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Thanksgiving Food Your Pet Can & Can't Eat

Thanksgiving Food Your Pet Can & Can't Eat | BetterVet

It’s a special time of year and many pet parents will want to include their furry family members in the celebrations. We often do this by sharing a meal together. But what Thanksgiving foods are safe for dogs, and what should be avoided? While any sudden change to your pet’s diet has the potential to cause gastrointestinal upset, some human foods are actually toxic to dogs and cats. Others can contribute to medical conditions such as pancreatitis, or cause internal damage in other ways. Here’s what pet parents should know to safely treat their pets without compromising their health. 


The Main Course

  • Turkey - Plain turkey breast is safe for your dog or cat to eat, and can be a delicious treat. Turkey skin should be avoided because it is high in fat which can lead to pancreatitis. Turkey bones are also not safe, as they can cause intestinal obstruction or break into sharp pieces and puncture the esophagus, stomach, or intestines. 


The Side Dishes

  • Gravy - Gravy is generally too high in fat and salt to be a safe option for your pet. It may also contain onion or garlic, which are toxic to dogs and cats. 

  • Stuffing - Stuffing is likely to contain toxic ingredients, such as garlic, onion, raisins, or currants, so it is not a good option for your pet. 

  • Potatoes - Boiled or baked potatoes or yams, minus the butter and cream, make a great treat. Recent evidence has shown a link between feeding grain-free diets (often containing ingredients like peas and potatoes) and heart disease in dogs. However, as long as the majority of your dog’s diet is not grain-free or legume-based, there is no problem in giving these foods as treats in moderation. 

  • Vegetables - Most plain vegetables are safe for your pet to eat, and make excellent healthy treats. Be sure to cut them into small pieces to avoid the risk of choking. It is best to avoid sauces and seasonings, some of which may contain toxic ingredients. 

  • Bread - Bread is a safe option for your pet. However, it is important that they never consume raw bread dough containing yeast. This can expand in their stomach, potentially leading to a dangerous condition known as bloat

  • Cranberry sauce - This is generally too high in sugar and not recommended. 



  • Pumpkin Pie - While unseasoned canned or fresh pumpkin can be a tasty high-fiber treat for your pet, pumpkin pie filling is too high in sugar and should be avoided. 

  • Chocolate - Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, both of which are toxic to dogs and cats. Higher concentrations of these substances are found in baking chocolate, semisweet chocolate, and dark chocolate, however, consumption of any chocolate should prompt a call to your veterinarian. Depending on the amount and type of chocolate ingested, signs of toxicity can include gastrointestinal upset, progressing to a racing heart, tremors, and seizures in severe cases. 

  • Fruits - Most fruits are safe for your pet to eat. Some exceptions are grapes, raisins, and currants, which can lead to fatal kidney failure even if consumed in very small amounts. Fruit should be cut into small pieces and pits removed to avoid choking hazards. Cherry pits and apple seeds also contain a small amount of amygdalin, which is converted to cyanide and can be toxic if large amounts are consumed. 

  • Artificial sweeteners - Desserts are too high in sugar and fat to be healthy for pets. Some may also contain the artificial sweetener xylitol, which is extremely toxic and can cause a dangerous drop in blood sugar. 

  • Nuts - While some types of nuts may be safe, others (like the macadamia nut) are actually toxic. However all nuts are high in fat and calorie dense, and due to their size and texture may also cause a risk of choking. Therefore it is best to avoid giving nuts to your pet. A small amount of peanut butter is ok as long as it does not contain xylitol. 

Spices and Seasoning 

  • Garlic, onions, chives, and leeks - These plants, belonging to the allium family, are toxic to both dogs and cats in any form (fresh, dried, powdered, etc.). Initially, they may cause gastrointestinal upset, such as vomiting and diarrhea. More concerning is the damage that they cause to red blood cells leading to anemia

  • Salt - Too much salt is unhealthy for anyone, including our furry family members. Ingestion of excessively salty food can cause increased thirst and urination, and in severe cases salt poisoning. 


What Thanksgiving Food Can Dogs Eat? 

If you want to share your Thanksgiving meal with your furry family member, it is best to stick to small pieces of plain turkey breast, veggies (such as carrots, peas, yams, green beans, broccoli) minus the sauce or seasoning, and fruits (such as apple, banana, and berries). Other Thanksgiving foods that are safe for dogs include small pieces of cheese and smoked salmon. Even these safe options should be given in small amounts, so as not to cause an upset tummy. 


While giving treats to your pet is enjoyable and special, remember that the majority of their diet should be made up of a complete and balanced pet food that is appropriate for their stage of life. A wellness or nutritional consult may be beneficial if you have any questions or concerns about your pet’s diet. 


What if Your Pet Eats Something They Shouldn’t? 

If you have any concerns that your pet has eaten something they shouldn’t have, including the foods listed above, immediately contact a veterinarian. The pet poison hotline is also available 24/7 at 855-764-766 and online at Depending on what your pet ate, they may need to see a vet for prompt treatment. 


Frequently Asked Questions


Can dogs eat turkey bones? 

The wishbone is one holiday tradition in which your dog or cat should not partake. Feeding poultry bones to your pet puts them at risk for choking, intestinal obstruction, or puncture to the gastrointestinal tract. When chewed, this type of bone splinters into sharp pieces which can cause significant and life-threatening damage. 


What Thanksgiving foods are toxic to cats? 

Just like their canine counterparts, cats should not eat garlic, onion, leeks, chives, raisins, grapes, currants, excessive salt or sugar, high-fat foods, bones, bread dough, nuts, or chocolate. Many cats also don’t tolerate dairy products well. For your feline friend, plain turkey breast is likely the safest and most appealing option. Also, beware that cats may get into holiday decorations, and certain flowers such as lilies are extremely toxic.


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