Thanksgiving is a time for family, and for a lot of dog owners, their pooch is a part of their family. It only makes sense that you’d want your dog to enjoy a special meal along with their human family members.
"People have been sharing their meals with dogs since the very first canine joined humans for the share benefits of companionship, protection, and hunting," says Andrea Arden, pet expert, dog trainer, and author of Barron’s Dog Training Bible.
In the old days, people would just feed their dogs scraps from the table (or from around the campfire). During the Middle Ages, royalty would feed the dogs in their kennels large stews containing grains, vegetables, and discarded animal parts. Only in the 1800s did the idea of specialized food specifically made for pets pop up. In the last century, the pet food industry has grown exponentially, and along with it, misinformation about what dogs can and cannot eat.
Holiday food your dog should avoid
Dogs can eat a lot of human foods – especially the food we eat at the Thanksgiving table. But there are ten foods you should never give your dog. According to Pet Plan, humans spend, on average, $185.80 more to take care of a pet's upset stomach over the Thanksgiving weekend than other days.
1. Turkey skin
Turkey is good for your dog – it’s just meat, after all. But turkey skin is another story. You pile a lot of delicious stuff onto that skin: butter, spices, marinades, oils. And guess what? Those things are really hard for your dog to digest! Plus, turkey skin is super fatty, and fatty foods can give your dog pancreatitis, which is about as miserable as it sounds.
2. Cooked bones
Dogs and bones – they go together like peanut butter and jelly, right? Wrong! Small bones, like those from a chicken or turkey, can splinter inside of your dog’s digestive tract. Don’t give your dog any turkey bones and make sure you dispose of all bones properly and in a place where your dog can’t get at them.
Besides being one quarter of a Simon & Garfunkel album, sage is a popular seasoning at the Thanksgiving table, frequently used on both turkey and in stuffing. Unfortunately, it also contains oils that can cause indigestion and an upset stomach in your dog.
4. Onions & garlic
Both onions and garlic contain sulfides, which are okay for humans to eat but extremely toxic to dogs. Ingesting sulfide will eventually lead to anemia in dogs. Onions are more toxic than garlic, but both need to be completely avoided.
Which leads us to sausage! You may think sausage is just meat, but it frequently features other ingredients, including onion and garlic, inside of the casing, making it incredibly toxic to dogs.
6. Macadamia nuts & walnuts
In general, nuts are bad for dogs, but macadamia nuts and walnuts are the two worst offenders. If dogs eat either of them, within twelve hours they’ll have a toxic reaction that leaves them unable to stand, vomiting, fever, and an elevated heart rate. Though symptoms usually resolve on their own, it can be deadly. Macadamia nuts and walnuts are frequently used as ingredients in stuffing or cranberry sauce.
After the main meal is over and done with, there’s a good chance you’ll settle down with a thick slice of pumpkin pie. Usually used to spice both pumpkin pie and sweet potatoes, nutmeg is extremely toxic to dogs. If ingested, nutmeg can cause seizures and central nervous system problems, and in extreme cases, it may lead to death. Both pumpkin and sweet potatoes are okay to feed your dog (in moderation, of course), but make sure it hasn’t been spiced with nutmeg before you treat your pup.
While you’re probably unlikely to pour a can of beer into your dog’s water bowl, you should know that dogs love the taste of beer and if they can reach their snout into a glass of beer, they’re likely to drink it all up. Alcohol is toxic to dogs, and the hops in beer is particularly dangerous.
A lot of people already know that chocolate is bad for dogs, but it bears repeating. If you’re baking, keep your eye on the chocolate and make sure any unused chocolate is safely thrown away or stored.
10. Dough & batter
Another baking tip – dough and batter are really, really not good for dogs. Dough sees your dog’s stomach as an organic oven and can actually rise inside of your dog, causing bloating and severe pain. On top of that, dough and batter contain raw eggs, which could contain Salmonella and are generally a bad idea to eat.
Your best bet? Keep your dog out of the kitchen completely, and make sure all spills are cleaned up as quickly as possible. And throw out the garbage before you get too full and just want to sit on the couch for the rest of your life.
How to keep your dog occupied during the meal
Andrea Arden suggests keeping your dog occupied in another room during the meal. Before the meal, "provide your dog with appropriate exercise." That way, they’ll have burned off energy and will be ready to chill during your meal. Right before you sit down to eat, grab a hollow toy and fill it with "some of their normal meal or some special, healthy bits of meat or vegetables." Then, take this hollow toy and put it on their dog bed.
While your dog may have a lot of training and feel comfortable in hectic environments, for most dogs, you’ll probably want to set them up in another room in the house. If you want to make sure your dog stays on their bed, you can set the bed inside of a locked crate or leash them up to a stable and heavy object. As long as you’ve properly exercised your dog earlier, they’ll probably be happy to chill on their bed chewing on their toy.
Afraid your dog will get bored during your long Thanksgiving dinner or during the post-dinner football game? "Have a couple of extra food-stuffed toys ready to rotate out so your dog remains happily occupied while you and your family enjoy your holiday dinner," suggests Andrea.
Image: Ben Hanson