5 Ways to Have a Very Dog-Friendly Thanksgiving

A dog-friendly Thanksgiving gathering, with a cozy fireplace, and a dog laying on the floor.

Dogs love Thanksgiving. They love the yummy scents wafting from the kitchen. They love the gigantic platter with an entire turkey cooked to perfection. They love the stuffing, gravy, sweet potatoes, carrots and some (bless their little hearts) love the brussels sprouts.

But not all Thanksgiving food loves our dogs back. And some of the Thanksgiving feast can even make our furry best friends feel pretty sick — or worse.

Here are some of our tips for a happy, healthy and safe dog-friendly Thanksgiving.

1. Watch the Front Door

If you have friends and family coming over, make sure to be aware of your dog. Especially if you have guests coming from out of town, there will be plenty of opportunities for your dog to slip out the front door and go exploring.

If you don’t want to spend your day running sobbing through the streets (or your building) screaming out Buster or Bella’s name, make sure to keep track of your dog while guests are coming in or going out. Consider keeping your dog in another room, on a leash, or even in another room if he or she is a known Houdini. And be sure that your dog has an ID collar or ID tag in case the worse happens.

Related: The Secrets to Raising a Happy and Balanced Dog

2. Keep Your Eye on the Table

Dogs are adept at stealing food. Since there are plenty of delectable treats that can make your dog sick, you have to control what your dog can eat.

It’s easy for a dog to grab a drumstick and head for the hills, especially for large breeds that stand table height. So be aware of where your dog is hanging, and if you know he’s a skilled food stealer, be extra careful. That goes for food on kitchen counters, the dining table and in the trash.

3. Be Prepared for the Nervous Nellies

You need a plan if your dog is not her happiest among crowds of strangers, or if there are going to be children that terrify your dog. The last thing you want to deal with is a dog bite. Or maybe there will be a whole table full of four-legged guests, and your pooch is dog selective. Or maybe your dog is just a big, goofy ball of energy who hasn’t mastered appropriate play manners.

If you have a dog who fits any of these descriptions, use common sense. If you will be going to someone’s home, leave your dog behind with a few stuffed animals to keep her company. If you are hosting dinner, and the Nervous Nellie is yours, set her up with a space of her own where she can retreat. It can simply be another room where she can comfortably curl up. Or invest in a ZenCrate or any sturdy, den-like crate.

Related: How to Deal With an Anxious Dog

4. Understand the Foods Your Dog Can and Can’t Eat

If you plan to include your dog in the meal (and you should if you don’t want to wake up with him standing over you glaring in the middle of the night), prepare his own plate. Don’t give him food straight from a human’s plate because there are probably some unhealthy things, like onions for example, that are toxic to dog. Here’s a list of dog-friendly food to include on your pups Thanksgiving plate:

Turkey. Turkey is good for dogs, but use plain white meat without skin from the middle of the breast that has absorbed the least amount of salt and spices.

Gravy. Don’t deprive your dog of this delicious topping. Do use a dog-friendly gravy or make our own (go on, she deserves it!).

Green Beans. These are very healthy for dogs with plenty of fiber as well as protein, iron, calcium and vitamins B6, A, C, and K. But don’t include seasoning. Butter is not recommended for dogs, but a tiny, tiny amount (just this once) might help your dog eat his veggies.

Pumpkin. A little pureed pumpkin is a great way to treat indigestion, diarrhea or constipation in dogs. It’s packed with fiber, vitamins and antioxidants. Just leave out any salt or sugar, and never use pumpkin pie filling.

Cranberry Sauce. While cranberries are filled with vitamins and antioxidants, cranberry sauce has a lot of sugar. You can still give them a very small amount as a yummy treat.

Sweet Potato. The sweet potato is a dog (and human) superfood. It’s packed with fiber, antioxidants and vitamins C and B6, potassium, calcium and iron, as well as other essential vitamins and minerals.

Baked or Mashed Potato. Though not as healthy as sweet potato, white potatoes still have some vitamins and minerals. Again, skip the butter and salt or any other topping.

Carrots. Raw or cooked, carrots are an excellent treat for dogs. They have plenty of vitamin A and fiber. Raw carrots are also good for your dog’s teeth.

Apple Slices. A healthy, sweet treat, apples are loaded with vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants. Just make sure to remove any seeds.

Related: The Beginner’s Guide to Home Cooked Food for Your Dog

5. Learn About the Food That Are Harmful to Dogs

Most of the food on this list is toxic to dogs:

Bread Dough. Raw bread dough will rise in a dog’s stomach because of their body heat. This can cause an intestinal blockage and become life-threatening.

Cooked Bones. These can splinter in a dog’s mouth or stomach and cause internal bleeding

Turkey Skin. Too much fatty food can lead to pancreatitis, which is an inflammation of the pancreas, a serious illness.

Nutmeg. This spice has a toxin called myristicin. A small amount of nutmeg may only result in an upset tummy. More than a tiny amount may kill your dog.

Raisins, Currants and Grapes. These fruits are extremely toxic to dogs. There is no “safe” amount. Depending on the sensitivity of the individual dog, one raisin has been known to cause kidney disease and kidney failure.

Chocolate. This sweet treat is toxic to dogs. Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, which can cause gastrointestinal and neurological effects that can be deadly.

Onions and Garlic. Both onions and garlic are toxic to dogs. In large or regular doses, they cause red blood cell destruction.

Macadamia Nuts. While nuts in general are not recommended because they’re high in fat and can be a choking hazard, macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs.

If you suspect your dog has eaten anything on this list, or if he or she suddenly gets sick, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Call the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435. There are also online Animal Poison Control sites that can give you immediate advice, and a Pet Poison Helpline.

Be aware, take care, and have a safe, happy, healthy Thanksgiving!

Related: Celebrate Your Dog’s Special Day With This Yummy Birthday ‘Pupcakes’ Recipe

By Jillian Blume

Jillian Blume is a New York City–based writer whose feature articles have appeared in magazines, newspapers, and websites including the New York Observer, Marie Claire, Self, City Realty, the ASPCA,, Best Friends Animal Society, The Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, The Pet Gazette, and many others.

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