What Foods Can My Dog Have on Thanksgiving?
Can you believe it is already winter, and Thanksgiving is just around the corner? As the holiday approaches, many dog owners may wonder how to include their furry family members in the festivities safely. While Thanksgiving is best known for being a time to indulge in delicious meals, we must remember that not all human foods are safe to share.
In this article, we will look at the most common Thanksgiving dinner options, ranging from turkey and ham to veggies and desserts, creating a list of holiday treats your dog can enjoy safely (excluding others).
Let’s get started on planning your dog’s ideal Thanksgiving feast…
Should I Bring My Dog to Thanksgiving Dinner?
For some families, including the pets in their holiday gatherings is a decision that is just as natural as any other member of the family. But there are a few essential questions that you should ask yourself before packing up your dog’s favorite toys and heading out on a holiday family road trip.
- Who is hosting the holiday gathering? Have you asked them if dogs are welcome?
- Does your dog have good manners around the table (not begging, counter surfing, or trying to steal food)?
- Is there a quiet space for your dog to go if they feel overwhelmed?
- Will there be other dogs there? Have they met previously, or will they be meeting for the first time in a busy/noisy setting (not advisable)?
- Will all family members respect your boundaries regarding what they can/can’t give your dog?
- Is your dog comfortable with large gatherings and high-energy spaces?
While we understand wanting to have your dog by your side, many dogs would be happier at home in their cozy bed or on the couch – and that’s okay! When your dinner is over and you head home, you’ll have a loving companion waiting to greet you.
What Not to Feed Dogs on Thanksgiving?
Few things will ruin the vibe of your family Thanksgiving dinner like a trip to your local emergency veterinary clinic. Unfortunately, every holiday weekend, an influx of dogs come through the doors due to toxicity and poisoning – the result of eating unsafe foods (stolen or given to them) from the Thanksgiving dinner table. Here are a few items to keep safely out of your pup’s reach:
Stuffing or Dressing
Thanksgiving dinner isn’t the same without this traditional dish, but stuffing is made with several ingredients that could make your dog sick. Onions and garlic are in almost every traditional stuffing recipe, but these members of the Allium family can be extremely dangerous if ingested. They damage red blood cell membranes, causing a decrease in the red blood cell count, which can trigger serious health complications such as kidney damage. In the most severe cases, ingesting onions and garlic can be fatal. Plus, stuffing or dressing is often made with a variety of spices that can upset your pup’s stomach!
Many families will enjoy freshly baked bread and buns with their holiday dinner. But did you know that unbaked bread dough is dangerous for dogs? At this stage in the baking process, the yeast is still working its magic – emitting gas as it rises. If this happens in your dog’s stomach after ingesting the dough, the build-up of gas can cause many health problems, ranging from minor stomach upset to more serious conditions like Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV), better known as “bloat.”
Potatoes aren’t horrible for your dog if cooked properly without unhealthy spices or other additives. However, they aren’t the healthiest choice of seasonal snacks. But mashed potatoes introduce a few other concerning ingredients, like butter and cream, that can leave your dog feeling quite ill.
Corn on the Cob
Much like the mashed potatoes, corn itself isn’t dangerous. In fact, corn is a healthy food topper when it’s offered in moderation, packed with linoleic acid, antioxidants, protein, and good carbohydrates. The problem arises when your dog tries to eat their corn still on the cob. Corn cobs can create a choking hazard, an intestinal blockage, or a long-term gastrointestinal problem.
Is pecan pie on your Thanksgiving dinner menu? If so, you must ensure it is set up somewhere safely outside your dog’s reach. Pecans contain juglone, a toxic compound that is also found in walnuts. While they likely aren’t going to show any ill effects if they snag a single pecan, eating several can lead to digestive problems and damage to the neurological system. Signs of pecan poisoning include nausea, vomiting, tremors, and seizures.
Candy and Chocolate
It likely comes as no surprise to see chocolate included on this list – this sweet treat is one of the better-known foods to avoid feeding your dog. But chocolate isn’t the only sweet treat you should watch out for. Too much sugar can make your dog sick, meaning all candies should be kept out of your pup’s reach.
Even more concerning than sugary sweets, however, are sugar-free treats. If you have family members who prefer desserts with sugar additives to satisfy their sweet tooth, pay careful attention to the ingredients. Xylitol is a popular artificial sweetener that is highly toxic to dogs. It can be found in sugar-free candies, gum, breath mints, baked goods, and more. If you suspect your dog has eaten something containing xylitol, immediately contact your nearest veterinarian or emergency vet clinic.
Is Ham or Turkey Toxic to Dogs?
You should avoid feeding your dog ham. A small bite isn’t going to cause serious harm (so rest assured if you’re reading this after your dog snuck a nibble before being caught), but in larger quantities, it can lead to a long list of health-related issues due to the high sodium and fat content. Salt toxicity is a very serious and potentially fatal condition that can cause dehydration, digestive problems, kidney damage, and seizures, among other issues. A high-fat diet increases your dog’s risk of obesity and pancreatitis.
Is Thanksgiving turkey okay for dogs? This isn’t as black and white as many other holiday treats. There are some parts of a turkey, when prepared properly, that are a healthy addition to your dog’s diet. However, some parts should be avoided.
Bones from a cooked turkey are very brittle and run the risk of shattering, potentially causing damage to your dog’s esophagus or intestinal tract. You should also skip feeding your dog any skin from the turkey as it is high in fat content, like ham, increasing the risk of pancreatitis. If you choose to feed your dog turkey this holiday, it’s best to cook a small portion free from the spices used in our own cooking, as they can also make our dogs sick.
