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Which Thanksgiving leftovers are safe to give your dog?

Thanksgiving is a time of indulgence and celebration, but it’s important to remember that our dogs have different dietary needs. 

In a recent report from the American Kennel Club, veterinary experts highlight the importance of being mindful about what we share with our dogs during this festive season.

Key Points

  • Turkey meat, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin are all safe, healthy foods to share with your dog.
  • Bones, sweets, alcohol, and fatty foods are all things that you should avoid giving dogs.

Sweet potatoes 

Dr. Gary Richter, author of The Ultimate Pet Health Guide: Breakthrough Nutrition and Integrative Care for Dogs and Cats, pointed out that sweet potatoes are a great source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and beta-carotene. “Sweet potato treats can be as simple as a dehydrated sweet potato chew.” 

The experts noted that you should not give your pet sweet potatoes loaded up with added ingredients like brown sugar, marshmallows, or maple syrup. Plain mashed sweet potatoes are also an option.


“Apples are full of vitamins A and C and contain lots of great fiber, making them a healthy Thanksgiving treat for your pet,” said Dr. Richter. 

“However, if you’re sharing an apple with your pooch, be sure to cut around the core, as large amounts of apple seeds can be toxic.” 

Turkey meat

Plain, cooked turkey meat is a great source of protein for dogs. Dr. Sarah Ochoa said that it’s okay to give your dog turkey meat as long as it has not been prepared with any seasoning.

Dr. Jerry Klein, chief veterinary officer for the American Kennel Club, advises owners to skip the turkey bones, as well as the turkey’s skin. 

“Skin itself can be fatty, and the outer layer of the turkey’s skin was likely slathered in butter or oil before cooking, all of which can add up to triggering a bout of painful and dangerous pancreatitis or other digestive issues for your dog,” the experts wrote. 

“If you’d like to share turkey with your dog without worrying about preparing a separate, dog-safe portion, you can look for Thanksgiving-themed canned dog food that did the work for you.”

Green beans 

“With ample amounts of plant fiber, manganese, and vitamins C and K, plain green beans are great for dogs,” said Dr. Richter. The green beans should be prepared and served plain, without added ingredients like butter or salt. 

The experts noted that plain peas make a good addition to a dog’s diet in moderation, but creamed peas are a no-go, just like creamy mashed potatoes. They say that any fatty food or casserole can cause digestive issues.


“Pumpkin itself is a very healthy snack,” explained Dr. Richter. “Pumpkin helps with digestive health and it’s great for a dog’s skin and coat. Also, if feeding canned pumpkin, make sure it’s just pure pumpkin puree and not the pre-spiced or sugary pie mix.”

Plain yogurt

Plain frozen yogurt is okay for dogs, but make sure to read the label and look for xylitol, which can be fatal to dogs. The calcium, protein, and probiotics in plain yogurt are good for a dog’s digestive system. 

Dr. Klein warned that Thanksgiving coincides with an uptick in emergency vet visits across the U.S. because of the unsafe “human” food that dogs end up consuming at this time of year. 

Due to the potential for unsafe or unhealthy ingredients, the following foods should not be shared with dogs at Thanksgiving: 

  • Turkey bones, skin, and gravy
  • Stuffing
  • Casseroles
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Creamed peas
  • Chocolate, cookies, pies, and sweets (as well as anything “sugar-free” or containing xylitol, which can be fatal for dogs)
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Raisins and grapes
  • Onions, scallions, and garlic
  • Ham
  • Yeast dough
  • Fatty foods
  • Foods containing spices

In summary, as we gather around the Thanksgiving table, it’s important to remember that what’s a treat for us can be dangerous for our pets.

By avoiding risky foods and opting for safer alternatives, we can ensure that our dogs enjoy the holiday just as much as we do, without any health complications. Moderation is key, and when in doubt, it’s always best to stick to your dog’s regular diet.


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