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Thanksgiving for the Hounds

My older brother, Ben, is a committed NFL fan. His passion for the sport has forbidden our family from scheduling events on Sundays unless, of course, it’s a family meeting to organize a surprise party in Ben’s honor (as it’s a safe bet he will be securely settled in his living room catching every second of football action from just before noon to well after 10:30 pm).


How disappointing it must be for him to have a sister who insists on skipping Thanksgiving football broadcasts year after year in order for the whole family to enjoy the Kennel Club’s National Dog Show. Despite the eye rolls and protestations, Ben has begrudgingly allowed his little sister’s love of dogs to monopolize prime Thanksgiving football viewing hours for the last 32 years. What sweet Ben doesn’t realize is the annual dog show isn’t the only dog-themed activity he’ll get to endure this year.


Thanksgiving 2023 at the Delfelder household is for the dogs! For the past couple years the number of furry paws under the table has steadily grown. Despite good intentions, it’s impossible to keep the kids and doting doggy-grandmas from slipping a sampling of sides and treats under the table. This year, I’m coming in with a plan to ensure everyone (including the pooches) has a safe and delicious holiday!


Traditional Thanksgiving No-Nos


The Thanksgiving Cornerstone: Turkey!


It’s not Thanksgiving without the big bird sitting front and center! It’s true, small amounts of white meat as a holiday treat isn’t harmful to most dogs, however, special care needs to be taken when selecting which pieces to place on your pup’s plate. Skin, dark meat, and fat trimmings are extremely dangerous to canine companions and can lead to life-threatening pancreatitis.


However, it’s not just the turkey’s soft tissues that can ruin a dog’s holiday fun. Around Thanksgiving, there are countless Facebook and Instagram posts displaying smiling dogs with a turkey leg-bone grasped between their paws. It’s not to say the resulting social media picture isn’t precious, however, bird bones are hollow and can shatter after ingestion, causing obstruction and constipation, irritation, ulceration, or perforation anywhere along the GI tract. If perforation occurs, dogs can expect peritonitis (a bacterial infection within the abdominal cavity) and internal bleeding when bone fragments pierce other internal organs. Skip the photos, trash the carcass!


X-Ray showing stomach of a small dog with chicken drumstick stuck inside
A chicken drumstick lodged in the stomach of a 5-year-old Dachshund. Photo credit: Animal Emergency Service

Everyone's Favorite: Green Bean Casserole


It’s a tragedy our canine family members can’t dive into this hallmark holiday dish! Even the simplest of recipes include salt, garlic, fat, and those oh-so-delicious crispy onions on top. Not only is this yet another risk for pancreatitis due to the large amount of fats, but onions and garlic can lead to life-threatening anemia due to destruction of red blood cells.



Hand lifting dog's lip to showing white gums
Lack of vascular gingival perfusion in a dog experiencing marked anemia. Credit: https://www.petmd.com

Potatoes, Potatoes, Potatoes


We all know holiday carbs are the most delicious carbs! However, it’s imperative to keep an eye on the potatoes as they’re passed around the table. Before letting grandma dollop a helping of mashed potatoes onto your dog’s plate, remind her the recipe requires milk or cream, too much butter to discuss, salt, and pepper. Grandma might see delicious potatoes but for the dog it’s a recipe for pancreatitis and anemia.


Pumpkin Pie, Oh My!


Nothing beats a proper pumpkin pie! However, let’s discuss the amount of sugar in this Thanksgiving classic. Ignorance is bliss unless it comes to your pet ingesting significant amounts of sweet holiday treats.


While sugar itself isn’t toxic to dogs, even small amounts of table sugar can lead to GI upset, including vomiting, diarrhea, and bloating. However, tasty treats transform into tricky traps when your dog finds its way into sweet things that are toxic! Chocolate, for instance, can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst and urination, panting and restlessness, and racing heart rate. In cases of severe toxicity, dogs can experience muscle tremors, seizures, and heart failure. Xylitol (a common artificial sweetener) has been increasingly more prevalent over the last decade, especially in its relationship to toxic responses in our canine friends. Low doses of xylitol leads to an increase in insulin secretion and secondary hypoglycemia, while high doses can lead to liver failure and advanced hypoglycemia, resulting in vomiting, weakness, muscle tremors, incoordination, seizures, coma, and death.


While pie dough doesn’t contain yeast, be careful when letting your dog sample any dough that does. After ingestion, yeast will continue to break down in your dog’s stomach, producing dangerous amounts and gas that can result in life-threatening bloat.


A Toxic Toast


The good news is dogs are not naturally attracted to alcohol, however, when mixed with delicious fruits, spices, or soda, your dog may not be able to resist going “bottoms up”. Like in humans, it’s not the type of alcohol consumed that is the problem, but the amount. (For instance, lite beer contains less alcohol than craft beer, hard alcohol, wine, or cocktails.) Signs of mild alcohol toxicity are nonspecific, including vomiting or gagging, depression, weakness, lethargy, and drooling. However, severe signs might include decreased respiration rate, collapse, hypoglycemia, hypotension, and hypothermia, and loss of consciousness.


All that in mind, if you’re concerned the kids sneakily slipped any inappropriate or toxic foods to your dog this holiday season, don’t hesitate to reach out to one or both of the following 24-hour emergency resources:


New & Improved Thanksgiving for the Dogs


Turkey-Turkey!