What Can Dogs Eat on Thanksgiving?
Now that you have a solid list of foods NOT to feed your dog this holiday season let’s shift gears and look at the more positive side of the conversation… What foods can you prepare for your pup’s Thanksgiving feast? Here are a few ideas to help you create the perfect menu:
Turkey (Boneless and Skinless)
As we already discussed, turkey can be a healthy addition to your dog’s diet. However, it needs to be cooked plain without any oils or spices. One of the easiest ways to do this is to pick up a separate turkey breast when shopping for your Thanksgiving feast and cook it specifically for your pup. Don't worry if it looks “bland” or uninteresting compared to your seasoned and dressed bird. To your dog, that plain turkey breast is an incredible and safe feast!
Another way to offer a festive snack is to consider baking a treat for your pup that incorporates turkey, like our Thanksgiving Turkey Dog Treats. These treats are easy to make and packed with vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional benefits.
Pumpkin pie, as we know it, isn’t a healthy choice for your dog – but pumpkin itself is often credited as a superfood for pets. It is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and E, potassium, iron, and fiber. In fact, many veterinarians recommend feeding your dog a small serving of pure pumpkin if they are suffering from any type of digestive upset as a natural solution.
You can prepare fresh pumpkin for your dog (don’t add any oils or spices) or purchase pumpkin puree in a can – just be sure it is pure pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling.
This seasonal staple is often seen in dog treats during the holiday season, including commercially available treats and our favorite Thanksgiving dog treat recipes.
Here are a few pumpkin-themed recipes you may want to whip up for your pup:
- Dog-Friendly Pumpkin Pie (from Easy Recipe with Foodie)
- Carob and Pumpkin Dog Cake
- Molasses and Pumpkin Dog Treats
- Gluten-Free Pumpkin Coconut Dog Treats
- Pumpkin and Almond Butter Dog Treats
- Peanut Butter and Pumpkin Dog Treats
- Blueberry and Pumpkin Dog Treats
- Devilish Pumpkin and Apple Dog Treats
- Bacon and Pumpkin Dog Treats
- Pumpkin and Cheese Dog Treats
Not only are green beans a safe snack for your pup, but they are also highly nutritious and recommended as a treat by veterinarians and animal nutritionists. If your pup loves the crunch of fresh vegetables, offer a handful of raw green beans. For those who prefer to cook up a complete holiday feast for their pup, they can be steamed, boiled, or roasted – just avoid adding oils and spices when cooking. They are a great source of vitamins A, C, and K, protein, iron, calcium, and fiber.
A favorite in our household, sweet potato is another holiday food often seen in commercial and homemade dog treats. Why? They are an incredible source of dietary fiber, supporting a healthy and optimized digestive system. Studies have even found a connection between eating sweet potatoes and a decreased risk of heart disease and some types of cancer. However, too much sweet potato could make your dog sick, so you should offer this holiday treat in moderation.
To cook dog-friendly sweet potato, it should be cooked with the skin removed. The skin is more challenging to digest, which could leave your dog’s stomach feeling “off” or even cause a dangerous blockage. The same can be said for eating it raw.
Consider boiling or roasting your dog’s sweet potato and mashing it with a spoon before serving, similar to mashed potatoes (without butter and cream). Or you can try one of these recipes for sweet potato treats that your pup is sure to love:
Puppy Apple Crisp
A classic fall flavor, apples often find their way into many of our holiday desserts. So, it only makes sense that you complete your dog’s holiday menu with a tasty apple treat. This fall fruit is a source of vitamins A and C as well as dietary fiber. They are also very effective at cleaning your dog’s teeth and freshening their breath as they chew on them.
If your dog prefers raw apple slices, be sure to remove the core and seeds first, as they can be dangerous. Anytime we slice up apples for ourselves, our dogs are right there batting their eyes for a slice. You can also incorporate apples into a baked dessert to spoil your pup for Thanksgiving this year.
Here are a few apple-flavored treat recipes you can try:
- Apple Crisp Dog Treats
- Kale and Apple Dog Treats
- Apple Banana Fresh Breath Dog Treats
- Barking Bacon and Apple Dog Treats
- Spiced Apple and Carrot Dog Treats
Final Thoughts: What Foods Can My Dog Have on Thanksgiving?
You can safely celebrate the Thanksgiving season with your best friend while spoiling them a little for the holiday. But to do this, you must familiarize yourself with which foods are safe for them to enjoy and which should be avoided.
Rather than feeding table scraps from the dinner table, consider preparing a dog-friendly meal with seasonal flavors like turkey, sweet potato, pumpkin, and apple. Prepare this food without any oils and spices to avoid upsetting your best friend’s stomach. Most foods can be prepared safely with minimal effort to create a Thanksgiving plate that resembles your own, or you can incorporate these flavors into a tasty baked dog treat.
Whatever you decide, enjoy making memories with your furry family members this Thanksgiving!
Britt Kascjak is a proud pet mom, sharing her heart (and her home) with her “pack” which includes her husband John, their 3 dogs – Daviana, Indiana, and Lucifer – and their 2 cats – Pippen and Jinx. She has been active in the animal rescue community for over 15 years, volunteering, fostering and advocating for organizations across Canada and the US. In her free time, she enjoys traveling around the country camping, hiking, and canoeing with her pets.
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