By Mary Kearl
Thanksgiving tends to coincide with an uptick in vet visits, due to dogs being fed unsafe human foods.
Turkey meat, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin are all safe, healthy foods to share with your dog.
Bones, sweets, alcohol, and fatty foods are all things that should be avoided by dogs.
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It’s not just humans that overeat at the holidays. Some of us may also be a bit indulgent with our dogs. But it doesn’t have to be the turkey bones or other not-so-great items from the Thanksgiving or Christmas menu. There are healthier choices to share with your dog. From green beans to sweet potatoes, plenty of fall favorites can be tasty (and safe) options for your dog to share in small portions during holiday festivities.
It may be tempting to offer up the turkey bones to include your dog in your family’s celebratory feast. But, because they can potentially cause damage to your pet’s digestive tract, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends keeping them out of reach. However, though turkey bones are off the table, there’s no need for your pet to feel left out.
Safe & Healthy Foods To Feed Your Dogs at Thanksgiving
Below, safe and satisfying foods that you can share with your dog this holiday season are discussed by Gary Richter, MS, DVM author of The Ultimate Pet Health Guide: Breakthrough Nutrition and Integrative Care for Dogs and Cats and Veterinary Health Expert with Rover, Sara Ochoa, DVM and small animal and exotic veterinarian in Texas, and the American Kennel Club’s Jerry Klein, CVO and emergency and critical care veterinarian who has been a valued member of the Chicago veterinary community for over 35 years.
“Sweet potatoes are a great source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and beta-carotene,” says Dr. Richter. “Sweet potato treats can be as simple as a dehydrated sweet potato chew.” Just remember not to give your pet sweet potatoes containing any added ingredients.
Potatoes. You get to enjoy both kinds of potatoes, and your dog can have that option, too. However, give only boiled or baked potatoes with no butter, sour cream, salt, or pepper, and serve in moderation.
“Apples are full of vitamins A and C and contain lots of great fiber, making them a healthy Thanksgiving treat for your pet,” says Dr. Richter. “However, if you’re sharing an apple with your pooch, be sure to cut around the core, as large amounts of apple seeds can be toxic.”
Turkey meat (no bones, no skin). For those that wonder if dogs can eat turkey at Thanksgiving, the answer is yes. The main dish is okay to offer up “as long as it has not been prepared with any seasoning,” says Dr. Ochoa. In addition to avoiding bones as discussed above, Dr. Klein advises owners to skip out on feeding the skin as well. The outer layer of the poultry is likely to have been prepared with butter, spices, or other fatty ingredients that may cause pancreatitis or other issues for your dog.
Green beans. “With ample amounts of plant fiber, manganese, and vitamins C and K, plain green beans are great for dogs,” says Dr. Richter. The key here, as with turkey, sweet potatoes and other options mentioned in this list, is the bean dish should be plain — without any added ingredients like butter or spices.
Plain peas are a fine choice, but creamed peas should be avoided. Fattier food items like this that may upset your dog’s stomach.
“Pumpkin itself is a very healthy snack,” explains Dr. Richter. “Pumpkin helps with digestive health and it’s great for a dog’s skin and coat. Also, if feeding canned pumpkin, make sure it’s just pumpkin and not the pre-spiced pie mix.”
Dessert is an option, but not just any kind. Go ahead and satisfy your pet’s sweet tooth with something healthy like frozen yogurt, suggests Dr. Richter. Calcium, protein, and live bacteria that can act as probiotics will give your dog a tasty dose of nutrients, and a sweet post-meal treat.
Unsafe & Unhealthy Foods To Avoid at Thanksgiving
You may notice this list is longer than the one above filled with healthy options, and with good reason. Thanksgiving coincides with an uptick in emergency vet visits across the U.S., writes Dr. Klein, because of the extra, often unsafe “human” food that dogs end up consuming at this time of year. That doesn’t have to be the case for your loved one, if you prepare your dog’s menu taking these proper precautions NOT to serve something potentially unhealthy, or worse, toxic.
Below are the items Dr. Richter, Dr. Ochoa, Dr. Klein, and the AVMA caution should NOT be served to dogs at this year’s Thanksgiving feast, due to unsafe or unhealthy ingredients:
Turkey bones, skin, and gravy
Chocolate, cookies, pies, and sweets (especially anything containing xylitol)
Raisins and grapes
Onions, scallions, and garlic
Foods containing spices
And for good measure, don’t forget to keep the tempting scent of the trash of the special day’s meal out of reach, since we all know our dogs are super smellers.
If your pet gets into something they shouldn’t, seek help right away. In the event of an emergency, contact the Pet Poison Helpline or your local vet that offers weekend and after-hours services.