Thanksgiving Leftovers You Can Give Your Pet (And Those You Cant)

By Catherine Troiano

Thanksgiving dinner is like the holiday season kick off. The festivities are all about family, food and merriment. Your canine companion and feline friend are both cherished members of your family, making it difficult to resist those pleading faces at the table. You do not have to deny your furry family members Thanksgiving treats in its entirety, but it is essential to familiarize yourself with the foods and ingredients that are safe for your pets before sneaking them your yummy leftovers.

Say No to Alcohol

Water is the only beverage that your pet should be sipping.


As your guests arrive, drinks will be poured and passed to keep them socializing while you finish preparing the big dinner. Do not let your dog or cat drink anything besides water. The alcohol contained in wine, beer, hard cider, spirits and mixed cocktails depresses the central nervous system and causes diminished coordination, vomiting, respiratory distress, tremors, coma and even death.

Say No to Nuts

Avoid macadamias and other nuts. Offer a peanut butter treat instead.


Many nuts are dangerous for your pets. When ingested, toxins found in some nuts cause weakness, lethargy, tremors, increased body temperature and vomiting. Some nuts are high in fat content and can cause pancreatitis in animals. The exception is peanut butter. Peanuts belong to the legume family and do not pose the hazards that arise from eating macadamia nuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, or almonds. Fill your dog’s Kong toy with peanut butter the night before and freeze it. As guests start to nibble, the frozen Kong treat will keep your dog occupied, content, and out of trouble for a little while.

Say No to Alliums

An onion by any other name is still a dangerous allium.

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Alliums include onions, garlic, chives, scallions, leeks and shallots. These are commonly used ingredients in a variety of appetizers, entrees and sides dishes, including dips, salads, soups and stuffing. Although garlic or onion may be one of the ingredients in your pet’s commercial food, the amount is extremely low. Sharing any of your Thanksgiving Day cooking that contains alliums puts your pet at risk for blood cell damage or toxic anemia.

Say Yes to Turkey

Thoroughly cooked, lean and boneless turkey morsels will be greatly enjoyed.

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Aromas from your juicy, golden brown, bird tantalize your dog and cat. They can both enjoy this quintessential entrée of Thanksgiving as long as you take care to remove all the bones. Bones from poultry are soft, brittle, and unsafe for your pet to chew or gnaw on. They can break and become stuck in your pet’s throat or esophagus or splinter and perforate the bowel during digestion. Offer white meat, which is leaner, when carving turkey for your pets. Never feed raw or undercooked turkey to your pets or they will be at risk for contracting salmonella poisoning.

Say Yes to Pasta

Pasta can help to satiate their appetites safely.

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If you are incorporating some Italian pasta into your family’s festive meal or offering macaroni and cheese for the kids, pasta is safe for pets. Keep in mind that most cats are lactose intolerant and some dogs suffer gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea, when they consume dairy products. Play it safe by offering plain pasta or rice, sprinkling your dog’s portion with a small amount of cheese only if you know that his tummy tolerates it.

Say No to Stuffing

The stuffing bread may be safe, but other ingredients are not.

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Most stuffing recipes contain the above-mentioned alliums. Many also call for sage and other herbs which contain essential oils that, when consumed by your pet, can result in central nervous system depression and gastrointestinal issues.

Say No to Gravy

Gravy is tasty on your turkey, but potentially hazardous on theirs.

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Gravy recipes tend to be rich in fat and seasoned with alliums and herbs. Fatty foods can cause pancreatitis in your pets, a dangerous and painful condition that requires hospitalization. If you want to add saucy appeal to your pet’s turkey tidbits, consider using one of the commercial gravy products that is specifically formulated for pets.

Say Yes to Cranberry Sauce

A teaspoon of cranberry sauce is fine; dried cranberries are better.

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Cranberries are a safe fruit to give your pets, but keep the cranberry sauce treat portion small. The added sugar that gets heaped into cranberry sauce is not good for your furry friends. As with humans, excess sugar consumption leads to obesity and diabetes in your pet. Consider a teaspoon of plain dried cranberries sprinkled over your pet’s food instead.

Say Yes to Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are a good treat, but make theirs plain, please.

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Potatoes, including sweet potatoes, are perfectly fine for your pets. Mashed potatoes are a nice treat as long as they do not contain unsafe ingredients like roasted garlic or chives. If you are going heavy on the butter or cream, that richness may be too much for your pet’s digestive system, resulting in a bout of diarrhea or vomiting. Before mashing the boiled potatoes, segregate some for your furry friends to mash separately without additives for the safest option.

Say Yes to Vegetables

Offering baby carrots is a good low calorie treat option.

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Green beans, peas, carrots, squash, and asparagus are excellent, low calorie fare for pets. When cooking these vegetables, put some aside for your furry friends before adding seasonings, butter and sauces.

Say No to Raisins

Your pets may like grapes and raisins, but his kidneys don't..

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Many baked goods and stuffing recipes call for raisins, which are dried grapes. The precise toxin that is contained in raisins and grapes is still unknown, but consumption of these fruits by dogs and cats can prompt kidney failure.

Say Yes to Pumpkin

Plain pumpkin puree is loaded with nutritious benefits.

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Pumpkin offers a host of health benefits for our pets, including fiber for gastrointestinal health, water and several vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, beta-carotene and potassium. Offer your pet a spoonful of pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie filling. The latter contains added sugar and spices that may cause gastrointestinal upset. Remember that many baking ingredients, including baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg and other spices, pose toxicity to your pets.

Say No to Chocolate

Avoid all chocolate and chocolate products, including white variations.

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All chocolate contains a substance called theobromine, which is poisonous to dogs and cats. When ingested, the toxic treat causes panting, vomiting, diarrhea, increased water intake and urinary output, tremors, seizures and abnormal heart rhythms. Theobromine can even cause death. Baking chocolate contains the highest levels of theobromine. Be aware that even white chocolate contains it as well.

Say No to Avocado

Through and through, every part of the avocado can be harmful.

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If you are cooking a Thanksgiving dinner with a southwestern twist, avoid slipping a slice of avocado to your pet. Persin, a substance that is found in all parts of the avocado, can illicit vomiting and diarrhea.

Say Yes to Fruit Only

Plain fruit in small quantities are safer choices than the pies.

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If you are baking an apple pie or a bread with dried cranberries, setting some slices of apple or a spoonful of the cranberries aside in their natural form will give your pet a safe taste of dessert without the added sugars. Other safe fruit treats include blueberries and bananas. You can share a single bite of your finished dessert, but do not let your furry little one lick raw batter or bread dough. Batter contains raw eggs, which can cause salmonella poisoning. Raw bread dough often contains yeast. When consumed, the dough expands in the stomach and can cause bloat, which is a life-threatening emergency.

Say No to Caffeine

Your pets are excited enough, they do not need caffeine.

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Coffee, tea, cola, hot cocoa and all other caffeinated products contain methylxanthine. Moderate consumption of caffeine can cause hyperactivity, tremors, elevated body temperature, abnormal heart rhythms, hypertension, seizures, collapse and death. Be sure to secure all kitchen trash, including coffee grinds and other refuse from the aforementioned danger foods, so that your pets do not have access to sneaky snacking later.

Sampling Only, Please

Say yes to a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday for all.

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While the Thanksgiving dinner spread coaxes most people to dine until they drop into a lethargic heap in front of the television later, dogs and cats are not accustomed to gorging so lavishly on rich foods. Serve your pets’ Thanksgiving treats in moderation. One bite of each safe food from the table along with their usual kibble or canned fare will make them feel included in the family festivities and keep the holiday enjoyable and worry-free for all.