The holidays are a beautiful, joyful time of year and should be shared with family & friends!
Thanksgiving is this week and that means an abundance of delicious food–but also a time for possible distress for our four-legged family members.
While Thanksgiving is a perfect time to give thanks and show extra love to your pup, unfortunately including our furry family members in seasonal feasts can be filled with unintended pitfalls for our K9 friends.
It’s important for dog owners to understand what Thanksgiving foods can be safely shared with your dog–if any!
Certain foods and toxic ingredients make some of our favorite Turkey Day treats dangerous for your dog.
Not only should you avoid giving your dog treats from your Thanksgiving table, make sure that your guests understand the importance of not slipping table treats to your dog, too–especially younger children unknowingly giving harmful food scraps under the “kids-table”.
If they do, the results could be costly for you, and life threatening for your dog! The cost of emergency care for stomach issues can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
In addition to the added stress of having a sick dog over the holiday, if your dog does get sick over Thanksgiving you might even have to pay extra for his care! Vet visits over the Thanksgiving weekend are nearly double in cost.
Let’s look at what Thanksgiving foods are safe for your dog — and which foods you should absolutely avoid.
What Classic Thanksgiving Foods Are Safe For Dogs To Eat?
1. Can Dogs Eat Thanksgiving Turkey?
Meat is safe for dogs, right? Actually, it’s complicated. Lots of dog foods include turkey, but unfortunately, the Thanksgiving turkey from your plate could make your dog sick because it has a skin that’s full of fat and is often prepared with butter and oil. If ingested, it can cause gastrointestinal upset, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).
Cooked turkey is safe for dogs, but it must be less fatty portions and unseasoned. And never offer your dog raw or undercooked turkey, which may contain salmonella bacteria.
2. Can Dogs Eat Stuffing?
Everyone’s favorite side dish should be kept away from your furry best friend. Stuffing side dish contains toxic ingredients such as onions, scallions, garlic, raisins and various spices.
If ingested, these ingredients can cause life-threatening conditions, including anemia, pancreatitis and kidney failure. It’s best to avoid feeding any amount of stuffing to pets.
3. Can Dogs Eat Sweet Potatoes?
Orange sweet potatoes are packed with beta-carotene, vitamins A and C, potassium, fiber, and many other much-needed nutrients. So it’s not surprising there are many sweet potato treats available for dogs so giving your dog plain sweet potatoes in moderation is OK.
Unfortunately, most Thanksgiving recipes involving sweet potatoes are bad for dogs because they’re traditionally served baked with marshmallows or with artificially sweetened pie filling. This delicious dish is a sweet dream to humans, but can be a nightmare for your pet’s digestive tract.
A safer, pet-friendly option is to feed your pup raw or dried pieces of plain, roasted sweet potatoes, not the canned mix.
Never give your dog marshmallows, which contain xylitol – an artificial sweetener dangerous to pets – as well as large amounts of sugar.
4. Can Dogs Eat Cranberries?
A plain, raw cranberry could be safe for your dog (though most dogs will avoid eating it because of the tartness), but cranberry sauces and dishes should be avoided, because of the other ingredients such as sugar and liquor, which could be toxic for your dog.
Cranberries are often accompanied with raisins in Thanksgiving dishes, which are very toxic for dogs.
5. Can Dogs Eat Pumpkin Pie?
This delicious, seasonal dessert is also potentially toxic to your dog. Pumpkins are perfect for pets raw or cooked, but always use fresh, pure pumpkin – not your leftover Jack-O-Lantern or canned pie filling! Full of fiber, pumpkin flesh and seeds add texture to homemade dog treats.
A safer option for dessert is to prepare a small amount of cooked or canned plain pumpkin puree, but be warned: the fiber content in pumpkin and potatoes can increase your pet’s regularity — leading to more frequent trips to the backyard.
Remember to avoid any sugar or spice when feeding pumpkin to your dog. Sugar substitutes containing xylitol are highly toxic to your pets. Be cautious about additionally, spices, sugar and whipped cream that can all spell out gastrointestinal upset for your dog.
6. Can Dogs Eat Bread & Baked Goods?
Bread and rolls are another Thanksgiving table staple. Chock full of carbs, there’s really no nutritional benefit to feeding your dog bread, rolls or baked-goods.
Don’t spoil your pet’s holiday by giving him access to raw yeast bread dough. Raw dough can be deadly for dogs – never give your pet anything containing yeast, which “rises” in the heat of a dog’s stomach.
When a dog ingests raw bread dough, the yeast continues to convert the sugars in the dough to carbon dioxide gas and alcohol.
This can result in bloated drunken pets, which could become a life-threatening emergency, requiring hospitalization.
7. Can Dogs Eat Salads with Grapes/Raisins?
There are many salads served at Thanksgiving that include grapes or raisins as an ingredient, from fruit salad, to Waldorf salad, to Ambrosia.
However, grapes and raisins are very virulent and potentially deadly. Grapes can cause severe, irreversible and sometimes fatal kidney failure in dogs. Be sure to keep all dishes that include grapes and raisins away from pets.
8. Sweet Desserts!
While pumpkin pie is the most famous Thanksgiving dessert, many people offer a variety of chocolate desserts at Thanksgiving.
Chocolate is toxic to dogs yet dogs love the smell and taste of it. The darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is.
Symptoms of chocolate toxicity can begin with gastrointestinal signs, including vomiting and diarrhea. As dose dependent symptoms progress, they can include muscle tremors, elevated heart rate, seizures, and even coma or death.
It’s best to keep all chocolate desserts out of the reach of pets to prevent an emergency trip to the veterinarian.
Special Mention: BONES!
Whether cooked or raw, turkey, ham, or other meat bones can be a hazard for your K9. If bones are swallowed in small pieces, it is possible that they can pass through the intestinal tract without causing problems, but often ingestion of bones can be problematic.
Cooked bones are typically more brittle than raw bones and can cause trauma to the intestinal tract. If small, cooked bones are ingested — such as the wishbone of a turkey — it may be recommended to continue to feed your K9.
Feeding can cause the soft tissue on the bone to break down, allowing it to pass through naturally. However, if a larger bone is ingested — such as a ham bone — there is the potential it will become obstructed within the intestines.
If you know your K9 has ingested a larger bone, I advise seeking immediate veterinary care. Sometimes these bones can be removed via endoscopy and avoid the need for surgery.
Thankful For Grace And Bounty
With the holiday season comes an abundance of eats and treats around the house. In moderation, these seasonal delights may not cause problems, but if your K9 partner ingests too much of a good thing, there is cause for concern.
Remember, as humans we tend to overindulge during the holidays so don’t allow your pets to overindulge, as they could wind up with a case of stomach upset, diarrhea or even worse—an inflammatory condition of the pancreas known as pancreatitis.
In fact, it’s best keep pets on their regular diets during the holidays.
If you don’t want your dog left out from the Thanksgiving Day celebration, consider making a small plate with unseasoned white turkey meat without skin, fat or bones, unseasoned potatoes, plain green beans and a scoop of plain canned pumpkin — no scraps, no seasonings and no pie!
The most important thing for keeping your dog safe and staying healthy through the holidays and avoiding potential pitfalls is to be mindful of the traditional food items dogs should avoid and to be accountable for our own actions, intended or otherwise.
If your dog ingests any foreign material this Thanksgiving, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and not delay treatment which may prevent more costly and serious complications from developing.
Be sure to contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-445 immediately.
Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!
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