Safely Share a Thanksgiving Meal With Your Pets Enjoying the Big-Eatin' Holiday with Your Pets

Safely Share a Thanksgiving Meal With Your Pets
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vet verified Dr. Joseph J. Wakshlag, DVM Associate Professor of Clinical Nutrition

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Ithaca, NY

Thanksgiving is a favorite time of year for plenty of people (and pets!) because of all of the great yummy things there are to eat. If you're the type that likes to share food with your pet, here are some safe ways you can share the holiday meal with your cat or dog.

Thanksgiving is synonymous with overindulgence. While many foods are safe to share with your pets on Thanksgiving, many are not! Knowing the difference could keep you out of the emergency vet clinic on this most fantastic day of feasting. If you do use people food in your petโ€™s Thanksgiving meal, remember to moderate their food intake -- even if youโ€™re not able to do so for yourself!


At Thanksgiving, chances are high that some sneaky family member or another will want to treat your pooch to a table scrap. Be clear with family about the rules, but donโ€™t get too crazy about it. Manners and begging issues aside, Thanksgiving is a great holiday for pets. There are loads of good foods in traditional Thanksgiving meals that will be perfectly healthy for your dog or your cat.


Some stand by a strict no-people-food-for-pets rule in their homes. If thatโ€™s the case, itโ€™s perfectly reasonable to uphold those rules even during the holidays. Other folks offer people food all year round, so Thanksgiving wonโ€™t be much of a departure. Here are a few tips to keep your cats and dogs feeling well:

  • If youโ€™re going to be adding unusual foods to your petโ€™s diet on Thanksgiving, do so in moderation.

  • Stay away from turkey skins, as these aren't good for pets!
  • Feed your pet less of their usual food on days when theyโ€™ll be getting extra goodies. Overeating is uncomfortable for humans, but can be very serious in dogs. Gastric torsion, or twisting of the stomach, can occur when a dog overindulges. Pancreatitis can occur when they have foods that are too rich, like the turkey skins mentioned above. These conditions can be expensive for you, and uncomfortable or even deadly for them.

  • Mix table scraps in with reduced portions of the food theyโ€™re used to. This can help ease digestion.

  • Share Thanksgiving foods at the petโ€™s meal time, and in their food bowl, instead of handing them tiny bits throughout the day. This should help stave off unwanted behaviors like constant begging. It will also help you keep track of how much your pet is actually eating. A little here and a little there can add up to a lot -- just ask any Weight Watcher!


Hereโ€™s where even pet parents with the best of intentions can go wrong: hidden ingredients. Family recipes often have that โ€œsecret ingredient,โ€ -- that hidden and oh-so-delish ingredient that ends up being toxic to your pet! At the top of the dangerous hidden ingredients list are onions, garlic, and butter or excessive fat. Onions and too much garlic can be toxic, especially to dogs, while butter and other fatty foods are too rich for pets, and can cause pancreatitis.

Avoid these pitfalls by reserving unadulterated ingredients for your pet. During the cooking extravaganza, pull out some lean turkey, sans gravy. Save a portion of baked or steamed sweet potato before theyโ€™re buttered and creamed. Portion out some stuffing bread crumbs before the sauteed onions and salt are added. Collect these pet-safe bits, and mix them all together at your petโ€™s meal time. Be sure to serve these treats in small quantities that don't fill your pet's bowl.

If you're providing more than half of your pet's food as Thanksgiving fixin's, you're likely providing too much and setting yourself up for a trip to the vet.


Avoid these ingredients, always:

  • Raw poultry
  • Turkey skin
  • Butter and oils
  • Bones, especially cooked bones, which are likely to splinter
  • Alcohol: beer, wine, or anything else
  • Nuts, especially walnuts or macadamia nuts
  • Sweets like cookies, pie, and cake
  • Onions, or anything with onion in it, even if the onions are cooked or macerated
  • Garlic
  • Some mushrooms (so to be safe, avoid all mushrooms)
  • Some herbs like sage and nutmeg


These foods can be safely shared with your beloved cat or dog on Thanksgiving. Remember to moderate for your pet, even if itโ€™s hard to do for yourself.

  • Turkey, boneless
  • Whole raw eggs
  • Sweet potato or yams, as long as thereโ€™s no onions or cream involved
  • Canned pureed pumpkin
  • Raw apple (but not the seeds)
  • Raw veggies like carrots
  • Steamed veggies like green beans or broccoli
  • Any rice, brown, white, or wild


Cats are obligate carnivores. This means they thrive on a diet primarily of meat. Meat can safely be shared with your cat on Thanksgiving. Other foods should be given in only very small amounts. Some cats just love sweet potatoes, but it's up to you to restrict their carb intake.

Remember, cats are much smaller than most dogs so your cat really shouldn't get more than a tablespoon of Thanksgiving fixings. An excess of veggies or carbs could give them an upset stomach.

Top 5 Tips for a Pet-Safe Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, make sure you and your pets are ready for safe travels and hazard-free fun.All the rich foods, the long car ride you have planned, or the house-full of guests coming over could all be potential safety hazards for your pet. Here's how to keep your four-legged family enjoying the holiday fun right along with you.

Top 5 Tips for Pet Safety This Thanksgiving

1. Turkey bones may seem like a delicious treat, but all poultry bones can splinter if a pet chews on or eats them, and that can mean injury to their mouth or digestive system. Give your pet a turkey-flavored pet food instead.

2. Chocolate, onions, and garlic are among the most toxic foods for pets. Read up on the most dangerous foods for dogs and cats, and keep any uncovered dishes in your sight if your pet is likely to try to sneak a bite from the table or counter.

3. In general, table foods aren't meant for pets. Too much salt and fat can cause tummy troubles, or even liver troubles, which could require a veterinary visit.

4. If you're taking your pet with you to a relative's or friend's house, be sure to bring a travel water bowl and the proper crate or harness. Then follow the 5 steps to a safe drive with your dog.

5. If the party is coming to you this year, your pet could become nervous with all the extra

More on Pet Nutrition

Is Your Cat a Picky Eater?
Gourmet Pet Foods To Choose From
Recipe To Help Dog Digestive Stress

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. It has however been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Joe, a board certified veterinary nutritionist and graduate of Cornell University's program for Veterinary Medicine.

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