Foods You Can Share with Your Dog on Thanksgiving

Picture of a dog looking at a cooked turkey

As Thanksgiving approaches it’s normal for dog lovers to be concerned about which foods might be harmful to their four-legged friends. We don’t hear as much about the foods that are safe to share with your dog on Thanksgiving. You might be surprised to find out there are quite a few Thanksgiving favorites that are safe for your dog, as long as you are careful.

Food Do’s and Don’ts for Your Dog

Allergies

Before giving your dog any human food, at any time of the year, it’s important to make sure you know if he has any allergies or food sensitivities. The last thing you want to do is give him a special treat only to discover, too late, that it makes him itch uncontrollably or leads to a night of vomiting and diarrhea.

Most dogs don’t have food allergies or sensitivities but it often seems like your dog is the lucky one in a thousand winner that does have a reaction, doesn’t it? These food items are the most common food allergens (in order) for dogs:

  • Beef
  • Dairy
  • Wheat
  • Egg
  • Chicken
  • Lamb/mutton
  • Soy
  • Pork
  • Rabbit
  • Fish

If your dog is allergic to one of these items or if you suspect that he is, be careful not to share any human foods with him that might contain these ingredients. This can be especially difficult at Thanksgiving and other holidays when many foods are made by family and friends. You may not always know the ingredients. It’s a good idea to err on the side of caution if you don’t know all of the ingredients in a food.

Obesity

Before giving your dog any special treats or sharing your food with him at Thanksgiving, consider your dog’s waistline. Is your dog overweight or obese? Many, perhaps most of the foods we tend to eat during the holidays have more fat than we normally eat during the rest of the year. Some foods also contain lots of extra sugar. Calories shoot off the scales in these foods. If your dog already has a problem with his weight, giving him any food with lots of fat or sugar will only make his problem worse.

If your dog does have a problem with his weight and you still want to share with him at Thanksgiving, look toward plain vegetables such as green beans and carrots. Try to avoid some of the foods that are high in carbohydrates (bread, potatoes, sweet potatoes), even if they are safe for dogs.

Health

Before sharing anything with your dog during the Thanksgiving holidays, consider his overall health. Does he have any chronic health problems? Is he diabetic, for example? Has he had problems with pancreatitis? Certain health issues can rule out sharing some foods with your dog.

If your dog has any health issues or if he normally eats a veterinary dog food, talk to your veterinarian before Thanksgiving. Ask if there are foods you can let your dog share and if there are specific foods you should avoid, even if they are safe for dogs. For example, any dog that has previously had problems with pancreatitis needs to avoid foods with higher fat content.

Portion size

There are some foods that are safe to share with your dog during Thanksgiving but even these foods can be dangerous if you let your dog eat them like a pig. It’s always important to watch portion sizes. Whether you have a big dog or a tiny one, only let your dog have a small amount of these special foods. Remember that they are not supposed to be meals. They are only treats for a special occasion.

Thanksgiving Foods That Are Safe for Dogs

Dogs may love Thanksgiving even more than humans do. Their heightened sense of smell lets them breathe in every delicious scent. Some foods are dangerous for dogs but, with some care, there are foods that your dog can safely enjoy.

Turkey (white meat, no skin, no bones)

As long as your dog isn’t allergic to turkey or poultry in general, he can enjoy the meat without the skin. White meat contains less fat than dark meat which is why it is recommended. Do not let your dog have any cooked bones. The cooked bones are brittle. They can snap and become lodged in your dog’s mouth, esophagus, or gastrointestinal tract. They can even puncture  the intestines or cause a blockage. But the meat itself is perfectly safe for your dog.

No gravy! The fat content is too high for your dog as is the turkey skin.

One last piece of advice about turkey. Make sure you do something with the string that is used to tie up the turkey legs. Anything that smells or tastes like turkey will lure your dog and this string is no exception. It’s dangerous in your dog’s gut if he eats it. The same goes for the timer that pops on the turkey to tell you it’s ready. Put it and all other trash from the turkey (and your other foods) where your dog can’t possibly reach them. The last thing you want to do is spend your Thanksgiving evening in a veterinary ER, having your dog x-rayed for a turkey timer.

Vegetables (no butter or other fattening additions)

Many vegetables for the Thanksgiving table are a very good addition to your dog’s diet – as long as they are plain. That means no butter, no salt, no sour cream or other “fixin’s”.

  • Sweet potatoes

Whether you like sweet potato fries, mashed sweet potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, or sweet potato pie, these orange vegetables are a great source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and beta-carotene. As long as they are plain, they are good for dogs. Try dehydrating them and giving them to your dog as chews. Just remember: no butter, salt, or other additions. Sweet potatoes are high in carbohydrates so check with your veterinarian before giving them to your dog if he is overweight or diabetic.

  • Potatoes

Your dog can also enjoy potatoes as long as they are boiled or baked with no butter, sour cream, salt, or pepper. Potatoes are also high in carbohydrates so, again, ask your veterinarian if your dog is overweight or diabetic.

