How to Share Thanksgiving Dinner With Your Pet

Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

thanksgiving dinner with your pet

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  • If you’d like to share Thanksgiving dinner with your animal companion, this is entirely doable as long as you prepare your feast with your dog or cat in mind
  • There are many traditional human holiday foods that can be safely fed to pets in moderation, including certain vegetables, fruits and nuts
  • Dogs and cats should only be offered certain safe people foods in their purest, simplest form — no butter, spices, sugar or other additives

Most of the pet-centric information published this time of year is full of warnings about holiday hazards for dogs and cats. It’s kind of a shame, don’t you think, that so many things humans enjoy during the holiday season must be kept far away from furry family members?

This is especially true today, when so many of us are under the spell of the wonderful, mouth-watering aromas emanating from the kitchen as Thanksgiving dinner is being prepared. After a day surrounded by such delicious smells, by the time the meal is served, we can’t wait to dig in.

You may also have noticed that your furry companion has spent most of the day sniffing the air and hanging around the kitchen, ever hopeful a morsel of food might slip off the counter or out of someone’s hand.

What If I Want to Share My Thanksgiving Meal With My Pet?

The standard advice for pet guardians during the holiday season is to avoid feeding so-called table scraps. This is because traditional holiday dinners tend to be high-fat feasts that definitely aren’t suitable for pets. There’s also concern about ingredients in human food that can be toxic for pets. Plus, we don’t want to encourage begging behavior.

But with all that said, whether or not you share your Thanksgiving spread with your pet really depends on what the meal consists of and what ingredients are used. If you want to include your animal companion in the festivities, the obvious solution is to simply prepare pet-friendly dishes. For example, cooked turkey meat is fine for both dogs and cats. A few fresh cooked veggies such as plain (no flavorings or additives of any kind) green beans or yams are also fine.

Examples of Thanksgiving people food you definitely don’t want to give your pet include dressing (stuffing); dishes containing raisins or grapes; dishes containing onions, leeks or chives; bread, rolls, or butter; processed or sugary foods; and all desserts.

I also recommend blending a small portion of safe people food with your pet’s regular food and offering it at her usual mealtime rather than handing over treats from your plate at the table or in the kitchen during meal preparation or cleanup. Animals have very long memories when it comes to human gestures involving food, and just one tasty snack delivered from your hand to her mouth can turn a pet who never begged into a pet who makes begging her life’s work.

15 Thanksgiving Foods and Snacks Safe for Dogs and Cats

Most of these foods will be more popular with dogs than cats, but they’re safe for both. They should be served plain (no sugar, salt or spices, butter, or other additives), in moderation, and in small portions.

1. Apples — Apples contain powerful antioxidants and vitamin C. Serve apple slices to your pet, but never the core or seeds. Apples also contain pectin, which is great for the gut.

2. Blueberries — Fresh or frozen, blueberries are loaded with phytochemicals, and their deep blue hue is the result of anthocyanidins, which are powerful antioxidants. Blueberries are also a good source of healthy fiber, manganese, and vitamins C and E.

3. Carrots — Carrots are low in calories and high in fiber and vitamins. Many dogs enjoy snacking on a fresh crunchy carrot (or serve them steamed). Carrots are very beneficial in helping the body eliminate mycotoxins.

4. Broccoli — Broccoli supports detoxification processes in your pet's body; contains healthy fiber to aid digestion; is rich in beneficial nutrients like potassium, calcium, protein and vitamin C; has anti-inflammatory properties; supports eye health; helps repair skin damage; and supports heart health.

As an added bonus, even, conventionally grown broccoli is one of the cleanest (most pesticide-free) foods you can buy. Your pet may prefer broccoli steamed.

5. Kale — This dark green cruciferous vegetable is loaded with vitamins (especially beta carotene and vitamins K and C), iron, and antioxidants. Because it boosts glutathione levels it helps with liver detoxification and also has anti-inflammatory properties.

6. Fermented vegetables — If you happen to be serving fermented veggies as part of your Thanksgiving feast, definitely offer some to your pet. Fermented foods are potent detoxifiers and contain much higher levels of probiotics and vitamin K2 than supplements can provide. Beneficial gut bacteria provided by probiotics break down and eliminate heavy metals and other toxins from the body and perform a number of other important functions.

7. Raw pumpkin seeds — Pepitas, or raw pumpkin seeds, are a rich source of minerals, vitamin K, and phytosterols. They also contain L-tryptophan and are a good source of zinc, vitamin E, and B vitamins. Research suggests pumpkin seeds can prevent calcium oxalate kidney stones, reduce inflammation caused by arthritis, and support prostate health.

8. Sweet potatoes — Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene and antioxidants and are also high in vitamins A and C. Sweet potatoes with purple flesh have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may lower the risk from heavy metals and oxygen radicals.

9. Green beans — Fresh, locally grown green beans are a source of vitamins A, C, and K. They also provide calcium, copper, fiber, folic acid, iron, niacin, manganese, potassium, riboflavin and thiamin, as well as beta carotene.

10. Spinach — This green leafy vegetable helps has anti-inflammatory properties and can help support heart health (it also contains thylakoids that can suppress hunger and cravings for junk food surprisingly well!).1

11. Asparagus — Asparagus is an excellent source of beta carotene, vitamin K, B1, B2, C and E, along with the folate, iron, copper, fiber, manganese and potassium. It’s also loaded with gut-loving prebiotic fiber.

12. Pumpkin — Pumpkin is a great source of fiber, vitamin A and antioxidants. It can help alleviate both diarrhea and constipation. Make sure to offer your pet either fresh pumpkin or 100% canned pumpkin — not pumpkin pie filling.

13. Yogurt — Plain organic yogurt is microbiome-building and most pets love it.

14. Cottage cheese — Like yogurt, plain organic cottage cheese provides calcium and protein. Even better, fresh white cheese (queso blanco) can improve your dog’s microbiome.2

15. Raw almonds, cashews, and Brazil nuts — These nuts, served in moderation and very small portions, are safe for dogs. Nuts are a good source of vitamin E and trace minerals, including selenium. Never offer pets macadamia nuts.

If you’re in the mood to prepare some special homemade treats for your animal companion over the holidays, be sure to request my free e-book Homemade Treats for Healthy Pets, which contains nutritious, easy-to-prepare recipes for both cats and dogs.

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