Christmas is just around the corner, bringing with it boundless goodies: quality time with loved ones, exciting gifts to unwrap, and, of course, plenty of seasonal treats to whet any appetite.
And if you’re like most dog owners, you know that leaving your pup out of the celebrations is simply unconscionable.
Thankfully, there are many ways to surprise your dog with holiday-themed treats that are both healthy and delicious.
Whether you’re stuffing your dog’s stocking or leaving a tray of canine cookies out for Santa Paws, we’ve got you covered! Read on to learn more about seasonal dog treat ingredients, find the best store-bought options, and get tips on making your own Christmas dog treats.
Christmas Dog Treat Ingredients: The Nice and the Naughty
The term “Christmas food” conjures up many different goodies: eggnog, gingerbread, fruitcake, cranberries, pecan pie, baked ham, and, of course, lots and lots of chocolate.
And while many of these wintry delights are suitable for both dogs and humans, some simply aren’t compatible with your pup’s palate or digestive system. What’s more, a few are actively harmful to his health.
So before you gift your dog with some table scraps or whip up some homemade dog biscuits, check this list to make sure all the ingredients are good for him!
The Nice List: Healthy Christmas Dog Treat Ingredients
Cranberries are a staple of holiday cuisine, whether they’re sauced, candied, or baked into a cake.
And they make a fun, healthy treat for your dog, too!
Raw cranberries are packed with antioxidants that help prevent UTIs, improve heart health and even reduce the risk of various cancers. They’re also high in vitamin C (which boosts immune function), vitamin A (which preserves vision), and potassium (which stabilizes blood pressure).
Some dogs aren’t a fan of these tart, juicy berries, but others will go crazy gobbling down all the cranberries you toss at them. However, smaller dogs and dogs without teeth can sometimes choke on them, so always supervise your dog while he’s snacking.
Though raw cranberries are the best option for dogs, you can also feed your pup dried cranberries or cranberry sauce — if you check the ingredients first. Make sure that there aren’t any grapes or raisins mixed in, and ensure that there’s little (if any) added sugar before offering these cranberry products to your dog.
And if you want to give your dog cranberry sauce, check the label and make sure that there isn’t any xylitol in it. Xylitol is a common sugar substitute that is poisonous to dogs, so never give your dog anything that contains it.
Peanut butter makes an appearance in many human Christmas cookie recipes. And your dog will be pleased to hear that it’s also perfectly safe for him, too!
Its high-fat content means that peanut butter should be fed in moderation, but its high protein content makes it a fairly healthy dog treat option. Some dogs prefer smooth peanut butter, while others like crunchy more — both are fine as long as you check the label first.
Opt for natural peanut butter without added sugar or other ingredients. And as with cranberries, make sure that the peanut butter isn’t sweetened with xylitol, which causes dangerous blood sugar drops that can kill your dog.
Warm apple crisp is a holiday favorite for many of us. And while you should probably keep those apple-baked goods to yourself, set a couple of apple slices aside while you’re baking — they make a great snack for you and your dog!
Apples, like cranberries, are rich in vitamins A and C, antioxidants, and potassium. They’re also rich in fiber, which helps with digestion, and their sweet scent can freshen your dog’s stinky breath as he eats.
Make sure to remove seeds, stems, and cores before giving apples to your dog. And if your dog has diabetes, ask your vet before feeding him apples as they’re fairly high in sugar.
Gingerbread… with a Catch
The gingerbread cookies you buy or bake for your family are probably off-limits for your dog. They’re likely high in sugar and usually contain nutmeg, which is toxic to dogs.
But if you can find or make low-sugar, nutmeg-free gingerbread, it makes a special Christmas treat for your pup.
Ginger itself is good for dogs in small amounts. Its anti-inflammatory properties can be a real boon for active or injured dogs, and it contains many antioxidants that help regulate everything from immune response to blood pressure to digestion.
Look for gingerbread that’s as simple as possible: flour, ginger, baking powder, eggs, applesauce, molasses, oats, and vanilla extract are all dog-safe ingredients. Gingerbread often contains other spices, most of which are also safe for dogs: cinnamon, allspice, turmeric, and clove are safe, tasty, and even healthy for dogs.
