Thanksgiving is a holiday of family and food, so don’t leave your fur family out of the festivities. Letting your dogs join in on the holiday feasting may seem straight-forward, but there are some considerations you need to make to keep them happy and healthy. If you can resist the adorable puppy-dog eyes from under the table asking for human food during Thanksgiving dinner, the results will be fewer emergency room visits, better canine digestive health, and an all-around happier pup.
When you ask yourself, "What Thanksgiving food can dogs eat?," remember, dogs are reliant upon us for their health and well-being. While it's true that you are free to dig in on Turkey Day, the same is not true for your pooch. That's because the traditional Thanksgiving menu can be downright dangerous for dogs and other pets. In fact, there are really no table scraps any time of the year that are good for dogs. Instead of falling for their sweet nudges and whimpers, try some healthier Thanksgiving dog-friendly food options.
Safe and Healthy Dog Thanksgiving Meals:
There are several fruits and veggies that are safe for dogs, and a few of them are holiday favorites. Here are some dog-safe variations on holiday classics:
- Green Bean Casserole: If you plan on making green bean casserole this year, feel free to hand off a raw green bean or two to your furry pal. They contain very few calories, are full of iron, and dogs will love the crunch! Remember: onions are toxic for dogs, so don’t scrape those leftovers into their dish. Set some of the crunchy, raw green beans on the side and let your pup snack on those instead.
- Pumpkin Pie: Believe it or not, sugar-free, canned pumpkin is very good for your dog’s GI tract—in small quantities of course. While making your pumpkin pie, feel free to place a dollop of canned pumpkin (before you've added anything else to it) into your dog’s bowl. For an extra happy camper, try mixing it into their regular food as a dog Thanksgiving treat. Or, if you really want to spoil your pup, make these tasty Pumpkin Cookie Dog Treats for your pets.
- Turkey: Boneless and skinless white turkey meat is a yummy treat that your dog will adore. Feel free to share a few scraps of this Thanksgiving staple with your dog for a healthy snack due to its high protein and low-fat content.
- Sweet Potato Casserole: Steamed or boiled sweet potatoes are great for canine digestive health. Prior to mixing those nutrient-rich spuds with butter and brown sugar, feel free to share a few chopped cubes with your furry best friend. They’ll thank you for it.
- Butternut Squash Soup: Squash is another good veggie for canine digestive health, but not when served raw. Be sure to share some squash with your dog after cooking and before adding any seasoning, butter, or cream.
- Apple Crisp: Setting aside apple slices before baking is a great way to spoil a pup without putting them in any danger this holiday season. Apple slices are a safe and healthy treat, but always be sure to remove any seeds before serving.
Thanksgiving Foods NOT to Feed Dogs:
No one wants to wind up needing emergency pet care at any time of the year, let alone during the holidays. Here are some of the usual suspects you'll want to avoid giving to your canine companion:
- Mashed Potatoes: Often laden with butter and cream, mashed potatoes can cause upset stomach and diarrhea in dogs.
- Stuffing or Turkey Dressing: Stuffing typically contains onions, garlic, salt, and other spices that can be harmful to dogs. Onions and garlic should be avoided at all costs, since both are toxic for pets.
- Bread Dough: Unbaked bread dough contains yeast. Yeast can be very dangerous when ingested by dogs because it emits gas as it rises, or in this instance, as it grows in the belly. If ingested by a canine, the yeast will expand in the stomach, causing a multitude of problems, including Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV), commonly known as “bloat.” Bloat is a critically serious condition that requires immediate veterinary medical attention. Less severe complications of consuming bread dough for dogs can be upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Turkey Bones: Dogs love bones, but they don't know (or care) about the difference between bones that are safe to play with and ones that aren’t. Put simply, chicken and turkey bones are not digestible and pose a threat to canine digestive health. But perhaps the greatest danger they pose is that they can shatter and puncture the intestinal tract, or get lodged in the esophagus causing choking.
- Corn on the Cob: Corn itself is not dangerous for dogs, but the cob can be a serious choking hazard. Even if your dog gets the cob down, it can cause long-term gastrointestinal issues.
- Pecans: Pecans, such as those used in pecan pie or as a pre-dinner appetizer, can cause stomach upset in dogs when large quantities are ingested. Because we know that dogs will eat as much as they can of anything when left unattended, it's best to ensure the pecans are up high and out of the way wherever dogs are around.
- Sweets: Everyone knows that chocolate can be toxic to dogs, but other sweets also pose a risk. Large quantities of sugar, cream, and butter can cause gastrointestinal distress, vomiting, and diarrhea, among other issues. Prepared desserts may also contain an artificial sweetener known as Xylitol, which is highly toxic to dogs and known to require rapid emergency pet care.
Safety Tips for Dogs on Thanksgiving:
- If you're having guests over, remember to advise them against feeding your dog table scraps—even in small amounts. A small amount from several people can result in a large amount by the end of the day!
- Ensure that all your trash is disposed of in a secure place that is out of your dog’s reach. It’s easy to leave the trash can open for a moment or place a full trash bag on the ground temporarily, but dogs are fast and sneaky, and can quickly grab things out of the garbage. Napkins, paper plates, and plastic utensils also pose a risk.
- The rise in popularity of frying turkeys on Thanksgiving has proven to be a danger to our canine friends. Turkey fryers are usually low to the ground, making them easily accessible to dogs. The fryer itself is hot and contains boiling grease and meat remnants, which are highly appealing to pets, who may want to try for a quick lick. The dangers posed here are severe, both internally and externally, so always exercise extreme caution with fryers—and never underestimate your dog's ability to get to what they want!
- Always keep a close eye on your dog during the holidays. With new guests, smells, and opening and closing doors, it’s very easy for your pup to sneak out, get lost, or become overwhelmed. If your dog does not do well with stress, talk to your vet ahead of time about reducing stress medicinally or otherwise.
- Thanksgiving is a busy day, but don’t forget to stick to your dog’s routine. It can be easy to lose track of time, so remember to feed all pets at their normal times and have full water bowls available throughout the day.
AKC Pet Insurance (underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company) is thankful for responsible pet owners like you. To help protect your dog on this and every other day of the year, consider a pet insurance plan. A dog insurance policy can help reimburse costs for eligible accidents, illnesses, and more. There's no better gift to your canine this year than a dog insurance policy that safeguards them all year long.
We wish you and your pets a healthy, happy Thanksgiving!