In this strange year that’s quite unlike any other, the semblance of normalcy that a traditional holiday dinner will offer will be quite welcome. But while we’re enjoying all that rich food, from turkey to potatoes and pie, what about our pets? Can dogs have turkey? Can cats share some cranberry sauce? Can our pets share Thanksgiving dinner?
Due to lockdown, we’ve been spending more time with our furry children than ever, and we’re so grateful for them. They will be begging for scraps from the table (like always!), but is that spread of food safe for them to enjoy?When it comes to what human foods we can give our dogs, the general rule should theoretically be that if it's good for us, it is good for them. However, that’s often not the case! These are the Thanksgiving foods your pet can and can't eat.
No. Let's start with what you shouldn't feed your dog. “Anything from the Allium family (garlic, onion, chives, leeks, shallots, scallions) is toxic to dogs and should not be given to them under any circumstances,” says Emma Bowdrey, an ISCP Canine Behaviourist and Trainer at Four Long Legs, based in the UK. Any dishes that are created using these ingredients should be off-limits. In extreme cases, the toxins that damage red blood cells have been fatal.
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Yes, most times. Dogs can eat raw, cooked, and dried cranberries, but beware. “Cranberries are often used in dishes that contain sugar, alcohol, and/or grape juice while dried cranberries often have added sugar and are included in trail mixes with raisins — all of these ingredients are highly toxic to dogs,” explains Dr. Rachel Barrack, DVM, CVA, CVCH of Animal Acupuncture in New York City. Even without toxicity they can cause gastrointestinal upset.
Yes, sometimes. There’s a lot of pumpkin at the table each year. Pets can have pureed pumpkin. “Pureed pumpkin can help dogs and cats with diarrhea and constipation issues as well,” says Dr. Barrack. Make sure you are feeding your dog pure pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling or pumpkin substitute.
“Pumpkin is high in antioxidants which help to promote healthy skin and fur in cats. Pumpkin also has essential fatty acids and is a great source of vitamin A, potassium and iron,” says Dr. Barrack. Pumpkin is wonderful in alleviating gastrointestinal issues such as constipation and diarrhea due to fiber content.
No. High calorie food should also be avoided. “Don't be tempted to sneak some mac and cheese or piece of pie to your dog, especially if they are overweight or suffer from any organ failures,” says Bowdry. Although it might seem like a one-off treat on one special day of the year, it could lead to some serious consequences. “Pancreas problems are notoriously difficult to diagnose and can occur in seemingly fit dogs with a healthy weight,” says Bowdry. “Rich foods can cause a disturbance in gastric enzymes and if these enter the bloodstream they cause irreversible damage and a huge amount of pain.”
Yes, so long as it's not the parts slathered in butter and other rich treats. There are foods that are healthy and nutritious that allow owners to treat their dogs without worrying consequences. “Skinless turkey is lean and tasty,” says Bowdry. Any dog would be delighted to receive a slice of two.
No. Avoid giving cooked bones as they can splinter when chewed and stick in the throat. “While dogs might enjoy a nice big bone to chew on, cooked meat bones can actually splinter and cause blockage or lacerations in the gastrointestinal tract necessitating a surgical emergency,” says Dr. Barrack.
Yes, vegetables that have been boiled, steamed or roasted with minimal fats are also great options for dogs to enjoy a little Thanksgiving dinner with the family. “My greyhound goes bonkers for mashed sweet potato!” says Bowdry.
Yes, sweet potatoes are safe and healthy food for dogs to eat! “The health benefits are the same for canines as they are for people,” adds Dr. Barrack. They are an excellent source of fiber therefore good for digestive issues, are rich in vitamins A, B6, C, calcium, iron, among other vitamins and minerals. “Vitamin A is important in maintaining healthy eyes, muscles, nerves and skin. As an alternative source of carbohydrates, sweet potatoes are often utilized in grain free dog foods.
Sweet potatoes are used to provide energy, promote the production of body fluids, relieve mastitis, and to assist in bowel movements. Sweet potatoes are generally well tolerated,” says Dr. Barrack. However, they should be incorporated with caution in the diets of diabetic dogs due to a high glycemic index. Additionally, too much of a good thing can cause bone and muscle weakness due to excessive vitamin A. It always advisable to consult with your veterinarian before making any dietary changes.
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No, chocolate is a real danger to dogs. “Chocolate contains methylxanthines (such as caffeine and theobromine),” warns Dr. Barrack. Dogs are much more sensitive to these than people are. Methylxanthines are found in all chocolates to varying degrees. “White chocolate contains less than milk chocolate, while milk contains less than dark or semi sweet chocolate,” says Dr. Barrack. Thus dark and semi sweet chocolate have the greatest probability of being harmful to your dog.
Larger dogs typically are able to consume more chocolate without harm than their smaller breed counterparts. “Signs of chocolate toxicity may include gastrointestinal upset, such as vomiting and/or diarrhea, increased heart and respiratory rates, increased temperature, decreased blood pressure, muscle rigidity, and even seizures, cardiac failure, and coma,” says Dr. Barrack.