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A Thanksgiving Meal For Dogs

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The Thanksgiving holiday is a time to celebrate the blessings of the season with family and friends. With a bounty of home-cooked food in your home, you may be tempted to share a few tasty treats with your canine companion, too. After all, who can resist a dog’s soulful eyes begging for just one little gobble-full of turkey? Wafting aromas of hot baked sweet potatoes, herb-filled stuffing, or spicy pumpkin pie are much too alluring for even the best-behaved pet to pass up.

But hold off feeding your dog from the Thanksgiving table. Veterinary experts warn that many of the traditional holiday recipes for people are dangerous to your dog’s health.  According to the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society, feeding dogs large quantities of a new food, as well as fatty foods, such as turkey gravy, mashed potatoes with butter, and dressing, can cause pancreatitis. This potentially deadly inflammation of the pancreas produces severe symptoms of diarrhea or vomiting.

Forget giving your dog a holiday bone, too. Cooked turkey, duck, geese, and other bird bones are extremely dangerous to dogs. Cooked bones splinter and break easily, possibly causing sharp pieces to tear the intestines. A bone could pass by itself, but more often it becomes lodged in the dog’s throat, which could cause choking, or it could possibly cause an intestinal obstruction. Both situations require emergency veterinary attention and likely surgery. Eliminate turkey skin as well. It’s hard to digest and high in fat, and the seasoning used to baste the poultry skin could give your dog an upset stomach.

Desserts are also off-limits. Chocolate can be fatal to dogs because it contains theobromine, which can increase your dog’s heart rate and cause hyperactivity, increased panting, twitching, diarrhea, and vomiting. Even sugar-free items that contain xylitol can be dangerous, causing stomach or intestinal irritation.  

Beware of onions, too! These popular Thanksgiving ingredients used in stuffing, vegetable dishes, and some salads can cause life-threatening anemia when a dog ingests large amounts.   

Healthy Thanksgiving treats for your dog

If you must share your Thanksgiving meal with your dog, do it safely with the following healthy foods, rather than feeding it directly from the table. Resist giving in to those pleading canine faces by adding a few things in your dog’s bowl before you sit down to dine. When your dog is full, it’s less likely to bother you.

For a dog who’s accustomed to eating commercial dry dog food, feeding a bowlful of fresh treats all at once is almost certain to cause intestinal upset. Instead, feed small amounts at different meals.

Here are a few healthy Thanksgiving choices for dogs:

  • White meat turkey without the skin
  • Plain baked or sweet potatoes without the skin
  • Steamed carrots, broccoli, or string beans without any butter, sauce or seasoning
  • Salt-free canned chicken broth
  • Plain canned pumpkin, but not the pumpkin pie filling
  • Sliced raw apples

Safe cleanup

Thanksgiving leftovers can also be dangerous to your canine companion and should be stored or discarded out of paw’s reach. Turkey bones, the string used to tie the poultry legs together, and the carcass itself can be lethal to your dog if eaten.

Cook a canine feast

Want to bake a healthy Thanksgiving treat for your dog? Try some sweet potato cookies from "The Ultimate Dog Treat Cookbook," by Liz Palika.

Mix together:

  • 2 cups diced sweet potato, cooked until very tender
  • 1-l/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 2.5-ounce jar turkey baby food

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool thoroughly before serving. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

 There’s no reason why your dog can’t join in the festivities – just make sure that you feed it safe treats, and everyone will be happy.

Credit: Reviewed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.
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