Safe & Unsafe Thanksgiving Foods for Dogs & Cats

 A dog and cat sitting in front of a thanksgiving dinner, representing a thanksgiving dinner for dogs or thanksgiving dinner for cats

Thanksgiving is a time of togetherness, and it's only natural to want to share some of the holiday joy with our furry friends. However, not all Thanksgiving foods are safe for dogs and cats. It's crucial for pet parents to be aware of what dogs and cats can and cannot eat to ensure their health and well-being.

This complete guide talks about safe and unsafe foods that pet parents need to note when preparing a Thanksgiving treat or Thanksgiving dinner for dogs or cats

What’s in This Guide? 

General Guidelines: Preparing a Thanksgiving Dinner for Dogs & Cats

Before we begin, here are a few general guidelines for preparing a Thanksgiving dinner for dogs and cats:

1. Avoid Sharing Food From The Table

Though it may be tempting to give dogs and cats some Thanksgiving treats straight out of our dinner plates, this is not always recommended. Some Thanksgiving foods have a high-fat content, a choking hazard, or a harmful spice or ingredient  — all of which can cause adverse reactions in dogs and cats.

2. Prepare Separate Thanksgiving Treats or Toppers for Dogs & Cats

All in all, the best way to include fur babies in Thanksgiving festivities is to prepare a separate Thanksgiving dinner for dogs or a Thanksgiving dinner for cats. The good news is these “pet dinners” are easy to prepare with NO SPICES REQUIRED.

All of the following safe Thanksgiving foods for pets are best cooked plainly (boiled, grilled, or baked) — WITHOUT any spices. This is the healthiest option and many pets will still greatly appreciate the taste of plain turkey or unseasoned pureed pumpkin.

3. Cats Will More Likely Eat Veggies in Pureed Form

Dogs are omnivores, meaning they can derive nutrients from both animal protein and certain dog-friendly fruits and vegetables. On the other hand, cats are obligate carnivores, meaning their bodies are best suited for digesting animal protein. 

However, various brands of both dog food AND cat food contain vegetables as ingredients. This is because vegetables, when prepared properly, can be beneficial for both dogs and cats. However, due to a cat's biological makeup, they may dislike vegetables if the veggies are only cooked and diced.

For pet parents who are looking to give their cats an added dose of fiber from vegetables, it would be best to puree the cooked, unseasoned, cat-friendly vegetables to make them more appealing for cats.

Thanksgiving Treats or Pet Food Toppers for Dogs & Cats

Wondering what to give your dog or cat this Thanksgiving? These are the best people food for dogs and cats  which can be used as standalone treats or pet food toppers for Thanksgiving.  

Using these foods as pet food toppers will ensure your dog or cat gets a taste of Thanksgiving — while also getting their daily required nutrients from your chosen AAFCO-compliant dog food or cat food!

Note: Not sure how much food toppers or treats to give your dog or cat? The general rule is that treats and toppers should comprise only 10 percent of a dog or cat’s intake for the day.

1. Cooked, Unseasoned Turkey or Chicken

Cooked turkey or chicken, without any seasoning, is a safe and protein-rich treat for dogs and cats during Thanksgiving. Make sure to take out all the bones as these can become a choking hazard for dogs and cats.

Both turkey and chicken are high in protein and low in fat. And as long as your furry friend is not allergic to this type of protein, this is a very healthy treat or pet food topper — one that will enhance your Thanksgiving dinner for dogs or cats. 

2. Cooked, Unseasoned Beef

Got a pup or kitty that is allergic to chicken or turkey? If so, beef is a great alternative Thanksgiving treat or pet food topper! Beef is a great source of protein. Similar to chicken and turkey, beef needs to be prepared with care: make sure that the meat is completely cooked and all the bones are removed.  

3. Unseasoned Scrambled Eggs

Eggs are used in many Thanksgiving recipes. It can also be used for cooking a small batch of unseasoned scrambled eggs; this is a cat- and dog-friendly treat that is rich in protein, vitamin D, and riboflavin. Serve these up as scrumptious pet food toppers to give dogs and cats an extra special something for Thanksgiving!

