Newswise — Although you may consider your pet a part of the family, there are many reasons why it should not join you at the dinner table during Thanksgiving. Dr. Stacy Eckman, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explained why.

Turkey is often the main course of a Thanksgiving meal. If you decide to treat your pet to a piece of turkey, be sure the meat is boneless and thoroughly cooked, just as you would for yourself to prevent salmonella poisoning. Fully cooked and boneless ham is also OK to feed your pet, however, Eckman said to avoid giving your pet ham that has excess fat and is seasoned with additional sugars. Fatty foods can upset your pet’s stomach and cause vomiting and diarrhea. This can progress to dehydration or pancreatitis.

“If the food is different from your pet’s regular diet, it’s more likely they will have digestive upset,” Eckman said. “Vomiting and diarrhea secondary to table food ingestion are the most common reasons we see pets in the emergency room or veterinary hospital after the holidays.” 

You should also avoid letting your pet chew on any sort of leftover bones, including ham and turkey bones, as they can be problematic to the digestive tract.

“Bones can become lodged in the throat or esophagus and can cause problems throughout the intestinal tract,” Eckman said. “They can also splinter, and the bone may require surgery to remove.”

Raw dessert batter is also unsafe for your pet. Be sure to keep Fido’s nose out of the mixing bowl to prevent any consumption of raw eggs, which are sometimes contaminated with salmonella. If you are planning on making homemade bread, raw yeast bread dough can also pose as a threat to your pet. If consumed, the yeast will continue to convert the sugars in the dough to carbon dioxide gas and alcohol, resulting in a bloated, drunken pet. This can be a life-threatening situation that can require hospitalization. Raisins and grapes, which can cause kidney damage, and chocolate, which can be fatal for dogs, should also be kept out of your pet’s reach.

If you absolutely must provide a special holiday treat for your pet, there are safe options that will still leave Fido begging for more. Try sticking as close to your pet’s normal diet as possible by offering it a bowl of its usual food mixed with lean, boneless, and skinless pieces of turkey. If you have fresh vegetables available, such as green beans or sweet potatoes, they will make an excellent addition to your pet’s healthy Thanksgiving feast.

To ensure your pet’s safety this Thanksgiving, be sure to keep them away from any harmful food products. In the spirit of the holiday season, your pet will be forever grateful for keeping them healthy during Thanksgiving dinner.


Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to [email protected].