Howliday Feasting Follies and More 

Dr. Jessica Sims, Owner / Veterinarian at Oakwell Animal Hospital


Hey there, pet parents! Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and if you’re anything like me, you’re already daydreaming about that glorious feast. But what about our furry friends, our loyal companions who drool at the sight of a turkey leg? Let’s explore what your pet can safely indulge in from the Thanksgiving table without turning the holiday into a veterinary emergency.

Appetizers: The Snack Attack

First things first, let’s dive into the appetizers. Before the big meal, you might be tempted to sneak a few morsels to your eager pet, but exercise caution. Hors d’oeuvres with tiny toothpick swords might look awfully tasty to your fluffballs but they will NOT feel good going down (or coming back up). And although caramelized onions are possibly the single tastiest thing in the whole world (author’s opinion), they are bad news bears for our four-legged friends. That onion toxin does not mess around!

Turkey Time: Bird Is the Word

Ah, the turkey – the pièce de résistance of the Thanksgiving spread! But before you serve up that succulent slice, remember: a plain, cooked piece of turkey meat is generally safe for your pet. No gravy, though – it’s a sodium overload and will leave your pet thirstier than a marathon runner in the Sahara and don’t get me started on the fat levels in there! That’s an emergency pancreatitis vet visit just waiting to happen.

Now, while many pet owners already know to be cautious about bones, let me save the rest of you from an expensive and dangerous mistake. It’s oh-so tempting to give Baxter a ham bone to chew or Tucker a turkey leg, but be strong, dear reader! Bones can splinter and cut the digestive tract or mouth, they can cause GI obstructions if too large and they can break teeth if too hard. Try treating your pet to small, boneless, fully cooked pieces of your ham or turkey and skip the emergency surgery this year. 

Mashed Madness: The Potato Dilemma

Mashed potatoes might be the ultimate comfort food, but they’re also riddled with butter, salt, and cream. While the thought of your pet taking a plunge into a mashed potato mound is comical, it’s not a good idea. Feeding them a plain, unsalted, and unseasoned spoonful won’t hurt. Anything else might lead to your pet becoming a couch potato with an upset stomach.

Veggie Ventures: The Green Options

Vegetables like green beans, carrots, and plain, cooked peas can be a safe bet. Just remember, the holiday doesn’t call for creamed spinach or candied yams for your pet. It’s like offering them a passport to Flavourtown, only for them to hit the road to Gastrointestinal Distressville.

Bread Basics: The Loaf Legacy

Bread, the universal filler of bellies, may be on your pet’s radar. A small piece of plain, unsalted bread won’t do any harm. Just make sure your pet doesn’t go carb crazy and devour half a loaf – we’re aiming for portion control here.

Stay Far Away from the Sweet Stuff

It’s not all chuckles and giggles, though. You need to be dead serious when it comes to sweets. Chocolate, which often makes an appearance in holiday desserts, is a big no-no. If your pet gets their paws on it, it’s time for an emergency room visit – and that’s not the kind of Thanksgiving tale you want to recount.

Sugar-free treats can also be a hazard because they often contain xylitol. This sugar substitute can cause a serious hypoglycemia in dogs that can end in tragedy if not addressed right away.

Fruit Conundrum: Tread Lightly

While fruits like apples and pears are a healthy addition to your meal, make sure to serve them in moderation. A small piece without seeds or cores is fine, but don’t expect your pet to participate in a fruit salad eating contest. Also, keep grapes and raisins and avocado locked away like they’re precious family heirlooms – they can be seriously toxic to pets.

On the subject of fruits, try giving your pet some hardy kiwi. You might be wondering “What the heck is that?” as I was this time last year, but new research shows that this relative to the kiwi fruit we all know and love is actually great for pets skin and fur!

The Stuffing Quandary: No-go Zone

Stuffing, that mouthwatering mixture of bread, herbs, and spices, isn’t a pet-friendly dish. Onions and garlic, often used in stuffing, are toxic to pets and can lead to a variety of health issues. It’s best to keep the stuffing for your plate and not your pet’s.

Pumpkin Spice Dilemma: Handle with Care

Pumpkin can be a healthy option for pets in small, plain quantities. In moderation, those cans of plain pumpkin are actually pretty good for the digestive tract. But the spice-infused pumpkin pie or your PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte) is an absolute “paws off” for your furry friends. The excess sugar and spices in these concoctions can wreak havoc on your pet’s digestive system.

Begging Dilemma: The Persistent Performer

Now, let’s address the elephant (or perhaps more aptly, the begging dog) in the room. Thanksgiving is prime time for your pet’s best acting performance. Those puppy-dog eyes, the occasional paw on your leg, and the dramatic sighs – it’s all part of the show. And who can resist that? My boxer likes to lay his big head on my lap with jowls flapped to both sides and gives me the saddest look you’ve ever seen.

But remember, while your pet’s antics are comedy gold, it’s essential to stay firm with your “no table scraps” policy. A few extra tidbits here and there may seem harmless, but the cumulative effect can turn your pet into a pudgy stand-up comedian.


In conclusion, Thanksgiving with your pet can be filled with chuckles and warm fuzzies, but, as with any good comedy act, timing and moderation are key. Stick to small portions of safe and unseasoned foods, be diligent about avoiding harmful treats, and keep a watchful eye on your pet’s antics. And when the Thanksgiving meal is over, reward your pet for being a good sport with some post-dinner cuddles, belly rubs, and a festive pet-safe treat.

Enjoy your holiday, keep your pet safe, and have yourselves a memorable (in a good way) Thanksgiving!

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