Dogs and Thanksgiving – 9 tips for a safe celebration

Dogs and Thanksgiving – 9 tips for a safe celebration

There’s nothing better than getting friends and family together to celebrate Thanksgiving with a spectacular dinner. But if your family includes members with four paws, fur and a talent for snaffling things they shouldn’t, extra care is needed.

Thanksgiving offers our dogs numerous opportunities to eat something they shouldn’t. Our dogs can get themselves into a lot of trouble in a very short space of time.

Whether it’s well-meaning guests slipping something tasty from their plate or a  stolen treasure from a momentarily unguarded table. Nothing dampens the holiday spirit faster than a sick dog.

So here are our tips for keeping the holiday spirit alive and our dogs safe.

House rules

While your guests may mean well. Feeding your dog inappropriate or even dangerous foods will not go down well with you or your dog.

Set up some house rules so that everyone knows what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour towards your dog.

If your guests are inexperienced with dogs or you think they will succumb to puppy dog eyes, keep your dog away from the table.

Separating your dog from the rest of the family is not a punishment. It’s a safety measure that you can teach your dog to enjoy by making it an enriching experience.

Interactive feeders are a great way of keeping your dog occupied while apart from the family group. They can be stuffed with a variety of fillings and frozen to make the experience last even longer.

Talking Turkey

Plain turkey meat is okay for your dog as long as it’s cooked and boneless. On the whole, the lean white meat is easier to digest than the darker fatty meat so is less likely to upset your dog’s stomach.

Stay away from giving your dog turkey skin. Not only is it fatty but with all the butter and spices that are rubbed into it makes it additionally hard for your dog to digest.

Make no bones about it

While offering your dog some turkey pieces are OK, cooked bones are off limits.

While raw bones can be fed safely (with supervision), cooked bones should never be given to your dog.  As cooking a bone changes its structure, drying it out and making it brittle.

This increases the chances that the bone will splinter as your dog chews, and these splinters are problematic.

Splinters can cause severe injuries including cuts, lacerations and blockages in the mouth, throat, stomach and intestines. So keep your dog well away from all cooked bones especially birds as the bones are hollow and much more likely to crack.

Bin there, done that

Bin safety is vital. Turkey smells, and it smells delicious to your dog. No matter how well you hide the turkey carcass, you will not fool your dog.

Hunting for food comes naturally to our dogs, and if you don’t secure the remains of your Thanksgiving meal, it’s likely to make a reappearance all over your kitchen floor.

What’s more, it’s not only the turkey that your dog is going to find in your trash. Any number of food and non-food items are temptations for your dog and potentially dangerous.


It goes without saying that you should never give your dog chocolate. However, in the midst of such a busy time, it can be easy to forget to keep candy and sweets out of your dog’s reach.

Not only that, but visitors may not know the danger that chocolate poses to your dog. So make sure that it’s covered as one of the house rules or keep your dog away from your guests and temptation.

I want to be alone

Let’s face it, not every dog wants to socialise. We may want to include our dogs in all the festivities, but for some dogs, it’s much more relaxing to chill out away from all the activity and noise.

An overexcited or stressed dog is not a happy one. Dogs can struggle to cope with the higher than usual visitor and noise levels around the holidays.

Unfortunately, if you’re too busy to notice the signs that your dog is showing you that they’re uncomfortable they don’t have many options.

A stressed dog is much more likely to show behaviours that are unacceptable to us like not leaving people alone, humping and nipping.

Keep everyone safe and provide a quiet, secure place for your dog to escape to if they need to.

If you can’t stand the heat

Stay out of the kitchen. While staying out of the kitchen is impractical for you there are lots of reasons why it’s a good idea to keep your dog out.

Not only are kitchens full of inherent dangers – hot pans, knives, boiling water and dog toxic foods to name a few. But tripping over a dog that’s determined to see what you’re up to and it’s a recipe for disaster.

Although it’s not always possible to segregate your dog, it’s worth teaching your dog the command ‘go to place‘.

Simply put, it means that your dog can safely remain in the kitchen with you where you can both keep an eye on each other.

Just a small one for me

Indulging in a small ( or not so small) glass or bottle of something alcoholic is common on Thanksgiving, but keep it well away from your dog.

Even a small amount of alcohol can have devastating consequences for your dog. Unfortunately, ethanol poisoning is common at this time of year.

And it’s not only alcohol drunk for a glass or bottle that is dangerous. Any food that contains alcohol like rum cake, for example, is potentially lethal for your dog.

What’s more, if baking bread is on your things to do list this Thanksgiving the uncooked dough carries the same risk to your dog as alcohol.

Our dog’s stomach provides the perfect environment for the yeast in the dough to grow and ferment.

So not only is your dog at risk of alcohol poisoning but the expanding dough can damage organs and create breathing difficulties.

Finally, a word of warning about turkey accompaniments. It’s hard to think of a turkey dinner without some kind of stuffing.

Yet many stuffing recipes include onions or garlic that along with vegetables like leeks are members of the Allium family and are toxic to dogs.

All members of the Allium group contain a compound called N-propyl disulphide. This compound affects the red blood cells leading to anaemia.

In severe cases, the effects of N-propyl disulphide can lead to internal organ damage and even death. So keep the stuffing where it belongs and well away from your dog.

Thanksgiving meals for dogs

While it may seem like a long list of don’ts, there are some foods you can safely share with your dog this Thanksgiving, in moderation.

  • Turkey, plain white meat
  • Cranberries, fresh (not in sauce)
  • Pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Apple slices, before they go in the pie!

There you have our safe seven food items that are fine if you want to treat your dog to a little Thanksgiving cheer.

But if you’d rather be completely safe you can always opt for a commercial food made especially for the occasion.

Dogs and Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving should be an enjoyable day spent with friends and family. A day of appreciation and relaxation without the worry of a sick dog.

While we may view our dogs as members of our family and want to include them as much as possible in the atmosphere of the day, their safety should come first.  Because a happy, healthy dog is always something to be thankful for.

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