Thanksgiving Food Dos and Don’ts for your pet

Thanksgiving is one of the busiest days in the veterinary ER, which should surprise none of you. The very first Thanksgiving I had Emmett, he dug the turkey carcass out of the trash and settled down for a little leftovers. Luckily he left a disgusting trail of grease from the kitchen, across the living room and up the (carpeted) stairs so I managed to find him before he did too much damage, but Thanksgiving is a time of excess and gluttony for all of us, and for pets unaccustomed to the traditional rich foods of the holiday, it can lead to trouble.

Not to say you can’t give your pet some judiciously chosen Thanksgiving treats, as long as your pet is otherwise in good health. Choose wisely.

Foods to Avoid

1. Bones. Cooked poultry bones are exceptionally brittle and can easily splinter in your pet’s stomach, leading to a painful bellyache, a blockage, or even an emergency surgery.

2. Turkey skin. The fat is the problem here- most pets on commercial diets just aren’t accustomed to sudden high levels of fat in the GI system, which can lead to the pancreas essentially overreacting and the very painful, dangerous condition known as pancreatitis.

3. Cheeses and sausages. The same reasoning as above, with fat being the culprit. Keep that Hickory Farms gift box up high.

4. Alcohol. Not that I think any of you would actually do this, but yes, people try to get their pet drunk on purpose sometimes, and it’s not nice. Have you ever seen a hungover Yorkie? It’s awful. If you see your dopey uncle trying to give some microbrew to the family pet, you have my permission to pour the beer on his head.

5. Toxic foods. The following commonly used food items are specifically toxic to dogs and cats and shouldn’t be used in any food item they might ingest:

Foods that Are Good to Share

There are plenty of things that your pet can enjoy with you on Thanksgiving. The number one key to remember is fat is not your friend. The best way to deal with this is to set aside a small portion for your pet before you toss in the butter, cheese, or whatever Miracle Whip concoction your Great Aunt Edna insists is vital for the perfect mashed potato. So assume all these items are butter and gravy-less.

  • sweet potato
  • turkey meat sans skin
  • mashed potato
  • steamed green beans
  • stuffing (no onions)
  • corn
  • canned pumpkin (before you add in sugar and cream and turn it into a pie)
  • butternut squash
  • low sodium broth, which can be used in place of butter for a bit of flavor

The best thing to do is plan ahead, make sure your pet is full, and, um, in my case, get a covered trashcan. Make some pet-friendly treats ahead of time so that when you see Grandma plucking forkfuls of fat-laden cheeseball out to give to Sparky, you can cut her off and tell her, “Why not give him a nice Brody ball instead?”

Looking for some recipes?

Try the Pawcurean Turbacon.

Or a breakfast treat from Foxy Treats.

Are you planning on sharing Thanksgiving with the pets? Any favorite pet recipes or foods I forgot to mention?

Filed: Blog, Cooking, Fit Life, Health, Pawcurean Tagged: ,
  • Sedna

    The traditional Treat The Dogs time in our house has been when Mom goes to carve up the remains of the turkey into convenient bite-sized bits. The hounds will watch her attentively for the occasional little fragments they know she’ll throw their way. Not too many, and not fatty bits- just little shreds of meat they gobble (ha!) up. Sometimes a little turkey makes it into doggie food bowls over the next few days or so as a kind of garnish.

    • Everyone loves leftovers! ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Cathey

    We had a similar turkey carcass trail years ago and learned to avoid that incident. Our dogs love it all and we really have to watch my husband’s 90 year old mother – she says “oh, they love me when I come!” – YEAH! you give them everything they want that we won’t!! Usually we buy special doggy treats to let her hand out at will, knowing that we can cut back on the daily ration for a bit afterward if they gain a few pounds. Happy Thanksgiving to you & your, Dr. V!

  • Tara Muise

    I made one of these turkey creations (pictured above) for the Canadian Thanksgiving. While most believed I was someone with waaayyy too much time on her hands, it was still a nice experiment. The picture I have of it with 2 chihuahuas digging in is priceless! Don’t worry, though…I realize it was a treat – eating all that at one time would definitely cause problems that I don’t want to deal with…

  • Tamara

    Great tips on what not to feed and what is okay, in moderation. Thanks, Dr. V!

  • Irondogfe2

    So… um… The breakfast treats sound really yummy, except for the nutmeg. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Oh geez, you’re right. Leave that out. I tried to find the actual levels needed to induce signs but I’m not sure that exact number is known.

      • Anonymous

        According to a one of my canine nutrition professors, the toxic dose isn’t actually known in dogs. In humans it is believed to be 2 tablespoons. Based on that and an “average” adult weight of 150 lbs, then I would say that the amount that has the potential to be toxic in a dog of say Brody’s size is 1 tablespoon.

        Fun fact: Did you know that when consumed in these high doses you can get “nutmeg high”? True story. It causes hallucinations, delusions and personality changes, not to mention the always fun seizures, vomiting, and an irregular heart rhythm.

  • Lucy

    I give my dogs little bits of garlic whenever I am cooking with it- no skin, and they are fine- bloodwork is great, etc. It’s a natural flea repellant and they have never had fleas, despite not ever having taken a poisonous flea medecine.

  • We always share turkey breast meat. Nothing else.

  • Anonymous

    We made Thanksgiving Thumbprint cookies over at Kol’s Notes for Tasty Tuesday! They are like a one-bite Thanksgiving dinner treat. Kolchak is begging for one right now – in fact, lots of people share Thanksgiving treat ideas on today’s Tasty Tuesday Blog Hop. you can check them all out here:

  • Mrrrow13

    There is onion and sometime garlic in purchased broths, and it’s mostly a problem for cats. Also quinoa (rising in popularity for stuffings) is toxic to felines.