What parts of a roast dinner are safe for dogs?

We want our dogs to celebrate with us at certain times of year, like Christmas, but giving them their own roast dinner or leftovers as a treat can quickly rack up the calories, or even give them a stomach upset. Some human food can even be dangerous to your dog so knowing the do’s and don’ts is essential to keep your dog safe and happy.

Giving your dog a little bit of your special roast dinner can seem like a great way to show them you love them and get them involved. But in reality, most dogs will be just as happy with the gift of a toy (new or rediscovered) or spending quality time with you!

If you are giving your dog a food treat, make sure you don’t give them too much. Even the smallest bit of human food is a big treat in your dog’s eyes, so no need to give them a full sized dinner! Take any treats into account by cutting down the amount of dog food in the rest of their meals for that day to balance out their daily calorie allowance.

Don’t forget that not all of our festive foods are dog-friendly! Some things we eat can be toxic to our dogs. Read on to find out more.

 

Graphic showing which parts of roast dogs can and can't eat

Click to enlarge

Dog-safe roast dinner

There’s no need to feed your dog a big meal on special occasions. A lot of the food we have at Christmas and other holidays isn’t the normal diet for your dog and can cause a bad stomach, which can be really uncomfortable. There are also lots of human foods that could make them seriously ill.

If you can’t resist giving them a titbit as a special treat then it’s good to know which parts of your roast dinner are potentially toxic and which are less likely to cause them problems.

One risk with feeding your dog part of your dinner is that they will come to expect this every time you have a roast and it can be difficult to resist those puppy-dog eyes. To avoid this, keep their treat aside until after the main event and give it to them in their dog bowl some time later, rather than from the table or while you are tidying up. You could also consider feeding them their dinner at the same time as you’re eating so they learn that they can enjoy their food at the same time you enjoy yours without having to beg at the table.

It’s safe for your dog to have a small portion of some of the following as a festive treat:

  • Lean parts of the white turkey meat (plain and boneless) - the dark meat can be too rich for them
  • Carrot and/or swede mash (with no added extras like butter, salt or onion)
  • Plain boiled or raw carrots (without any glaze or oil)
  • Plain boiled parsnips (without any glaze or oil)
  • Plain boiled or steamed green beans
  • Plain boiled or steamed Brussel sprouts (no sauce)
  • Plain boiled or steamed broccoli
  • Plain boiled, steamed or mashed peas
  • Plain boiled, wilted or raw spinach
  • Plain cooked cauliflower (no sauce).

Always feed your dog an amount that is appropriate for their size and ideal weight. Try not to go too overboard – even a little treat will brighten their day. Remember that a dog size portion will often to be much smaller than for a human, even if your pooch is a large breed.

For more information on feeding your dog and keeping them slim, take a look at our guides:

Foods that are too high in calories or fat

Food that contains too many calories for your dog could not only cause them to become overweight. If the calories come from food with a high fat content or that has been cooked in a lot of fat they can make them poorly and even lead to pancreatitis. You can take a look at our advice on pancreatitis on our Hub. Some foods that are high in calories from fat include:

  • Any vegetables or meat roasted or fried in fat, butter or oil
  • Cheese sauces
  • Bacon
  • Potatoes roasted in fat
  • Turkey or chicken skin
  • Pigs in blankets
  • Human desserts.

Be careful to keep the meat-roasting pan well away from your dog even when cooled as the fat produced by the roast meat will be incredibly tempting but could be very dangerous for them.

 

What parts of a roast are dangerous to dogs?

Some foods are dangerous for dogs – either because they are a choking hazard or because they can actually poison your pet.

You’ll need to avoid feeding your dog the following:

  • Bones – these are a choking hazard and can lead to a gut blockage. Cooked bones are even more damaging as they can splinter causing rips and tears to your dog’s insides, which is extremely dangerous.
  • Onions and garlic (including anything with an onion or garlic sauce) – these are toxic to dogs.
  • Leeks and shallots (in the same family as onions and garlic) – these are toxic to dogs.
  • Mincemeat, currants, raisins and sultanas (including in Christmas pudding or mince pies) – these are toxic to dogs.
  • Any food or drink containing alcohol – this can be dangerous for dogs.
  • Chocolate – this is toxic to dogs. Read more about chocolate toxicity on our Hub.

Watch out for foods that might contain onions, garlic or leeks as one of their ingredients, as these will also be harmful, for example:

  • Gravy
  • Stuffing
  • Bread sauce.

If you buy any products that are ready made, don’t forget to check the label just in case they contain dangerous ingredients such as onion or garlic.

Remember to read up on what to do if your dog accidentally eats something they shouldn’t.

 

What to give your dog instead of human food

You can still make the holidays special for your dog without feeding them table scraps! If you want your dog to feel special and include them in the festivities, there are a number of things you can do:

  • Get them a new toy. A new toy is a great way to get your dog involved and make them happy without feeding them human food. One big advantage of a new toy is that they should outlast a Christmas dinner for your dog! You could also try re-introducing some of the toys that they’ve not played with for a while. Remember to wash them first, especially if they’ve been lying around in the garden! They’ll often seem just as fun to your dog as when they were new. Just don’t forget to check them for any damage or loose bits first.
  • Take them on a new walk. Taking your dog on a new walking route, or one that’s a bit different to the usual, is a great way to make them happy and keep them entertained. They’ll enjoy all the new sights and smells and it keeps them active.
  • Lots of playtime. Our dogs love spending time with us, so extra playtime will be a huge treat for them! You could try getting someone else to play with them while you’re cooking to distract them if they’re hanging out in the kitchen waiting for you to drop something.
  • Puzzle games and fun feeders. If you really want to treat your dog with something to eat, popping their meal into a puzzle feeder is a great way to entertain them and keep them active while they eat. It’s also an ideal way to keep them busy if your attention needs to be elsewhere.
  • A different flavour of their usual food. If you want to give your dog something special at the holidays, you could consider getting a different flavour of their usual dog food. That way you’ll know they’re getting something safe that contains the correct balance of nutrients.

Take a look at some of our vet-approved toys in our online shop:

Stress-free Christmas

Does your dog get a bit stressed over Christmas? Busy holidays can be scary - read our tips on reducing stress.

Reduce Christmas pet-stress

Winter pet care

As it gets colder over Christmas, make sure you keep your dog warm and safe! Check out our top tips for winter.

Keeping warm in winter

Find a gift

Want to give your dog an extra-special gift this Christmas? Shop online with PDSA to find some great pet treats and gifts.

Gifts for pets