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Thanksgiving With Your Pets

November 25, 2020

The year 2020 has been different than any year we have experienced, and with the holidays right around the corner, we don’t see that letting up. So Thanksgiving may look different this year. Perhaps the meal will be a bit smaller and the gathering less crowded, but something that absolutely will not change is that our pets will celebrate the day with us.

While it is not unanimous that people-food wisely given is okay for most pets, there are a number of factors to keep in mind. It’s not only your pet’s physical health that is affected when you feed them from the table according to Malia Friesen, a veterinarian writing for

●     Establishing a habit of feeding from the table usually starts with just a taste. But just as Fido has us trained to pet him when he nudges our hand or take him outside when he barks, he can train us pretty quickly to feed him whenever he smells something you are eating. It’s better not to start a habit that is difficult to break.

●     Giving our pets food from the table can result in their consuming toxic foods that are completely safe for us but potentially hazardous for them.

●     Once Fido and Fluffy get used to people food, they may become unwilling to eat their own food, preferring yours. They may even refuse to eat any form of pet food or need to have their food constantly change as they quickly decide they don’t like that one, either.

To be sure, that turkey smell will certainly pull Fido into the kitchen and have Fluffy demanding her share, too. Here’s what to know about the turkey and trimmings to keep them safe and healthy this year.

10 things your pets can enjoy this Thanksgiving

  1. Turkey with all fat, skin, and bones removed. If the meat has been roasted with spices, best to skip it (or wash it off) as some spices can be toxic. Feeding skin can cause pancreatitis.
  2. Although both dogs and cats can eat mashed potatoes, regular potatoes contain solanine, a defensive poison designed to keep animals from chomping on them. A better choice would be sweet potatoes, which don’t contain solanine. However, give them the sweet potatoes before you add the sugar, butter, and spices from candied yams, advises Gary Richter, MS, DVM and author of The Ultimate Pet Health Guide: Breakthrough Nutrition and Integrative Care for Dogs and Cats.
  3. Pumpkin is a great treat for pets, dogs and cats alike.  Pumpkin itself is a very healthy snack, inches 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. [1]
  4. Carrots are a favorite food to give your dog anytime of the year, so Thanksgiving is a good opportunity to give him this treat. Although cats are not usually particularly fond of carrots, some like them as much as their canine counterparts. When preparing your special carrot dish for your family, just set aside a few pieces of carrot that is washed so you can indulge your pet without any additional ingredients.
  5. Many people favor the traditional green bean casserole and the holiday just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without it. And green beans are nutritious and healthy for your pets, too. Once again, set aside cooked green beans before you add all the other ingredients.
  6. Corn off the cob is fine for dogs, but it’s best to avoid giving your cat corn. She probably won’t eat it anyway, since it should be served plain without any embellishment. The majority of commercial dog foods contain corn, so serving him a little bit of corn is fine, so long as it is just corn. Corn cobs are very hard to digest and can cause blockages in the digestive tract. Best to just cut the corn off the cob before giving it to Fido.
  7. Dogs can eat bread, as grains are a large part of most dog food. But yeast can cause bloating and gas, so go lightly on this treat. A whole roll, even for a big dog, is a bit too much. Same for cats.
  8. That apple pie should be served to your guests, not your pets. But since most dogs (and some cats) do like apples, freshly sliced apples are fine. The seeds in the apple core contain arsenic, though admittedly a small amount. Still, why risk it?
  9. Cranberries are fine for dogs, but keep them away from cats. This, of course, it not talking about cranberry sauce, which contains lots of sugar and other ingredients pets should stay away from.
  10. The best dessert for a pet during Thanksgiving is a slice of banana. Fresh or frozen, most dogs and some cats, enjoy bananas. Again, don’t feed them banana pudding, but just the plain fruit.

 10 things not to feed your pet on Thanksgiving

It goes without saying that sugar is as bad for your pet as it is for you, so if the recipe calls for sugar, don’t give it to your pet. Here are some more foods you should avoid.

  1. Alcohol. There is no circumstance under which your pet should drink alcohol, and Thanksgiving is no exception. Alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death.
  2. Never give your dog or cat chocolate in any form. All forms of chocolate contain substances called methylxanthines, which are found in cacao seeds. When your pet eats chocolate, these substances can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death. And yes, just one piece is enough to cause harm.
  3. Grapes and raisins have an unidentified toxin in them that can cause kidney failure. More research is needed to identify why this happens, but the point is that it  does happen, and often very suddenly. (Dried, unsweetened cranberries are fine.)
  4. Onions (and chives, in the onion family) are very toxic substances to pets. If your recipe calls for onions, avoid allowing your pet to even get a tiny lick in.
  5. Garlic is often included alongside onions in Thanksgiving dishes, but it, too, should never be given to pets. Cats are more susceptible to the toxins in onions, chives and garlic, but dogs are vulnerable, too.
  6. Nuts (except cashews) should be avoided by animals, especially macadamia nuts. Because of their high fat content, they can cause digestive upset or even pancreatitis, which is very painful and can actually lead to death, according to[2]
  7. Milk and dairy products can cause significant digestive upset in pets because they do not possessive adequate amounts of the enzyme lactase which is necessary to digest dairy.
  8. Raw or undercooked meats or eggs. This one is controversial, but since salmonella and e.coli are both potential hazards of feeding these foods to your pet, it is best to simply be sure that meat and eggs are thoroughly cooked.
  9. Candy and other sweet treats are on the absolutely not list. You may be under the impression that it is the sugar in these foods that make them unhealthy, but zero-sugar products often contain artificial sweeteners that may be toxic. One particularly dangerous sweetener is xylitol, often used in candy, mints, gums, and even toothpaste. Xylitol can cause death within hours of ingestion.
  10. Caffeine is very bad for your pets. In fact, within 1-2 hours of consuming caffeine, your dog or cat could experience hyperactivity, restlessness, vomiting, elevated blood pressure or heart rate, tremors, seizures and death.[3]

This year, our holiday celebrations may be different from any we’ve celebrated before, but with wisdom and care, it can be healthy, happy, and fun for all participants, from a large family right on down to just you and your pet.

 [1] Kearl, M. (2019, November 26). Safe Thanksgiving Foods To Share With Your Dog Plus Those To Avoid. Retrieved October 04, 2020, from

[2] Ruffhero. (n.d.). Pancreatitis In Dogs Can Be Fatal. Is Your Dog At Risk? Retrieved October 04, 2020, from

[3] 24/7 Animal Poison Control Center. (n.d.). Retrieved October 04, 2020, from

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