Do’s and Don’ts: Thanksgiving Food and Pets

You love Thanksgiving, and your dog loves food—so why not share the joy of this holiday with man’s best friend, right? But while your heart might be in the right place, your actions could get your dog in trouble if you aren’t careful with the foods you put on their plate.

It’s possible to put together a safe, delicious Thanksgiving dinner for dogs, but owners need to be aware of many different traditional Thanksgiving foods that could upset your dog’s stomach or even put them at considerable risk of choking or other medical problems. 

Exactly what Thanksgiving food can dogs eat, and what needs to be kept away from your dog altogether? As you look forward to this food-focused holiday, here’s an easy-to-use guide to keeping your dog safe while sampling this year’s holiday fare.

Can Dogs Eat Thanksgiving Turkey?

If you had your heart set on feeding your dog turkey this Thanksgiving, there’s good news: turkey is perfectly safe, as long as you follow a few important rules.

First, dogs should never be fed turkey with bones in it, since this can be a choking hazard. Turkey meat should also have the skin removed since the skin can make dogs sick. And the meat itself should be lightly seasoned or unseasoned altogether to avoid upsetting your dog’s stomach.

Can Dogs Eat Turkey Breast?

Not only is turkey breast safe for your dog, just like any other type of turkey meat, but this is actually one of the best parts of the bird to feed your dog. Wondering why? Because turkey breast doesn’t have the small bones that might be found in a wing or drumstick, which in turn increases your dog’s choking risk.

The amount of meat on turkey breast also makes it easy to give your dog a good serving of meat without having to deal with bones and other potential digestive hazards.

Can Dogs Eat Stuffing?

Unfortunately, stuffing uses too many ingredients that pose a health risk to dogs. Stuffing, in general, is too fatty for dogs to safely consume, particularly due to its use of butter. But other ingredients, such as garlic and onions, can present their own health problems for pets, such as food-induced anemia, and the seasonings in stuffing could give your pet an upset stomach.

All in all, stuffing represents far too much risk for your dog, so it’s best to avoid this dish.

Can Dogs Eat Cranberry Sauce?

While a small amount of cranberry sauce won’t necessarily hurt your dog’s health, there are reasons to think twice about dishing up this seasonal dish for your pup. Cranberry sauce is very high in sugar, and too much sugar consumption can cause a dog to become very ill. In addition, if the cranberry sauce contains grapes or raisins in the recipe, it could be a serious health hazard for your dog, so make sure you check the ingredients label or know exactly how the cranberry sauce was made.

If you feel compelled to give your dog a small taste, you’re probably safe. But beyond a small sampling, feed cranberry sauce to your dog at your own risk.

Other Bad Thanksgiving Food for Dogs

In addition to the dangerous Thanksgiving foods already mentioned above, dog owners should be careful not to feed any of the following foods to their dog—all of which contain ingredients that could make your dog sick and even prompt a visit to the animal hospital:

  • Mashed potatoes made with milk or cream
  • Ham
  • Green bean casserole
  • Any desserts or menu items containing chocolate
  • High-sugar treats such as cookies and pie
  • Alcoholic beverages

What Can Dogs Eat on Thanksgiving?

While a number of foods are off-limits to dogs on Thanksgiving Day, dog owners still have a number of food options to choose from when allowing their dogs some culinary indulgences in honor of the holiday.

In addition to the dog-safe foods mentioned above, your pup may be able to enjoy certain classic Thanksgiving Day foods such as sweet potatoes, peas, green beans, pumpkins, and apples, along with certain kinds of turkey. As you feed your dog, remember to treat them to table scraps in moderation—especially when feeding starches such as potatoes—and to avoid foods that are heavily seasoned or cooked in cream or other fats, which can make your dog ill.

If your dog is trying these foods for the first time, smart with a small amount to make sure it’s safe for consumption. If that trial size goes well, you can provide your dog with a slightly larger serving. 

Of course, if anything does go wrong with your dog’s Thanksgiving meal—or if their behavior after eating changes—you might want to consult with your vet to make sure it’s nothing to worry about. When it comes to potential food-related illnesses, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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