It might be tempting to just scoop some stuffing and a few bites of turkey into your pet’s bowl on Thanksgiving, but beware: Onions, raisins, garlic, and other ingredients in Thanksgiving staples can be harmful to your pet. Instead, let your pets enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with species-appropriate meals and snacks that don’t include harmful ingredients.
Unless your dog or cat is allergic, turkey, either raw or lightly cooked, is a great protein source. Pets accustomed to raw meals or snacks can enjoy the turkey’s neck and giblets raw, provided they don’t eat kibble for 12 hours before or after. If your pet is sensitive to chicken or is on a low-sodium diet, make sure you’re not using a turkey basted or injected with a “flavoring solution.” This may contain chicken broth and usually contains lots of salt. That being said, a raw turkey neck is a great Thanksgiving dinner for most dogs. It helps to clean the teeth, tastes great, and is fun to eat. Even cats can gnaw on a slice of raw neck or lap up some turkey liver.
If you’re not ready to try feeding raw (Consider it! It’s great!), pets can enjoy some cooked turkey breast, provided you avoid placing onions or garlic under the skin. Onions can cause anemia. Garlic is okay for some pets, but should be fed only in very small amounts and after consulting with your veterinarian, as it can also cause a bad reaction in some pets.
Never give cooked turkey bones to pets. Raw bones are digestible and won’t splinter, but cooked bones are very dangerous. They could cause choking or even splinter and puncture the stomach or intestines. Even raw bones should be given to pets only when a human is supervising and ready to intervene if a bone becomes lodged in the throat or between two teeth.
Cranberries are healthful for both dogs and cats. The sugar added to cranberry sauces and jellies? Not so much. If you’d like to let your pet share the cranberry sauce, just give him or her some fresh cranberries. If those don’t appeal to your pet, separate out some cranberries and sweeten them with a small amount of blackstrap molasses rather than plain sugar. Or, purchase one of the many cranberry treats on the market for both dogs and cats. Cranberry juice is also safe and healthful, so long as it’s not loaded with sugar. Both dogs and cats, particularly females, will benefit from the helpful effects of cranberries on the urinary system. UTIs can be prevented and sometimes even treated with cranberry supplements.
Stuffing usually contains onions, garlic, raisins, and various other ingredients not safe for canine or feline consumption. Plus, bread’s not a healthful part of a carnivore’s diet in the first place. Instead of sharing stuffing with your pet, just give them some plain turkey liver.
Sweet Potatoes (Yams)
By whichever name you call them, sweet potatoes or yams are a great snack for dogs! Cats can try them, too, although I’ve yet to meet a cat who really enjoys them. Leave the brown sugar and marshallows off a baked yam for your dog, or cut one into strips and use a food dehydrator or an oven at a very low temperature to make sweet potato jerky. Yams are rich in Vitamin A and also contain long fiber, which is helpful for digestion.
Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
Unlike sweet potatoes, white potatoes have little or no nutritional value for carnivores. Gravy often contains harmful ingredients like garlic. Leave this side dish off the menu.
Sugar, whipped cream, and the grains in pie crust are no good for dogs, but pumpkin is great! Save some plain pumpkin, either fresh or from a can, for the dogs and cats in your life. Pumpkin is great for the digestive system when given as an occasional supplement or to treat diarrhea or constipation.