Can Dogs Eat Thanksgiving Dinner? The Dos and Don'ts of Sharing the Holiday Feast

Smart tips for sharing the holiday meal.

The scents emanating from the kitchen smell so good you can hardly wait to dig into a plate of turkey and dressing. Turns out those smells are also very enticing to your dog, who has been lingering around the kitchen and shooting hopeful looks at you for the past two hours. This is a special occasion, so why not share your Thanksgiving feast with your fur baby—or should you?

Veterinarians say you should think twice before letting dogs eat the turkey and trimmings. "Thanksgiving often brings an uptick in vet visits due to pets being fed unsafe human foods," says Dr. Jerry Klein, chief veterinary officer of the American Kennel Club. Here, he advises on which foods are dog friendly and which ones to avoid.

Foods You Can Share With Your Dog

  • Turkey: Sliced pieces of turkey are fine for canines to eat. "The meat is safe. The dangers usually lie in the seasonings, skin, and bones," says Dr. Klein.
  • Potatoes: Skip the mashed potatoes, instead serving sweet and regular potatoes that have been boiled or baked without sour cream, butter, salt, or pepper.
  • Apples: Apples are another healthy snack. "Cut the core out, as large amounts of the seeds can be toxic," Dr. Klein warns.
  • Green beans: Green beans provide fiber and various vitamins, but he says it's key that "this dish should be plain, without any added ingredients like butter or spices."
  • Peas: Like with green beans, plain peas can be served to your dog. Avoid creamed peas, which contain hard-to-digest dairy.

Foods That Aren't Safe for Your Dog

  • Pies: Pause before passing your pup a slice of pie. "Pumpkin is ultimately very healthy and safe for dogs. However, this goes for plain, raw pumpkin but not pie or pre-spiced pie mixes. They may contain the artificial sweetener xylitol, which is toxic to dogs," Dr. Klein says. Another toxic ingredient in pies, nutmeg, can cause stomach problems in small doses and becomes much more dangerous if a large amount is eaten.
  • Meat bones and skin: Bones can splinter into shards and cause a choking hazard or damage your dog's stomach. The skin is often full of seasonings your dog will have trouble digesting.
  • Alcohol: Drinking too much is just as harmful to dogs as it is to humans, and small doses can be harmful, especially to a small breed.
  • Chocolate, cookies, and sweets: Chocolate contains the toxins theobromine and caffeine, which are harmful or even fatal to dogs. Dairy is difficult for adult dogs to digest. Since the artificial sweetener xylitol, nutmeg, raisins, and macadamia nuts are also toxic to dogs (not to mention most nuts are a choking hazard), it's best to avoid sweets altogether.
  • Garlic, scallions, leeks, and onions: These members of the allium family are toxic and can damage your dog's red blood cells. Don't feed your dog any dish containing these ingredients.
  • Raisins and grapes: Grapes and raisins are very toxic to dogs and cause kidney damage. Eating even one could mean an emergency trip to the vet.
  • Ham: Ham is loaded with salt, sugar, additives, and spices that your dog shouldn't eat. However, you can safely share a chunk of plain pineapple while you're preparing your feast.
  • Gravy, stuffing, and casseroles: These dishes are loaded with a lot of no-nos we've already mentioned: seasonings, onions, and dairy, for instance.

Practice Portion Control

"Breed, age, size, and energy level all factor into how often pets should eat and how much," says Dr. Klein. Moderation is key for sharing food safely. "A general guideline is to never feed dogs weighing 40 pounds or more a portion larger than a deck of cards. For a 20-pound dog, don't exceed half of that amount, and for a 10-pound dog, no more than a quarter of the size of a deck of cards," Dr. Klein says.

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