Creating a Safe Thanksgiving Dinner for Your Pets

It’s not surprising that pet owners want to include their pets in the festivities. Learn how to prepare a Thanksgiving dinner for dogs and cats.

Certain foods can harm your pet. By: Dan4th Nicholas

Thanksgiving is a fine time to reflect on those things that enrich our lives.

For me, at least, pets are always near the top of my thank-you list. Pets give us so much and ask for so little in return!

And so it’s not surprising that pet owners feel inclined to include their pets in the holiday festivities. Preparing a Thanksgiving dinner for dogs and cats, it turns out, isn’t an outrageous idea.


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For example, Three Dog Bakery has offered a $20 feast for canines that includes Lamb Wellington, carrots, spinach dip and pumpkin pie.

A Virginia dog bakery called Barkley Square has put out similar holiday meals, and the owner boasted, “The dogs just love them, and their humans like the fact that their canine buddy can join in the holiday feasting.”

Also, Wag Hotels, a luxury kennel in California, has offered a gourmet Thanksgiving menu created especially for dogs staying there during the holiday. Pooches could eat hand-pulled turkey with a light glaze, honey yams, apple/cranberry stuffing, green beans and pumpkin pudding for dessert.

A spokeswoman declared, “People don’t want to feel guilty that they’re having a fabulous meal and their dog is not.”

It’s true that you can pamper your pet, but Thanksgiving dinner need not be cooked by a master chef or be particularly extravagant. In this article, I will give you some pointers on how to prepare a simple, safe meal for dogs and cats.

Let’s Talk Safety

First, a word of caution. Thanksgiving dinner as we know it — you know, the stuff you and your family over-indulge in, like succulent turkey skin, rich gravy, super-fatty ham bones, sweet chocolate, wine-drenched sauce and more — sorry, but none of it is safe for pets. In fact, here’s what Casandria Smith, chief veterinarian with Los Angeles Animal Services, says:

“Veterinarians experience an increased number of office calls due to digestive problems after the holidays because humans invite their animals to celebrate with high fat meals.”

Turkey bones can splinter and block your pet’s intestinal tract. Not to mention, if you leave food out for too long and then allow your dog or cat to eat it, you’re risking salmonella food poisoning. (Always keep the ASPCA’s poison control center contact info nearby: 888-426-4435.)

This video discusses more safety issues. Take a look, and then I’ll give you a few easy tips for a painless dinner.

Please use your head, and consider the advice laid out in this article.

4 Easy Tips for a Painless Dinner

  1. Suddenly switching from dry kibble to a dish full of human food can cause havoc on your pet’s digestive system. If your dog or cat isn’t used to this type of food, take it easy, and just lay down a slice of turkey and some veggies.
  2. Go plain-jane. Dogs and cats can’t handle butter and cream and other seasonings like salt and pepper. So set aside some plain mashed potatoes, carrots and other vegetables for the pets to eat. Save the stuffing for yourself; it’s mostly bread, salt and fat — nothing good there for your pets. Green bean casserole? Not good for pets. Onions can be toxic, and dairy can be a cause of diarrhea. Sweet potato casserole? Nope. Getting the picture? The message is clear: Go plain, and break it down to its basic parts, meaning plain green beans instead of a souped-up green bean casserole.
  3. Turkey is actually really good for your dog or cat! So feel free to share a piece of lean turkey. But two things, and they’re important: (1) Peel the skin off the turkey and toss it in the trash. It’s difficult for dogs and cats to digest, plus it’s loaded with fat. (2) No bones for your pets!
  4. Begging is a behavioral no-no. C’mon, no one likes to eat dinner with a dog staring up, drips of saliva rolling from his lips, as a muffled whining ensues. Yes, you can say “no” to that sad furry face. Better yet, feed your dog, then crate him while you enjoy dinner with your guests. Keep in mind that a big holiday dinner, and the buzz of activity that accompanies it, is not a normal routine for your pet. Your dog can come out again after dinner’s over. At the very least, instruct your guests that they are not to feed your pet scraps from the table. That goes for cats too.

Thanksgiving Recipes for Dogs and Cats

Thanksgiving dinner for dogs and cats. By: Umami/Flickr

I’m not a cook. Sometimes I feel I can barely cook a grilled cheese sandwich. But I did do some digging around, and I found a few websites that offer some amazing-looking recipes you can try. I hope you’ll find them helpful. Bone appétit!

  • Here’s a recipe, from the double-team of a dog nutritionist and a veterinarian, for a pet-suitable meal you can either make from scratch or conjure up from plundered Thanksgiving leftovers. The finished dish contains turkey, gravy (optional), sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce, held together with a cup of oatmeal.
  • And here is a “Fido Thanksgiving Feast” from pet expert Arden Moore that contains just six ingredients. It’s very easy to make.
  • TV star Rachael Ray has her own version of a Thanksgiving hash you can make for dogs. There are just two steps.
  • Want just a simple Thanksgiving treat for dogs? At the end of this article by WebVet, there’s a recipe for sweet potato cookies.

I hope that this article has brought you a greater understanding of how you can make Thanksgiving a more enjoyable, safer time for your pets.

Remember to keep “people food” out of the reach of your animal companions — especially bones and turkey skin. Go easy on the leftovers, and enjoy your turkey-induced nap!

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