Thanksgiving is an ode to the joy of a family meal. For many families, it’s the most important opportunity to reunite, exchange stories, and share conversations. The food is the centerpiece of the entire event, and it’s often regarded as the one day a year where overeating is acceptable, if not encouraged.
But what about your dogs? They’re a part of your family, too. You’ve made such a bounty that it seems a shame to deny your hungry pup a portion of the meal that was made for everyone you love. You might love your dog more than you love some of the people sitting around the table, and it seems absurd to leave your dog out.
Before you start tossing leftovers into your dog’s bowl, it’s important to understand your dog’s nutritional requirements and digestive system. Some food that would be regarded as safe and healthy for people can be toxic for dogs.
Here’s what you need to know before you give people food to your family dog.
Understanding Your Dog’s Dietary Requirements
Humans have evolved to enjoy a wide variety of foods. Dogs have not. Animals don’t need and won’t benefit from several things you can safely snack on. In some cases, human food can be extremely toxic to dogs and may cause stomach upset.
Your dog’s body is built to run efficiently. Dogs should get about 90% of their nutrition and vitamins from foods that properly fuel their bodies, and 10% of their nutrition from treats. It’s absolutely safe to give your dog a small special snack every day, just so long as your dog’s body is equipped to handle it.
Holidays like thanksgiving might be a little different. If you’re able to provide balanced nutrition in the form of human food, scale back on the amount of dog food you’re providing. Adult dogs need between 18% and 25% of their total daily calories to come from a good source of protein. The rest of their vitamins and minerals can come from healthy fats, grains, and vegetables.
Human Foods Dogs Can Eat
Many of the whole foods you add to the grocery list for your human family are perfectly acceptable to your four-legged family. Always choose unprocessed, unseasoned varieties when shopping with your pup in mind.
Additionally, for all of the below, make sure you do a little research to double-check the safe amount to give for each food.
Meat, Poultry, and Fish
Dogs can eat just about every type of meat, poultry, and fish, just so long as the protein is fully cooked before serving. Never feed a dog raw proteins. A bite of medium-rare beef may not be harmful to your dog, but chicken that has not been thoroughly cooked to a safe internal temperature may give your dog salmonella.
Fatty fish, like tuna, can also supply your dog with plenty of healthy fatty acids like omega-3.
In addition to meat, poultry, and fish, dogs can also have eggs and dairy products. Eggs should be fully cooked to avoid food poisoning. A plain scrambled egg is a wonderful occasional treat for your pup, as it's naturally loaded with protein and healthy fats.
Fruits and Vegetables
Many vegetables are great for dogs. Green beans, green peas, asparagus, carrots, broccoli, kale, spinach, sweet potatoes, squash, celery, beets, and cucumbers can all be on the menu for your dog. Many households regularly stock these vegetables. Before you prepare them for the family, set some aside for your pup — your dog doesn’t need all the seasonings you’re about to add (and fares much better off without them, anyway!).
Dogs can also enjoy a couple of cranberries, apples, berries, bananas, mangoes, oranges, peaches, pears, pineapples, watermelon, strawberries, and raspberries. As long as pits, seeds like apple seeds, rinds, and peels are removed from these fruits, dogs can enjoy them in moderation.
Whole grain rice, bran, corn, barley, and oats are valuable additions to a dog’s diet. Many dog food manufacturers use these ingredients to add fiber and increase the satiety factor of dog foods.
Human Foods Dogs Cannot Eat
Most of our favorite indulgences aren’t safe for our pets. This is something to keep in mind before you start giving your dog a sampling of every dish you prepare. Some foods that would be considered healthy foods for people are inherently toxic to dogs.
Chocolate and Other Desserts
Chocolate is toxic to dogs in any form, and the caffeine in chocolate is also harmful in large doses. Other bready and sweet desserts are simply too much for your dog. Dogs cannot handle sugar the same way humans can, and chocolate can lead to diarrhea, tremors or seizures, and weakness. If you want to serve up something sweet, opt for fresh fruit instead.
Many common desserts and chewing gum also contain xylitol, which can lead to liver failure if ingested by your dog.
Toxic Fruits and Vegetables
Tomatoes, avocados, grapes, mushrooms, and cherries should stay off the menu. Grapes are especially toxic to dogs, even in small amounts.
Garlic, Onions, Chives, and Shallots
These aromatics make human meals taste delicious, but they’re extremely unfriendly to your dog’s digestive system, and can harm their red blood cells.
How To Share Thanksgiving With Your Pet
Dogs are very sensitive to fats and spices. We use a lot of butters and oils to prepare decadent holiday meals. While these things are fine for humans in moderation, they may cause great upset to your dog’s digestive system. The best thing you can do on Thanksgiving is save your dog some food before you’ve cooked it in seasoning.
Green beans and sweet potatoes are Thanksgiving staples in most American households. Before you mix the green beans with mushroom soup to make a casserole, set some aside. Before you candy the sweet potatoes, roast some separately without sugar. Your dog can have these plain foods as a healthier, lighter Thanksgiving feast.
If you’ve opted for a lighter Thanksgiving with steamed unseasoned green beans and baked sweet potatoes, your dog can have these foods the same way you served them to your family.
As far as Turkey goes, you may be in trouble. While plain baked or roasted turkey is perfectly safe for dogs to eat, it isn’t how most people prefer their holiday bird. You’ve likely used seasonings like salt, pepper, garlic, onion, and copious amounts of butter.
If you want your dog to join in on the festivities, purchasing a separate turkey drumstick and roasting it plain is the best way to allow them to share the day with you. Just be sure to remove the meat from the skin and bones before you serve it up since poultry bones aren’t safe for your dog like beef or pork bones. You could always just buy boneless turkey, or stick with unseasoned ham.
What If Thanksgiving Stresses My Dog Out?
Around the holidays, you likely have many more people around your home than you’d normally host. Your extended family members may seem like strangers to your dog who can’t help but feel confused and a little overwhelmed by the amount of new people filling a safe and comfortable space. Your dog can’t quite get the memo that the holidays shake everyone up a little bit, and that they’ll eventually pass.
If you’re looking to use food or leftovers to distract or pacify your dog while your home environment is a bit out of sorts, you might want to reconsider. Food might give your dog something to do, but it won’t ease any feelings of emotional tension that naturally occur as a result of temporary environmental distress.
VETCBD Hemp has you covered. Our American grown hemp-derived CBD tincture is designed specifically for your pet, and it’s meant to be used in moments like these. If your dog is a little nervous, shy, or generally uncomfortable when the dinner table is full of people that only come around once or twice a year, CBD tincture can help to ease feelings of emotional discomfort.