Thanksgiving for pets

Puppy_Begging_wSign_blogJust around the corner is Thanksgiving Day, where the nation collectively overeats and naps on the couch while supposedly watching football. We love to celebrate and indulge in abundant feasts with family and friends, and many people consider their pets to be family. The temptation is to let your pet splurge on Thanksgiving with the rest of the family, but be aware that there are many risks associated with letting your pet in on the Thanksgiving feast.

Toxic Foods

Some of the traditional Thanksgiving foods can be toxic to your pets. Alliums are compounds found in garlic, onions and scallions that cause damage to hemoglobin in dogs and cats. A small morsel of cooked onion is unlikely to cause damage, but toxicosis has been seen in animals consuming small amounts repeatedly, so watch the leftovers.

Additionally, grapes and raisins can cause kidney damage in some dogs and should therefore never be offered to them. Xylitol, a sweetener used in some prepared foods, is also toxic to your pet and can cause liver failure in extreme cases. Last but certainly not least, is the one food most people know about being toxic to pets: chocolate. It still remains a good idea to keep the chocolate treats on the people table and out of the dog bowl due to the amount of methylxanthines present, which is dangerous for animals to ingest.

There are also other foods that can be toxic for pets to consume, including many herbs and spices we use in cooking that can cause gastrointestinal upset in our furry friends. A good rule to follow is if you’re not sure it’s safe for your animal, it’s best to not feed it to them.


Overeating can be more than a waistline problem for your pet. Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas that frequently results from ingestion of large, high-fat meals or any meal significantly differing from the normal diet. This inflammation can cause significant problems in your pet, sometimes requiring hospitalization and may even result in lifelong problems like diabetes or exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. Minimize pancreatitis risk this holiday season by making sure to keep any offerings to your pet as a small fraction of their normal diet.  A small piece of turkey (bone-free only) won’t create pancreatitis, but a heaping helping of mashed potatoes oozing in butter and gravy certainly may.

Keep in mind that on a day of heavy cooking like Thanksgiving, there is always a full trash can. Make sure your pet can’t help themselves to a heaping helping of discarded food in the trash. Even the most well-mannered dog might not be able to resist the lure of a trash bag full of delicious scraps.

What can you share?

Not everything on a traditional Thanksgiving table is bad for your pet.  A small, bone-free piece of turkey is a welcome treat for most any pet, however, don’t let them eat the bones as they can land your pet in the hospital very quickly. Pumpkin puree is a welcome dietary addition in small amounts as well, but skip feeding your pet actual pie and give them a dollop of the puree before the filling is mixed. This will allow them to avoid the extra sugar and seasonings. Plain green beans are also appreciated by most dogs as well, so adding a couple beans into the food bowl is a great holiday treat.

Enjoy Thanksgiving with your pet

Extra time would probably be better appreciated by your pet than extra food. Why not walk off that second helping of sweet potato casserole with your dog, or burn a couple extra calories playing with the cat?  On a busy holiday it’s easy for the four-legged family member to get forgotten, so make sure to spend a couple minutes thanking them for all they do for you this Thanksgiving.

Joe Lyman

This blog was written by Neogen’s professional services veterinarian, Dr. Joe Lyman (pictured left).

Neogen would like to wish everyone (and their pets) a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

For more information on Neogen’s animal safety division, check out our website. 

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