It's no surprise that most pet owners consider their dogs and cats members of the family. More than 85% of Americans plan to give their dogs gifts this holiday season, and many who are traveling for Turkey Day plan to bring them along for the trip. But whether you stick close to home or head over the river and through the woods, there are several typical holiday goodies you should not share with your pup.
Fortunately, there are several foods you can safely sneak to your four-legged best friend while you indulge in turkey and pie. We turned to some experts for tips and advice for Thanksgiving dos and don'ts for pet moms and dads.Before you decide what to share with your pup, know that you don't want to overdo it.
Dr. Sarah Wooten, a DVM and Pumpkin Pet Insurance Veterinary Expert, says that treats from the table shouldn't account for more than 10% of your dog's daily caloric intake (the other 90% should always be their regular diet). If you're unsure how much that is, you can check the Pet Nutrition Alliance's interactive calculator for dogs.
Foods Pets Should Avoid
The pet pros at BeChewy created this infographic to show what your furry family member should avoid eating on Thanksgiving at a glance:
Pet parents might be surprised to see turkey on the list, but it's there for good reason, Wooten says.
"Although turkey is a common ingredient in pet food, bones can splinter and become lodged in your pet's esophagus, stomach or intestines and cause severe problems," she says. "Dark meat and skin's high fat content can lead to an upset stomach or even pancreatitis and should be avoided in most pets."
Garlic, onion and chives are all toxic to your pooch, so it's important to avoid sharing Thanksgiving dishes that contain these ingredients, such as stuffing. The pumpkin pie and sweet potato casserole should also get a hard pass.
"Nutmeg is toxic to pets due to a compound called mystricin," Wooten says. "If a small amount is ingested, it can cause a mild stomach ache. In large doses, it can cause symptoms including hallucinations, disorientation, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, dry mouth, abdominal pain and possibly seizures. Intoxications of greater than 5 grams of nutmeg have been reported. We should remember that nutmeg is used in many Thanksgiving favorites, including those that include pumpkin pie spice. Avoid giving anything 'pumpkin spice flavored' to your pet."
Although not on the list and technically safe, Wooten suggests avoiding cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes with gravy.
"While cranberries on their own are non-toxic to dogs, sugary sauces can be detrimental in large quantities," she says. "Ingredients like butter, heavy cream and turkey drippings that commonly go into [mashed potatoes] are unfortunately too high in fat, salt and acid for a pet to consume. As an alternative option, you can offer your pet a boiled potato with no added seasonings or butter."
And avoid letting your pet sample anything containing xylitol, whether it's on the above list or not. This sweetener, found in many products, is extremely toxic to dogs. It may be listed by other names, including wood sugar, birch sugar and birch bark extract. If you're unsure, give your pooch something you know to be safe.
Foods Pets Can Safely Sample
So what can you share with your dog on Thanksgiving? Stick with basic whole foods.
"White meat without bones or skin is the best choice for your fur babies, and most cats and dogs will thank you for it," Wooten says of serving pets a little bit of turkey.
Green beans and sweet potatoes are also safe and excellent sources of nutrition. Green beans can be cooked or raw, and sweet potatoes can be baked or boiled. Just make sure they don't have added ingredients, such as butter, sugar, oil or seasonings.
"And definitely avoid the holiday classic – the green bean casserole," Wooten says. "It often contains fried onions, which can be toxic, and canned mushroom soup, which is full of fat."
As for sweeter treats, your pup can enjoy a bit of cranberries as long as they are not dressed up.
"Cranberries and dried cranberries on their own are generally safe in small quantities," Wooten says. "As with all things, if given too many cranberries, it can lead to an upset stomach. Jellies and sauces that contain artificial sweeteners like xylitol should always be avoided because xylitol is toxic to pets."
Pumpkin is also a good choice if it doesn't have added sweetener, butter or oil. You can even mix it with their usual food for a Turkey Day upgrade with added health benefits.
"Like with sweet potatoes, plain cooked pumpkin — no seeds or rind — or plain canned pumpkin is fine, and can be nutritious and fun to share," Wooten says. "But avoid dishes like breads and pies with additives like sugar, butter and oil. Pumpkin is a great source of fiber."
Above all, make sure you give your pet lots of love and attention on Thanksgiving. That's what they want more than anything (except, maybe, that slice of turkey still on your plate).
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