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Pet Safety: Safe Foods Dogs Can Eat On Thanksgiving

Next time you are the pet store picking up a bag of kibble, check out the ingredients in some popular brands of dog food.  The lists read like a veritable Thanksgiving Day menu: sweet potatoes, turkey, peas, white potatoes, carrots, pumpkin and cranberries.  As the lines blur between pet food diets and what we feed our human holiday guests, it is a good idea to clear up some common misconceptions about safe and dangerous Thanksgiving meals for dogs, so they can join the party!

Thanksgiving Table Decorations To Watch Out For

During the holiday preparations, we may overlook the dog in the corner munching on a mum or an amaryllis.  Both plants, as well as macadamia nuts, holly, English ivy, cyclamen, and Christmas rose are all found on the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s list of toxic plants.  Ingesting modest quantities will generally cause vomiting, diarrhea, depression, and excessive salivation so it’s best to keep any plants high out of reach of a rogue canine.

The kitchen! Home to all varieties of delicious smells, tastes, and frenzied activity.  Dough rising in the corner for dinner rolls? Should your dog eat raw dough, be prepared for a host of potential problems including bowel obstruction and bloat as the dough continues to rise and release gases INSIDE your dog’s belly.  As the yeast ferments, ethanol is produced.

Think an over-served relative is bad news? A drunk dog is no laughing matter; watch for signs of drooling, difficulty walking, weakness, low blood pressure, body temperature, vomiting, and seizures in an intoxicated pet. Raw or under-cooked meat waiting for the deep fryer can also be dangerous to your dog.  In addition to bones which can puncture the esophagus, stomach, intestines, or become lodged in the mouth, Salmonella and E.coli love to live on raw turkey.  Ingesting these bacteria may cause vomiting and diarrhea in your dog which may lead to secondary exposure by unsuspecting guests.

Safe Thanksgiving Foods For Dogs

Can your dog eat cooked turkey? For most otherwise healthy dogs with no food allergies or intolerances, the answer is yes! A good rule of thumb is to feed your dog no more than 10% of his daily calories in treat form or suffer the consequences (read: diarrhea).

Skinless, boneless white meat is low in fat and calories and is easy to digest for most dogs.  Likewise, canned or cooked pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling with sugar and spices) is a great source of fiber and Vitamin A; 1-2 Tablespoons can be added to your dog’s dish without leading to excessive gas or loose stools.

Mashed or cooked white potatoes or sweet potatoes are also a delicious treat; set aside some safe starches before you add butter, salt, milk, cheese, gravy, and especially garlic or onions (both on the naughty list and can cause red blood cell damage!).  And please, no gravy!

Traditional Thanksgiving foods like cranberries can be eaten in very small amounts before being doctored with sugar and other goodness.  And while they may look similar, grapes and raisins are known to cause kidney disease in dogs and are to be avoided.  Plain green beans and peas are tasty and healthy! Add a few to your dog’s Thanksgiving plate.

Sweet Treats Dogs Can and Cannot Eat 

No meal is complete without dessert. Chocolate is a definite no-no; the caffeine and theobromine cause nervous system stimulation, gastrointestinal upset, and even death in high enough doses.  All chocolate is not created equal; dark chocolate and baking chocolate, i.e. the “good stuff”, contains more of the “bad stuff” and will cause toxicity in smaller quantities.  Size does matter.  A smaller dog will become ill eating the same amount of chocolate as a larger pet.

Those of you trying to minimize the calorie load in your Thanksgiving meal need to be sure sweeteners containing xylitol aren’t accessible to dogs. The no-calorie sweetener can be found in some peanut butters, gum, mints, pudding snacks, and some baked goods.  Unlike humans, dogs consuming xylitol experience a massive release of insulin which can cause low blood sugar, weakness, seizures, and liver failure.  If you like to spoil your pet, apples, carob chips, and frozen banana bites are safe Thanksgiving indulgences for your dog.

Most of all, make sure your guests are on the same page when it comes to sharing their Thanksgiving food.  If everyone gives your dog a “tiny” bit of turkey, tummy troubles or even a serious case of pancreatitis could send you to the vet. It’s also important to remember to feed your dog his Thanksgiving dish IN his dish and not from your hand or the table.  Bad behavior can begin or be reinforced during the frenetic holidays.

Be mindful of these tips and you can be thankful you avoided a Thanksgiving trip to the Animal ER!

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