  • Apples

Apples make a delicious treat for dogs. They contain lots of vitamin A and vitamin C.  Plus, they have lots of fiber. Don’t let your dog eat the core since the seeds contain a plant compound called amygdalin. Amygdalin is harmless as long as the seed is intact but when it’s chewed or damaged it changes into the poison hydrogen cyanide. Your dog would have to eat a lot of seeds to be affected but it’s best to avoid letting him have the seeds at all.

  • Pumpkin

Pumpkin makes a great treat for dogs. It’s known as a way to help a dog’s digestive health because of its fiber content. It’s also good for your dog’s skin and coat. If you are giving your dog pumpkin, make sure it’s plain pumpkin and no pumpkin pie filling. Pie filling contains spices that can be harmful to dogs.

  • Green beans

Green beans are a great source of plant fiber manganese, and vitamins C and K. As long as they are plain, they are a good snack for dogs. Many people add green beans to their dogs’ meals to help them feel full between meals and cut down on calories to lose weight. Again, the green beans have to be plain so no added spices, fat, butter, or other ingredients. In the South, many people make green beans with bacon grease to give them more flavor. That would be a no for dogs, especially if you are concerned about your dog’s weight or possible problems with pancreatitis.

  • Peas

Plain garden peas make a good treat for your dog but you should avoid giving your dog creamed peas. The sauce for creamed peas contains butter, flour, and milk. Plus, some people add things like potatoes, onions, mushrooms, or bacon to them. With these ingredients, creamed peas are not recommended for dogs. But plain peas are perfectly safe.

  • Carrots

Carrots are another vegetable that make a terrific treat for your dog as long as they are plain. Some people give their dog raw carrots (usually sliced in small pieces so they won’t cause an obstruction). You can also roast them, boil them, put them in a slow cooker, or microwave them for a few seconds to soften them. If you are making them for the Thanksgiving table there are lots of glazes and sauces for them. If you are giving them to your dog, keep them plain. Carrots are loaded with beta-carotene and vitamin A. They are also a good source of fiber, potassium, and vitamin C.

Other vegetables that you can share with your dog on Thanksgiving, as long as they are plain, include broccoli, cauliflower, celery, and squash. Many vegetables are safe for dogs as long as they don’t contain added fats and salt. No added gravies or sauces on the vegetables since they usually contain butter and other ingredients that can be problems. If you are in doubt, ask your veterinarian.

Cranberries yes, cranberry sauce from a can no

Cranberry dishes are often seen during the holidays. Cranberries can be a good addition to your dog’s diet because they contain lots of antioxidants and are recognized as being good for urinary tract health. However, there are some catches.

First, raw cranberries are tart so not all dogs will like them. Second, if you have dried cranberries, they are sometimes mixed with raisins and other foods which can be harmful to dogs. Be careful and read the label before sharing with your dog. Third, raw cranberries and dried cranberries are sometimes processed to be lower in sugar. In these cases xylitol is sometimes used as a substitute for the sugar so read the label! Xylitol is toxic to dogs.

If you’re buying cranberry sauce in a can, avoid sharing it with your dog because of the sugar content and possible use of xylitol.

The bottom line with cranberries and cranberry sauce is that you should only share with your dog if you make it yourself and you can control the ingredients.

Bread (plain)

Most dogs like bread and Thanksgiving often brings out homemade breads and some truly delicious rolls and loafs. As long as you only give your dog some plain bread in moderation, it should not be harmful.

Of course, do remember to keep any raw bread dough far from your dog’s reach. Raw dough is very dangerous to dogs and can be toxic, leading to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), bloat, and in some cases alcohol poisoning.

Cheese

Cheese plates are also popular during the holidays. There’s a world of different kinds of cheeses and you may see lots of cheeses at Thanksgiving. Most dogs are avid cheese lovers. Even though some dogs are lactose-intolerant, most cheese is low in lactose (compared to milk). Cheddar American, and Swiss have very little lactose, for example, which means that most dogs can eat small amounts of these cheeses without any problems.

Desserts

Believe it or not, your dog can share in dessert during Thanksgiving, too. The pecan pie and other sweets may be off limits because of their spices and the high fat and sugar content (not to mention the alcohol in some desserts), but your dog can still enjoy a healthier dessert such as frozen yogurt. Look for a good yogurt that contains live bacteria cultures that act as probiotics. Yogurt also contains calcium and protein that are good for dogs. Frozen yogurt makes a great sweet treat for your dog.

Of course, do not give your dog anything chocolate or caffeinated in the way of desserts. Chocolate and caffeine can have toxic effects on dogs.

Conclusion

There are so many foods on offer during Thanksgiving that it’s impossible to cover them all. Turkey is safe for your dog as long as you stick to the meat and leave off the skin and bones. Most vegetables are safe as long as they are plain – no butter, fat, salt, sugar, or other additions. With other foods, make sure they don’t contain ingredients that could be harmful to your dog such as xylitol, chocolate, spices, or caffeine. Remember that any food can lead to problems if you let your dog overeat! If your dog has a health issue such as diabetes or obesity, talk to your veterinarian before letting him eat any human foods.

We hope that you and your dog have a wonderful, blessed Thanksgiving and holiday season!

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