans and the effects can be potentially lethal.

Note that the darker the chocolate, the higher the theobromine and caffeine content. In fact, just one ounce of dark chocolate — typically the size of a single square — contains the same amount of caffeine as ¼ cup of coffee!

Symptoms of toxicity caused from chocolate can include vomiting, extreme and abnormal thirst, vomiting blood, and in some cases seizures.


This is a naturally occurring plant sugar that is used as a sugar substitute and commonly found in sugar-free candies and baked goods. There are over 700 products on the market that contain this sweetener and the smallest amount can be fatal. If you have a diabetic in the home—chances are you have products in your kitchen with xylitol—even if no one is a diabetic—this sweetener can be found in certain types of peanut butter, sugar free candies, gum and treats.

Xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs and can cause low blood sugar, seizures, liver failure and may even result in death in dogs that have ingested the smallest amounts.


Not all nuts are dangerous—but some like pecans, macadamias and walnuts contain toxic chemicals or potential fungi that can cause non-fatal symptoms like vomiting, seizures, hind-end weakness, fever, ataxia and muscle tremors.

If your dog ingests any of the above three items, contact the Pet Poison Control Hotline and your veterinarian for urgent care.

Health Tip: Though not toxic to dogs, there is no need for a dog to ingest sugar. Sugar consumption by dogs shortens lifespan, can lead to obesity and may lead to secondary ailments like diabetes. 

Always read the entire ingredient label on anything and everything before feeding to your dog! 

How to prevent accidental toxicity

By and large, most dog owners don’t ever intend for their dog to ingest foods that will make them sick. But research shows that dogs are four times more likely to experience chocolate intoxication during the winter holidays than at any other time during the year. A few factors can account for this dramatic increase, including the simple fact that there’s more chocolate around during winter holidays. 

To prevent accidental poisoning of your dog — and the resulting trip to the emergency vet — be sure to move that tray of chocolate-walnut cookies from the coffee table up onto the counter, and take time to educate youngsters about the dangers of feeding dogs chocolate. 

If you’re still concerned that your pup might get into the holiday spread, consider a baby gate to keep your dog safely removed from the serving area. 


Johnna Devereaux is a Clinical Pet Nutritionist and canine wellness expert. She is the Director of Nutrition and Wellness for Bow Wow Labs and sits on their Board of Advisors. 

The points of view expressed above are those of our clinical nutritionist and supported by science, her education and experience. However, we recognize there may be different points of view or opinions on some aspect or even the premise of this article. Our goal at Bow Wow Labs is to provide the best, clearest, and most helpful information possible to help keep your dog happy, healthy and safe.

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