Sharing Thanksgiving Dinner with Your Dog—Without Making Him Sick

Turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie… Thanksgiving, the most American of all holidays, is almost upon us, and your preparations are probably already in full swing. While you’re busy putting the finishing touches on your menu or excitedly picking up relatives at the airport, make sure you haven’t forgotten to include one very important family member in your plans. Who are we talking about? The dog, of course!

Many of the traditional Thanksgiving foods are safe and healthy for your dog—but not when served how we humans enjoy them best. Some seasonings and spices that give a dish their signature flavor may not agree with canine family members, causing tummy upset. Some dishes may even contain ingredients that are toxic to your best bud. That’s why we’ve whipped up some quick tips and ideas for safe ways to include your pet this holiday.

Keep it Clean


When treating your pet to human food on special occasions, the best tip to avoid gastro upset is to feed everything in moderation and simplify the ingredients. If you do a little prep work ahead of time, you can share Thanksgiving dinner with your dog and let him know how much you appreciate his loyal companionship.

Remember that your dog doesn’t need to try everything from your Thanksgiving spread—he won’t know what he’s missing! If he has diet restrictions, health concerns, or is fed a specialty diet, you will need to adjust the menu accordingly. Remember to keep portion size appropriate for your dog. He will be very grateful for the treat and doesn’t need the calories of a human-sized calorie fest.

Many traditional Thanksgiving foods can be delicious and nutritious for your dog—provided they remain as single-ingredient items. It is all the toppings, seasonings, herbs, and spices that can start to create problems for sensitive tummies. Carrots? Great! As long as they’re not smothered in butter and salt.

Any vegetables that you are serving for dinner should be prepped for your dog the same way that you would prep them for yourself. Vegetables should be washed and peeled, and any bad pieces discarded. Ideally, cooked vegetables are steamed, baked or boiled, and served plain or with only a small amount of olive oil. Prep and cook your vegetables, then set a small portion aside for your dog before dressing them up and seasoning them for serving to your guests.

Do’s and Don’ts


The A-Z list of common Thanksgiving vegetables that are safe for your pup includes asparagus, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, green beans, parsnip, peas, pumpkin, spinach, sweet potatoes, and turnips. Make sure to keep the traditional mashed potatoes on the dining room table. All the creamy goodness that goes into those delicious, smooth mashed potatoes is not good for your dog. Dogs are not able to digest starchy food well and are lactose intolerant. A few plain spuds are ok, but no salt, butter/margarine, or garlic.

While there are plenty of options out there, if they aren’t on this list, do a little research to make sure they are safe before you feed them.

Veggie no’s. These veggies should be kept away from your dog—they are known to cause tummy upsets and may also be toxic: corn, garlic, leeks, and mushrooms; onions, shallots, and all other bulb vegetables.

Toss on the turkey! Dogs love turkey, but they should be fed only cooked, skinless, boneless meat. And if you happen to be forgoing the traditional bird for another protein, other meats are suitable for your dog as well—just choose leaner cuts without seasonings.

Keep in mind that cooked bones are extremely brittle and are prone to splintering. They can become caught or lodged or even perforate intestines. Do not feed any bones to your dog.

Dog-safe gravy: Not everyone knows what to do with or wants to cook the giblets (that little package that is tucked inside your turkey), but dogs love them. To prepare a gravy from them, bring a small pan with water to a boil, add giblets (minus the neck as it contains bones), and cook until no longer pink. Set aside to cool. Puree in a blender or food processor until smooth and drizzle over veggies on your dog’s plate for an extra-special Thanksgiving feast.

Note: Organ meats are very rich; only use this gravy sparingly if your dog is not accustomed to it.

No stuffing, gravy, buns, or human desserts. Skip that good stuff for your dog—but hey, more for you! Stuffing contains lots of seasoning, onions, and bread. Gravy is very fatty and is likely to be a recipe for disaster for your dog’s digestion. Desserts, in general, are best avoided. Sweeteners, rich pie fillings, nuts, and other ingredients are not good for your dog’s teeth or tummy. And of course, chocolate is toxic to canines.

It is OK to garnish the plate with a tiny dollop of cranberry sauce provided it is pure cranberry sauce with no extras or sweeteners added.


Dog-friendly dessert: If you are making homemade pumpkin pie, save a couple tablespoons of pure pumpkin (not the ready-made pie filler) to serve to your pup after dinner as a dessert. Pumpkin is great for helping to stop both diarrhea and constipation (so save some for the next day in case dinner your dog overindulges), and dogs LOVE it.

Most importantly, give thanks!

At Big Barker, our dogs are more important to us than just about anything, and we’re sure you feel the same way about yours. A little planning ahead will let you share one of the best meals of the year with your buddy and in the process let him know how grateful you are for his love and companionship.

Big Barker wishes a very Happy Thanksgiving to you, your family, and most especially your dogs!