5 Safe Ways to Include Your Dog in Thanksgiving

5 Safe Ways to Include Your Dog in Thanksgiving

A dog’s palate is absolutely baffling. Some dogs can’t resist eating dead worms or discarded tissues from the ground. But then, their mouths also water when they smell your gourmet steak and potatoes.

So, on the food-oriented holiday of Thanksgiving — this year on Thursday, Nov. 25th — when we in America are typically busy all day preparing (or waiting for) big special meals and delicious spreads, it’s particularly important to pay attention to the scraps your dog may be sneaking.

According to the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (and many other sources), Americans eat more on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year. So, chances are in a dog’s favor of getting his or her paws on some highly desirable human food.

Really: can you imagine what goes through your dog’s mind as the scents of traditional Thanksgiving foods like turkey and fresh bread waft through your home all day? 

With a dog’s keen sense of smell, most will hope for even the smallest taste of these foods — turkey, ham, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, bread rolls, pasta salad, pumpkin pie, and more.

Your dog’s desperate yet hopeful facial expression as they stare at you in the kitchen makes it so tempting to give them “just a little bit” of what you’re cooking. Then at mealtime, it’s nearly impossible not to give them a piece of something from your plate.

While some Thanksgiving foods are safe for dogs, others can cause serious harm. 

It is not a good idea to encourage dogs to beg for food. But, isn’t it a tradition to bend the rules on holidays — as long as you only bend the rules with safe, plain foods — free of most spices, sugars, and additives.

On this spicy note, according to Rover, the main spices that are toxic for dogs are: onion, garlic, salt, cocoa powder, and nutmeg. And on the other hand, they can eat small amounts of basil, cinnamon, ginger, parsley, and turmeric — some of which even have healthy properties for canines. 


Here are 5 safe Thanksgiving foods (and even healthy) for dogs

  1. Skinned, cooked sweet potatoes are perfectly safe, and even beneficial, for dogs. As long as there are no added ingredients, “sweet potatoes are a great source of dietary fiber, B6, vitamin C, and beta-carotene,” according to the American Kennel Club.

  1. Mashed potatoes. Also according to the American Kennel Club, dogs can safely enjoy white potatoes (in moderation, just like for humans). For dogs though, spare the butter, salt, cheese, and the other garnishes.  

Tip: Mash up a separate, skin-free potato for your dog, and serve it plain or with a dollop of nonfat plain Greek yogurt in lieu of sour cream.

Also, potatoes — sweet or regular — should never be raw for a dog to eat. And to be on the safe side, remove all potato skin, which can lead to kidney problems for a dog that eats too much of it.

  1. Turkey (but without bones, skin, or gravy. The turkey slices should be plain, free of added flavor. 

In the words of Trupanion, “if cooked plain, without the skin or extra fats, turkey meat does have some great advantages for dogs. Turkey is rich in protein but fairly low in fat and contains riboflavin and phosphorus.”

  1. Pumpkin. According to expert veterinarian Gary Richter, MS, DVM, “pumpkin is a very healthy snack. It helps with digestive health and it’s great for a dog’s skin and coat. If feeding canned pumpkin, make sure it’s just pumpkin and not the pre-spiced pie mix.”

  1. Plain cranberries. Round out your dog’s Thanksgiving meal with some fruit: before you whip up your family’s favorite cranberry sauce recipe, set aside a few plain cranberries for your dog. 

According to PetMD, “you can feed raw, cooked or dried cranberries to your dog in moderation… Cranberries are also used in some dog food recipes because of all the vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting nutrients they contain.”

Where to draw the culinary line for your canine

As for other Thanksgiving foods, make sure you research their potential impact on dogs before even giving them a nibble. It’s a safe bet to steer clear of foods made with multiple ingredients and those that contain a lot of fat, sugar, and complex flavors. Examples are: stuffing; casseroles; creamed vegetables; fatty meats like ham; chocolate, any other sweet like the classic pumpkin pie, or alcohol (again, according to experts with the American Kennel Club).

And, remember: amid the hustle and bustle of typical Thanksgiving celebrations and gatherings, it is entirely possible that your dog will find a way to steal some food that they shouldn’t.

In the event of this understandable yet alarming situation, you should immediately call either Animal Poison Control ((888) 426-4435) or your local emergency veterinary practice with 24/7 on-call experts.

For holiday season questions relating to your pet, contact your veterinarian. And, equally important, Happy Thanksgiving to you and ArPets.