Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate and spend time with friends and family. For many people, this also includes the family dog, but what traditional holiday foods are safe for Fido to snack on and which are a big no-no? Here are pooch-approved foods—what you can (and can’t) feed dogs from the family feast.
Foods That Dogs Can Eat
What morsels can you slip your pup as a treat to celebrate the season? Dog-friendly human foods include:
- Bread: Plain baked bread—that is, without any nuts, raisins, or spices—is fine as an occasional snack in small amounts, but don’t overdo it. Dogs don’t derive any nutritional benefit from bread and, like in humans, too much can pack on the pounds. Avoid bread with artificial sweeteners or lots of salt, and never feed your dog raw (unbaked) bread dough. (See “raw yeast dough” under “Foods That Dogs Can’t Eat” below).
- Carrots and celery: While you’re preparing the stuffing, slip your furry friend some spare carrots and celery, which are low in calories and full of nutrients and vitamins. Cut into bite-sized pieces to make them easier to digest.
- Cheese: Unless your pooch is lactose-intolerant (which is very rare), cheese is good choice for an occasional treat, but avoid high- or full-fat varieties. Low- or non-fat cottage cheese is a great option.
- Corn: A common ingredient in many dog foods, corn is perfectly healthy for your dog, but don’t ever give them the cob, which can cause choking or intestinal blockages if swallowed.
- Ham: While there’s no harm in giving your dog a few cubes, a little goes a long way. The high fat and salt content means ham should be a rare treat rather than a regular meal.
- Rice: As long as your dog isn’t allergic, feel free to feed rice and other grains—like quinoa—to your dog.
- Sweet potatoes: Rich in vitamin A—which promotes healthy skin, coat, nerves, and muscles—sweet potatoes are healthy for dogs. Serve them plain.
- Turkey: Good news! The star of most Thanksgiving dinners is perfectly safe for dogs, in general—if it is plain, unseasoned, properly cooked, and given in a small amount. White meat is best, as it contains less fat and calories and more protein. Before preparing your pooch a plate, be sure to remove any fat or skin and never, ever give them the bones, which can splinter and cause tears or blockages in the digestive tract. Avoid giving your dog any seasoned or processed turkey, which may contain harmful ingredients.
Note: For those dogs with food allergies or other health conditions, please check with your vet first. Remember: Any new food might potentially cause digestive issues—introduce it to your dog in small amounts.
Foods That Dogs Can’t Eat
It’s natural to want to share with our furry friends, but there are a lot of holiday drinks, dishes, and desserts that are definitely not dog-friendly. Stay away from:
- Alcohol: Alcohol and animals don’t mix. Even small amounts of booze can result in ethanol poisoning with symptoms that can include lethargy, seizures, heart attack, lung failure, and death.
- Apple Pie: While plain, uncooked, cored and seeded apples are fantastic treats for dogs, slicing your beloved pup a piece of apple pie is a terrible idea. High-fat crust combined with common apple pie spices like cinnamon and nutmeg can result in a number of issues including stomach upset/pain, liver disease, high blood pressure, and seizures.
- Chocolate: You’ve probably heard this before, but it bears repeating: do not feed your dog chocolate. It’s highly toxic (especially the darker varieties) and can stop a pooch’s metabolic process resulting in diarrhea, vomiting, seizures, and death.
- Coffee, tea, or any caffeinated drink: You might live for your morning caffeine boost, but, in dogs, it overstimulates the nervous system causing elevated heart rate, vomiting, and seizures.
- Garlic, leeks, or onions: These members of the Allium family are highly toxic to dogs and can cause elevated heart rate, anemia, and general weakness. Watch any dog that might have eaten a stray piece of garlic or onion closely as symptoms may not appear until a few days after ingestion.
- Grapes and raisins: Grapes and their dehydrated cousins are highly toxic to dogs. Even small amounts can make a dog desperately ill leading to rapid kidney failure and death.
- Ice cream: As a general rule, dogs do not tolerate high- or full-fat dairy products well. To avoid the gastrointestinal distress, but still reward with a cold treat, skip the ice cream (or frozen yogurt) and feed them frozen fruits like blueberries, strawberries, and bananas.
- Raw potatoes: While many packaged dog foods contain potatoes, uncooked potatoes contain solanine, which is toxic to dogs.
- Raw yeast dough: The raw yeast in uncooked dough can ferment producing alcohol and possible ethanol poisoning.
Like with humans, balancing a dog’s diet can be a tricky thing. Unless under the advice and supervision of a veterinarian, traditional human foods should be kept to a minimum, but every-doggy loves the occasional treat!
Got a kitty? See which foods are safe (and not safe) for cats.