And if you can’t track down a dog-safe gingerbread cookie in the store, keep reading for an easy gingerbread dog treat recipe.
The Naughty List: Christmas Dog Treat Ingredients to Avoid
You won’t find chocolate in any store-bought dog treats, but it’s important not to let your dog get his paws on any chocolatey human treats as well. That makes many Christmas cookies and baked goods off-limits for your pup.
Chocolate dilates the blood vessels and stimulates the heart, which can lead to vomiting, seizures, and even death. The more concentrated the chocolate, the more toxic it is, with cocoa powder being the most toxic common form — so keep your dog out of the kitchen when you’re baking!
Ham seems like it would be fine for dogs — they’re meat-eaters, after all! But ham is too high in sodium and fat to be considered truly dog-safe, and the glazed Christmas ham you bake for holiday dinners is definitely not appropriate for your dog.
And ham bones are particularly dangerous for dogs, as they can splinter when chewed. This causes lacerations in the mouth and digestive tract, even damaging your dog’s organs as the splinters move through his body.
Grapes, Raisins and Currants
These fruits are commonly found in holiday snack platters, fruitcakes, and jams. However, they’re incredibly toxic to dogs and need to be kept away from them at all times.
Grapes, raisins, and currants cause rapid kidney failure, even if only a few are eaten. Vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and difficulty urinating are the most common symptoms of this toxicity.
Seek emergency care if you suspect your dog has eaten any amount of grapes, raisins, or currants. Time is of the essence — the kidneys will fully shut down within 12-48 hours, and once they do, little can be done to save the dog’s life.
Store-Bought Christmas Dog Treats: Your Guide to the Best Brands
If you’re crunched for time and still need some stocking stuffers for your dog, don’t sweat it! Check out these tried-and-true Christmas dog treats that have been formulated to be both safe and delicious.
Greenies Seasonal Gingerbread Flavor Dental Dog Treats
Greenies is famous for its crunchy treats that remove plaque from teeth and freshen your dog’s breath as he chews. And their limited edition gingerbread flavor treats provide the same dental benefits along with a little extra Christmas cheer.
Beggin’ Strips Homestyle Honey ‘N Ham Flavor Dog Treats
Your dog would never say no to some Beggin’ Strips no matter what time of year it is. But when you and your family are enjoying some Christmas ham, he’ll be extra-excited to chow down on some of these honey-baked ham-flavored treats — no need to leave him out of the holiday feast!
Blue Buffalo Santa Snacks Tasty Chicken Soft-Moist Dog Treats
Blue Buffalo’s dog treats focus on nutrition: they’re made without corn, soy, or artificial flavors. These soft treats are made with real chicken as the first ingredient and come in fun holiday shapes like stars, snowmen, and Christmas trees.
DIY Christmas Dog Treats: Make Your Own Gingerbread Cookies for Dogs
If you’re in the holiday baking mood, why not treat your dog to some special peanut butter gingerbread cookies of his own? This simple recipe whips up in a jiffy and ensures that nobody feels left out of the Christmas celebrations.
Ingredients for Gingerbread Christmas Dog Cookies
⅓ cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky — whichever your dog prefers)
2 tbsp molasses
1 cup whole wheat flour (or oat flour if your dog is gluten-sensitive)
2 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp turmeric
Gingerbread Christmas Dog Cookies Recipe
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Combine the peanut butter, egg, and molasses in a large bowl and whisk well. If your peanut butter is thick, you may wish to microwave it for a few seconds to soften it up before adding it to the bowl.
When the wet ingredients are well-mixed, add the flour, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, and allspice to the bowl.
Knead until a firm dough is formed. If the dough crumbles, it’s too dry and can be moistened with 1 tbsp additional peanut butter; if it seems too wet, add 1 tbsp additional flour.
Lightly flour a work surface, then roll the dough out until it’s around ¼” thick. Use a cookie cutter to create gingerbread men, or mold the dough manually into your desired shapes.
Lay the treats on a baking sheet, then bake for 13-15 minutes. The treats are done when they’re a light golden color.
Let the treats cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling. Then move them to an airtight treat jar and keep them out of your dog’s reach — he’ll have a hard time resisting these flavorful Christmas dog treats!