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How To (Safely) Celebrate Thanksgiving With Your Fur Family

Written By
8 min read

Updated - Nov 19th, 2020

Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the simple things that fill our lives with love and happiness – from the upcoming holiday season, to home-cooked meals shared with friends and family. And if you’re like us, this means celebrating your fur family, too! 

2020 has made us even more grateful for the warmth and joy our pets bring us, so we want to make them part of our Thanksgiving festivities this year. While we’d love to indulge our cats and dogs in the full feast, it’s important to make sure we’re sharing Thanksgiving foods that are healthy and safe for them, too.

Here’s a breakdown of foods that are okay to share with your pet, foods to avoid, and some fun ways to make a few special pet-friendly treats just for them.

Turkey

This Thanksgiving staple is probably the first one that came to mind for obvious reasons – dogs and cats LOVE meat. Turkey is used in many commercial pet foods and is generally considered a healthy option. 

White meat without bones or skin is the best choice for your fur kids, and most cats and dogs will thank you for it. However, you should be selective about which piece of turkey you slip your pooch or kitty under the table.

A few turkey safe-sharing tips:

  • Avoid turkey skin and dark meat: They are higher in fat and can cause an upset stomach and even pancreatitis, so they should both be avoided. 
  • Skip seasoned turkey: Also keep in mind that many turkeys are seasoned with butter or oil, which can be too rich for our furry friends and cause diarrhea.
  • Safeguard those turkey bones: Turkey bones can be extremely dangerous because they shatter when chewed on, which can cause a sharp piece of bone to become lodged in your pet’s stomach or esophagus. 

Turkey bones might be the biggest Thanksgiving watch-out, as many veterinary hospitals will attest.

If a dog eats the entire turkey carcass out of the trashcan (because it happens EVERY YEAR  to one of our patients), Do NOT wait. Call your vet right away. The sooner we know about it, the sooner we can get it out of their stomach! For the health and safety of your pet, we need to know within minutes!” – Sequoya Serrano, Hospital Manager, Ark Animal Hospital

Key Takeaway: Paw-some, share with caution. Feel free to share your love with this meaty treat, but choose a piece of plain white meat with no bones, skin or seasonings.

Ham or Sausage

A smoked or honey ham smells and tastes delicious, but it’s not a good option for our animals. Ham contains high levels of sodium and fat, both of which are bad for pets. Ham bones are also off-limits because they can splinter while being eaten and cause damage to the stomach or intestines. So while your pet may beg for a bite of ham, it’s best to not share.

Key Takeaway: Paw-ful, always avoid. Never give ham or ham bones to your pets.

Stuffing

Whether you love cornbread stuffing or your family’s secret recipe, stuffing is a Thanksgiving favorite for a lot of us. While the bread portion is harmless, stuffing is a no-no for our pets. 

Most stuffing includes onions and garlic, both of which are toxic to dogs and cats. Many people also add butter to their stuffing, which is too fatty for dogs and cats and can cause digestive issues. Some stuffing recipes even call for sausage, chorizo, oysters or other ingredients that may be good for flavor, but bad for pets.

Key Takeaway: Paw-ful, avoid. When it comes to pets, skip the stuffing.

Mashed Potatoes & Gravy

Plain-cooked potatoes are completely safe for both cats and dogs. However, mashed potatoes like mom used to make sadly aren’t suitable to feed to our pets, and neither is gravy. Rich ingredients like butter and heavy cream that are often used in mashed potatoes are very high in fat, and can cause serious issues like pancreatitis. Turkey gravy is commonly made with turkey drippings or broth, both of which have too much salt and fat for pets to consume.

If you want your pet to join in the potato party, consider boiling an extra potato and setting it aside to serve them with their dinner. 

Key Takeaway: Paw-ful, avoid. Skip mashed potatoes & gravy, share plain potato instead.

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberries, on their own, are non-toxic to dogs and cats and are high in antioxidants, so feel free to throw a couple in their bowl for a festive snack. Cranberries aren’t usually one of the Thanksgiving dishes our pets go crazy for, but if your cat or dog’s palate permits, let them indulge!