4. Cooked, Unseasoned Pumpkin

Pumpkin, an iconic autumn, and Thanksgiving fruit, is also a tasty treat or pet food topper for dogs and cats. Cooked, unseasoned pumpkin is a great source of fiber which can aid in digestion for both dogs and cats. Pumpkin is also rich in beta-carotene which is essential for maintaining healthy eyes, coat, and bones.

5. Cooked Unseasoned Green Beans

Looking to cook some Thanksgiving casseroles or appetizers using green beans? Try setting aside a few green beans for your furry friend. Cooked, unseasoned green beans are a great source of fiber, as well as potassium, which is great for maintaining optimal muscle and nerve function.

Thanksgiving Foods That Are Harmful to Dogs & Cats

Now that we covered the food that you can include in a Thanksgiving dinner for dogs or Thanksgiving dinner for cats, here are a few ingredients and components that should be kept away from our furry friends. 

1. Bones

Avoid giving dogs and cats bones (even if the bones are cooked). Bones of any kind can become choking hazards or parts of it can get swallowed, potentially causing an intestinal blockage or perforation. 

2.  Stuffing

Stuffing is a seasoned mixture that is considered a Thanksgiving staple. However, it’s not safe to share with furry friends. Many stuffing recipes contain onions and garlic, which are harmful to dogs and cats. Garlic and onion ingestion can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and damage to red blood cells. 

Note: There are also other spices (e.g. nutmeg, salt, cocoa powder, etc) that can cause harm to our four-legged companions. This is one of the reasons why bland treats (without any seasoning) are recommended for pets.

3. Alcohol

Ensure that alcoholic beverages and dishes with alcohol are kept away from dogs and cats. Alcohol, even in small amounts, can be toxic to pets. Alcohol ingestion in dogs and cats can lead to vomiting and diarrhea. In severe cases, they may also experience breathing difficulties, seizures, and coordination problems.  

4. Desserts

It is not advisable to share Thanksgiving desserts with dogs and cats. Traditional Thanksgiving desserts could have ingredients that are harmful or toxic to our furry companions. Here is a list of common ingredients and their effect on dogs and cats: 

  • Chocolate - Chocolate is toxic to dogs and cats. Ingestion can lead to serious symptoms (vomiting, tremors, comatose) and fatality. 
  • Xylitol  - Xylitol is toxic to dogs and cats. Ingestion can lead to serious symptoms (vomiting, loss of coordination, seizures) and fatality. 
  • Grapes and raisins - Grapes and raisins are toxic to dogs and cats. Grape ingestion can lead to kidney failure.
  • Macadamia nuts -  Macadamia nuts are harmful to dogs and cats. Macadamia nut ingestion can lead to vomiting, loss of coordination, muscle weakness, and hyperthermia.
  • Sugar and artificial sweeteners - Sugar and artificial sweeteners are not healthy for dogs and cats. These ingredients, especially in high amounts, can cause gastrointestinal problems in dogs and cats, producing symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. 

Note: If your dog or cat has ingested any harmful food items, make sure to get in touch with an emergency or urgent care veterinarian. In cases wherein a pet has ingested a toxin like chocolate, xylitol, grapes, raisins, or alcohol, it would be best to also get in touch with the Pet Poison Helpline for immediate assistance.

Final Thoughts on Thanksgiving Treats or Toppers for Dogs & Cats

Remember that moderation is key when sharing people food with dogs and cats. By following the above guidelines, you can ensure that your pets enjoy a safe and happy Thanksgiving alongside the family.

If you have any questions or concerns, we are here to help! Sploot Veterinary Care is a primary & urgent care veterinarian with multiple convenient locations. Our clinic doors are open 365 days a year for extended hours, including holidays like Thanksgiving. Schedule an appointment online or through the Sploot Vets app!

Till next time, we’re with you every pounce of the way!