Again, be careful when letting your pup select the most suitable pieces of turkey. Dogs generally do well with a small portion of white meat, while fat trimmings, skin, and bones can turn your canine’s Thanksgiving feast from festive to frightful.


More on White Meat: Boiled skinless chicken or turkey is commonly recommended by veterinarians to help ease GI upset in dogs. While not a long-term option, if your dog’s experiencing tummy troubles but is still willing to eat, serving this low-fat, easily digested option can help relieve the dog’s discomfort by encouraging the stomach to empty quicker.


Green Bean Cat-serole is Now Dog-serole


Canned green beans are great but if you want to spoil your canine companion this holiday season, spring for fresh! Mix in a scoop of plain, non-Fat Greek yogurt to make the perfect pet-friendly green bean casserole.


More on Green Beans: Green beans are especially good if your pooch is needing to lose a few holiday pounds. Mix canned or fresh green beans in with your dog’s everyday diet to help his stomach feel satisfied while consuming fewer calories.


Rustic Pup-kin Pie


If you’re feeling extra thankful for your dog this year, why not spoil him with a piece of canine-approved pumpkin pie? For the crust, combine 1 cup whole wheat flour, ½ cup of unsweetened apple sauce, and 3 teaspoons of water in a bowl. Mix until combined, then knead mixture until it forms a dough-like consistency. Roll dough into a quarter-inch sheet and press into a miniature pie pan. Cook at 350℉ for 10 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and allow it to cool.


To make the filling simply heat ½ cup of water in the microwave for 2 minutes (or until it’s boiling). Mix 1 Tbsp of unflavored gelatin into the hot water until it dissolves, then add ¾ cup of no-sugar-added pumpkin puree. Stir for 5 minutes. Once the crust is completely cooled, pour the filling mixture into the pie crust. Place the pie into the refrigerator for 3 hours to allow the filling to completely set.

Feeling fancy?: Serve each slice with an extra-small dollop of reduced sugar whipped cream.


More on Pumpkin: Plain, canned pumpkin is a great tool for dogs experiencing digestion issues. Pumpkin is a fiber-rich prebiotic, meaning it stimulates the growth and function of beneficial bacteria in the intestines while inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria. Pumpkin also encourages sodium and water absorption in your dog’s large intestine which is especially beneficial in cases of diarrhea.


Cranberry MockTAIL


With alcohol and caffeine off the menu, let your dog enjoy the perfect Thanksgiving mocktail! Place 1 cup of cranberries in a pot and add just enough water to allow cranberries to float. Bring the water to a boil and cook cranberries for about 5 minutes. Pour the contents of the pot into a blender and add ½ cup of low-sodium chicken broth. Once cooled, blend ingredients together. Serve in a plastic cup and garnish with a piece of asparagus.


Pro Tip: After being blended, it’s best to keep the mocktail in the refrigerator to stay cool prior to serving. While in the fridge, your spouse, partner, roommates, and children will be attracted to the beautifully festive color of the drink. If they take a swig, they’ll be in for quite a surprise. Delicious to dogs, displeasing to husbands…


The Reviews are Posted


Please know, the accuracy of this blog and the recommendations found within is of the utmost importance to the Candlewood Veterinary Clinic’s family. That in mind, each of the above recipes have been sampled and reviewed by the Clinic Canines of CVC.


A table full of Thanksgiving meals for pets with a black dog watching.
Our pets' Thanksgiving feast prepared by Dr. Delfelder

My sous chefs, Gracie Bell and Callie Sue (or Sous while donning her chef whites)

Report card from dog's scoring their Thanksgiving meal
A black dog and black and white spotted dog starting at two pieces of pumpkin pie

Dr. Grieves’ enthusiastic eater, Pax

*There are actually two pups in the Grieves’ home- Pax and Finn. Unfortunately, Finn has chronic tummy troubles that inhibit him from participating in this particular Thanksgiving treat. (Don’t worry, Dr. Grieves finds other ways to spoil her sweet boy around the holidays!) As you plan your dog’s Thanksgiving celebration, keep in mind some dogs can’t tolerate unfamiliar food as well as others. Consider substantially reducing portions or variety of their dish, or skip the feast all together and treat your sensitive-stomach buddy to a nice walk or romp in the park.



Our resident Big! Rufus enjoyed the main course just fine but once he discovered the pumpkin pie, the green beans and sweet potatoes were quickly forgotten.

Black and white dog eating Thanksgiving feast
Report card from dog's scoring their Thanksgiving meal




Candlewood’s food critic, Ace, knows if it’s not worth the calories, it’s not going in his mouth. Dessert was a hit for this food connoisseur, while the mocktail got no more than a quick sniff.

Report card from dog's scoring their Thanksgiving meal
A dalmatian trying a Thanksgiving mocktail

The final black & white of Candlewood, Riley, will try any food once (or twice, just to be sure). If anyone was going to redeem the mocktail, it would be this sweet girl! After a couple sniffs and laps, not even Riley would give our Thanksgiving beverage her approval.

A dog eating a pet healthy Thanksgiving feast
Report card from dog's scoring their Thanksgiving meal





From our family to yours, have a safe and happy holiday season!


Additional Helpful Holiday Resources


American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA): Thanksgiving Pet Safety

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA): Thanksgiving Safety Tips

ASPCA: 7 Thanksgiving Safety Tips for Pets

Zoetis: Thanksgiving Pet Safety

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