Cranberry Sauce, on the other hand, should be avoided since it usually contains a lot of sugar. Whether homemade or canned – if there are ingredients other than 100% cranberries in the sauce – it’s best not to share it with your pets.

Key Takeaway: Paw-some. Cranberries are fine, but skip the sugary sauces.

Bread Rolls 

Simple breads are usually safe snacks for pets. But before offering any to your furry friend, make sure the bread doesn’t contain any other ingredients that could be toxic. 

Avoid flavored breads that could contain garlic, onions, raisins or chocolate since these foods are all toxic for pets. If you do decide to pass the bread basket to your pooch or kitty, make sure to skip the butter! One big watch out: dogs and cats should never eat raw or undercooked bread dough. The active yeast can cause bloating, lethargy, and even seizures.

Key Takeaway: Paw-some, in moderation. But skip the dough and flavored breads.

Sweet Potatoes

Plain, cooked sweet potatoes are a sweet snack option for your pet. They’re full of nutrients like vitamins A and C, fiber, calcium, and potassium. Just make sure any sweet potato you’re giving your fur baby has no butter or seasonings in it. That means, no sweet potato casserole since it’s full of sugars and fats, and no sweet potato pie since this delicious dessert is filled with butter, cream, and sugar – and often more pie than potato.

Key Takeaway: Paw-some. But skip the sugar and marshmallow-topped casseroles.

Green Beans

Green beans may not be the food your dog or cat is trying to snatch off the Thanksgiving buffet table, but they are a very safe option for both dogs and cats should they happen to get a taste. 

Plain green beans are a great source of nutrition because they’re rich in fiber, vitamins A, C, and K, and can be fed to cats and dogs, raw or cooked. Just make sure any green beans you’re serving your kitty or pupper don’t have extra ingredients like butter, oil, or seasonings added to them.

One holiday classic you should avoid feeding your pet is green bean casserole. It often contains fried onions, canned mushroom or onion soup, and is full of fat – a paw-fect recipe for tummy problems.

Key Takeaway: Paw-some. Indulge your pet, but steer clear of the casseroles.

Thanksgiving Pie

Although this might be most humans’ favorite part of the meal, pies and other desserts aren’t good options for pets since they contain a lot of fat and sugar, and often dairy too.

If you’d like to give your pup or kitty a Thanksgiving “dessert,” try baking a plain apple or pumpkin and offering a small bite only. But truth be told, they’d probably be just as happy with one last bite of turkey before they call it a night!

Key Takeaway: Pawful, best to avoid. If you must indulge your cat or dog in some dessert, stick to simple apple or pumpkin treats like the recipes below.

Wine, Beer, or Cocktails

We think it goes without saying, and most pet parents know alcoholic beverages should NEVER be given to pets. But if you have house guests visiting, they may still be in the dark on this one.

If a curious cat or dog expresses interest in your wine glass or hot toddy, do NOT indulge them. And be sure any house guests know to check with you before they give your pets a taste or sip of ANYTHING! You should also be careful not to leave holiday beverages like eggnog, coquito, or hot buttered rum around. While pets aren’t usually attracted to liquor – the cream, butter, or eggs in rich holiday cocktails could attract them to it.

Key Takeaway: Pawful, always avoid. Giving alcohol to pets is 100% a NO-NO.

If you’re planning like us to make your pet the guest of honor this Thanksgiving, just make sure you don’t over indulge them. A few bites of healthy whole foods like turkey, pumpkin, green beans, or sweet potatoes can be nutritious and fun to share, but it’s best to avoid dishes with additives like sugar, butter, and oil as much as possible. 

Lastly, if you’re a cat-obsessed or crazy dog mom/dad that wants to take the pet-festivities one step further, check out these cute and creative ways to celebrate your fur fam. These paw-sitively delicious recipes and healthy treats are sure to make your pet thankful this year!

Healthy Homemade Thanksgiving Pet Treats

Passionate Pet Experts & Parents
We are a team of writers, designers & product developers who all double as passionate (ok, obsessive) nerds of the pet world.