Can Your Dog Eat Thanksgiving Leftovers? Safe Vs. Unsafe Thanksgiving Food

Most dog owners are eager to share in holiday traditions with their beloved pets, regardless of whether those festivities include seasonal photos, gifts or even decadent holiday meals. But as you gather around the Thanksgiving table with loved ones this holiday season, it’s important to know what Thanksgiving food are safe for dogs — and which might pose a safety risk to man’s best friend.

While a lot of pet owners think it’s safe to let dogs eat turkey and other common Thanksgiving foods, there are a number of foods dogs can’t eat, as well as other foods that need to be offered carefully and in small amounts. Here’s a guide to feeding your dog food from the Thanksgiving table.

 

Begging for a Holiday Feast

 

Safe Thanksgiving Food for Dogs

There’s good news: Dogs can eat a number of food items common on your Thanksgiving table.

  • Plain potatoes and sweet potatoes: This includes mashed, roasted, baked, or otherwise cooked potatoes. Just make sure these food items are completely plain and not seasoned. They should not be cooked in butter or mixed with dairy, which can get your dog sick.
  • Plain pumpkin flesh: Pumpkin pie is a no-no (more on that later), but plain pumpkin is perfectly fine; you can even use it as an ingredient for homemade doggy treats!
  • Plain peas: As vegetables go, peas are a safe bet. You should serve it in moderation, but you can dish this up worry-free. Again, don’t serve it if it’s been mixed with butter.
  • Apple: Raw or baked apples are fine, although you might want to spare the risk of sugar-rich apple pie.
  • Thoroughly cooked turkey meat: Turkey is complicated, but the short answer is that a lean, bone-free, skinless piece of turkey is safe for your dog. But be careful: If the turkey isn’t prepared the right way for your dog, it can become a very dangerous table scrap to serve.

Thanksgiving Foods Dogs Can’t Eat

Can dogs eat mashed potatoes? Should they have cranberry sauce? Can dogs eat gravy? What about stuffing? The answer to all of these questions is, unfortunately, no. The list of foods that are off-limits to your dog is much longer than the list of food they can safely eat on Thanksgiving. There are a number of reasons these foods are off-limits. Here’s a quick rundown of why these foods are a no-do for your dog:

  • Can dogs eat stuffing? Unfortunately, stuffing is often made with onions, garlic and/or scallions, all of which contain chemicals that are toxic to dogs. When consumed in large quantities, these food items can cause anemia—which can be fatal for your dog.
  • Can dogs eat mashed potatoes? If there are no other ingredients, mashed potatoes are on the safe list (as we’ve indicated above). But if you add butter, cheese, gravy or any other ingredients to your mashed potatoes, this menu item is off-limits. Dairy ingredients can exacerbate the natural lactose intolerance in your dog, while fatty foods can cause or exacerbate obesity.
  • Can dogs eat gravy? Gravy may have a number of ingredients—fat, dairy or even bits of turkey skin—that present a health risk to your dog. The risk isn’t worth the brief period of joy your dog will savor from a little taste of gravy. Keep it in the gravy boat.
  • Can dogs eat cranberry sauce? Cranberries themselves are safe, but cranberry sauce is high in sugar and can make your dog sick, leading to vomiting and other issues. Spare them the discomfort and pass the cranberry sauce.
  • Can dogs eat pumpkin pie? Pumpkin on its own is safe for dogs, but pumpkin pie filling contains additives that could prove fatal to your dog. Unless you’re certain you’re feeding your dog pure, roasted pumpkin, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Lastly, make sure you also keep your dog away from foods containing any dairy, chocolate, grapes, raisins, spicy foods and alcohol, all of which pose varying health risks.

Why Can’t Dogs Eat Turkey?

It’s not that dogs can’t eat turkey of any kind. Lean, skin-free, boneless turkey is perfectly safe, as long as you’ve thoroughly examined the pieces you’re giving to your dog. But turkey skin and bones can be unhealthy and potentially dangerous to your dog. The skin itself is likely to cause digestive issues because it collects butter, spices, and other ingredients that may upset your dog’s stomach.

Some dog owners have wondered if you can give dogs turkey bones; the answer is no. Bones can present a number of potential issues, including vomiting and diarrhea, as well as creating a potential bowel blockage in your dog. Some turkey bones can also splinter when your dog bites down on them, which can present a choking hazard or cause lacerations in the mouth, throat or stomach. In serious situations, a splintered bone ingested by your dog can become a life-threatening situation.

What to Do If Your Dog Eats Unsafe Food

If your dog ingests food that’s on the do-not-eat list, or if you’re worried your dog has eaten off-limits food but you aren’t sure what, call your local veterinary hospital right away. You may need to bring your dog down to the office to have their stomach pumped before the ingredients in those foods cause severe and possibly permanent damage to your pet. You can also call the Pet Poison Helpline at (855-764-7661).

Your dog may have important dietary restrictions to be mindful of, but it’s still possible to fix them a delicious plate at your next Thanksgiving meal. Be sure to check the contents of your dog’s plate to verify that everything is on the approved list. And be mindful of portion size—even healthy foods can give your pet an upset stomach if they’re given permission to gorge themselves.

Since your pet is part of the family, treat them while being safe!