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Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate and spend time with friends and family. For many people, this also includes the family dog, but which 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.
What morsels can you slip your pup as a treat to celebrate the season? Dog-friendly human foods include…
Apples: A great source of fiber and vitamins A and C, apples are a fantastic, tasty treat for any pooch. While your dog will thank you for a few apple slices, never give it the core or seeds, which can be toxic in sufficient quantities.
Bread: As long as your dog doesn’t have an allergy to wheat, plain white or wheat baked bread—that is, without any nuts, seeds, 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, as with 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 Thanksgiving stuffing, slip your furry friend some spare carrots and/or celery, both of which are low in calories and full of nutrients and vitamins and can even have benefits for oral health. Cut into bite-size pieces to make them easier to digest and to prevent choking.
Cheese: Unless your pooch is lactose-intolerant, cheese is a good choice for an occasional treat, especially if you stick to lower fat varieties like mozzarella. Low- or nonfat cottage cheese is also a great option.
Corn: A common ingredient in many dog foods, corn kernels are perfectly healthy for your dog in small amounts. Don’t ever give them the cob, which can cause choking or intestinal blockages if swallowed.
Green beans: Before you make Homemade Green Bean Casserole for the Thanksgiving meal, you can feel good about giving a few green beans to your dog as a healthy treat. Stick to raw or cooked plain green beans cut into bite-size pieces. Stay away from canned beans with added salt or spices or beans cooked with oils, spices, or other ingredients that aren’t dog-friendly.
Pumpkin: Plain, canned, puréed pumpkin is a good treat that’s gentle on the digestive system. Never give your dog spiced pumpkin pie mixes.
Rice: As long as your dog isn’t allergic to rice or diabetic, cooked white rice is perfectly safe moderation. Avoid brown rice, which is harder to digest.
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 small amounts. White meat is best, as it contains less fat, fewer calories, and more protein. Before preparing a plate for your pooch, 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. Depending on the size of the dog, even small amounts can result in alcohol toxicity with symptoms that can include drooling, lethargy, weakness, and collapse. If you know that your dog has ingested anything with an alcohol content (even mouthwash!) or is showing any signs of alcohol toxicity, contact a vet immediately.
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 cause nausea, diarrhea, abnormal heart rate, seizure, and muscle tremors, among other symptoms. In rare cases, death can occur.
Coffee and tea: You might live for your morning cup of coffee, but dogs are much more sensitive to caffeine’s effects. While a little slurp of coffee or tea likely won’t cause any issues (especially in midsize or larger breeds), contact the vet if larger amounts, grounds, beans, or tea bags have been consumed.
Garlic, leeks, and onions: All parts of all members of the Allium family are highly toxic to dogs. Watch closely any dog that might have eaten a stray garlic clove or slice of onion for symptoms that can include decreased appetite, weakness, lethargy, and fainting. If you notice any of these signs of onion toxicity, contact a vet immediately.
Grapes and raisins: Grapes and their dehydrated cousins are highly toxic to dogs. Even small amounts can cause kidney failure.
Ice cream: As a general rule, dogs do not tolerate high- or full-fat dairy products well. To avoid any gastrointestinal distress but still reward your pup with a cold treat, skip the ice cream and feed them frozen fruit like blueberries, strawberries, and bananas. Another option is nondairy frozen treats specially formulated just for dogs.
Potatoes: All cooked potatoes have traditionally been seen as being completely safe for dogs, but recent studies suggest that perhaps they aren’t a good addition to any dog’s diet. In 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an alert about the potential increased risk for canine dilated cardiomyopathy—which can cause heart failure—in dogs that eat diets rich in potatoes (including sweet potatoes), lentils, or legumes. Studies are still ongoing.
Raw yeast dough: While plain, baked bread is fine for your dog, never feed it raw (uncooked) yeast dough, which can cause severe life-threatening bloating. In addition, yeast can ferment in a dog’s digestive system and possibly cause ethanol (alcohol) 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!