What Thanksgiving Foods Are Bad for Pets?


It’s no secret that Americans love their pets. More than half of U.S.households have a dog, cat, or other animal that’s part of the family. One in five Americans said they would buy their pet a present for Valentine’s Day! While Fido definitely deserves a bone on every holiday, pet owners should take care to limit treats to those that are safe for pets to eat. Although the family dog or cat may longingly look at the Thanksgiving turkey with stars in their eyes, pet owners should be careful to look up beforehand which foods are safe to give pets.

Pets have different digestive systems than humans do, so foods that are non-toxic to humans may cause health issues in cats and dogs. “Human foods” can cause nausea, obesity, vomiting, organ failure, diarrhea, gastrointestinal blockages, or even death in pets.

Always consult with a veterinarian if you are unsure whether a piece of food is safe for pets, or if your pet may have ingested an unsafe or potentially fatal piece of food. Prevent pets from eating dropped food or stealing food off counters and tables by disposing of food scraps, securely storing food, and letting guests know if pets will be roaming during your holiday get-together.

Through proper research and preparation, pet owners can plan a Thanksgiving that is fun, festive, and safe for humans and pets alike.

Please note that you should always consult with a veterinarian before feeding your pet any foods that are not a typical part of their diet.

Thanksgiving Appetizers For Pets To Avoid

Raisins and Grapes: When preparing stuffing and Waldorf salads this Thanksgiving, be aware of any raisins or grapes that may have dropped to the floor. These fruits are highly toxic to dogs and are known to cause kidney failure. Research has yet to determine the cause of this reaction in dogs and if it is dose-dependent, so pet owners should immediately seek veterinary care if their dog ingests raisins or grapes.

Bread: While a small amount of bread won’t hurt your dog or cat, it certainly doesn’t provide any nutritional value! Just like humans gain weight when they eat a lot of carbohydrates, dogs can also risk weight gain when they consume too much bread.

It’s okay if a piece of bread falls on the ground or bread is given as a treat, so long as the bread is fully baked. Baked bread merely affects weight, while bread dough may cause fatal health impacts. Dogs’ stomachs are perfect incubators for dough, and yeast impacts them more strongly than it does humans. The rising dough can cause pressure that leads to bloating or ethanol toxicosis, also known as alcohol poisoning.

Milk and Dairy: Even humans have difficulty processing dairy products; approximately 65 percent of the human population cannot easily digest lactose past infancy. This is because certain human populations have historically relied on milk products more than others, so they have a higher presence of the enzyme lactase, which allows them to more readily break down the lactose found in dairy products. Other mammals, including pets, are the same way. Most pets do not have enough lactase to break down milk and dairy products past infancy, which results in the same diarrhea and digestive issues that many humans also face. Help your pets stay happy and healthy by keeping them away from the cheesy casserole and the milk glasses.

Corn on the Cob: Most humans are able to control themselves when eating corn on the cob. Dogs lack this same self control and may try to eat the whole ear of corn, cob and all. This is a choking hazard that may also result in intestinal blockage. Stick to kernels of corn so Fido doesn’t bite off more than they can chew!

Onions: A small dose of onions every so often will likely not hurt dogs, but ingesting a large amount may prove fatal. Onions, even those fried for green bean casseroles, kill red blood cells in dogs. This may lead to anemia and more serious health effects. Check for difficulty breathing, weakness, or vomiting if your dog may have ingested onions.

Mushrooms: Would you eat a mushroom you found growing outside? Then it’s probably not safe for pets either! While some mushrooms are safe to eat, others are highly toxic and may result in serious health effects in pets. Keep pets away from mushrooms growing outside and stick to the store-bought ones.

Avocado: Keep the avocado in the bowl and save it for the guacamole! Avocados contain persin, which causes diarrhea and vomiting in some animals if they consume a large amount. This substance is commonly found in the skin, pit, and stalk. That said, scooping out a small amount of avocado will not hurt pets and may improve coat glossiness and skin health.

Hops: Few things are better than football and beer on Thanksgiving. IPAs and pale ales are refreshing and delicious —the perfect drink on a crisp November day. Although the hops in beer is safe for humans to consume, dogs who lap up beer may see vomiting, increased heart rate, fever, or death. Keep beer glasses away from pets and be sure to let guests know to keep an eye on their drinks.

Raw Eggs: Between preparing deviled eggs for appetizers and checking on the pumpkin pie, eggs can slip to the ground and crack open when you’re zipping around the kitchen on Thanksgiving. If raw egg gets on the ground or on kitchen counters, be sure to quickly wipe up spills before a pet gets to it. Raw egg is highly toxic to cats and can result in salmonella. Seek immediate veterinary care if cats shown signs of lethargy, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Thanksgiving For Pets To Avoid

Fat Trimmings and Bones: It may be tempting to give pets leftover fat trimmings or bones after the turkey is carved, especially if they patiently stayed out of the kitchen during cooking. However, fat trimmings may lead to pancreatitis in dogs and bones can cause choking. Sometimes bones even splinter, which could obstruct or lacerate a dog’s digestive system. To ensure dogs don’t get into the leftover bones and fat trimmings, put the turkey remains in a tightly sealed bag in the trash. Have safe, store-bought bones to give pets after the meal; they deserve a treat too!

Liver: Although small amounts are safe for pets to consume, liver contains high quantities of Vitamin A. This could lead to issues with muscle and bone health in pets. Always check beforehand with a veterinarian on how much liver is safe for pets to eat.

Raw Fish: Raw fish has bacteria that can cause food poisoning, enlarged lymph nodes, vomiting, or fever. Both humans and pets may get sick from eating raw fish. To ensure fish is safe to eat, make sure it was handled and cleaned properly before consuming. This bacteria is killed when fish is cooked, so cooked salmon treats are perfectly safe.

Salt: Be sure to clean up any salt left on counters or the ground after seasoning meat or vegetables. Too much salt can lead to sodium ion poisoning in pets. In fact, salt is actually worse for pets to consume than it is for humans. Symptoms of sodium ion poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, and fever.

Thanksgiving Desserts For Pets To Avoid

Alcohol: Although a glass of port after dessert can be bliss for humans, it could lead to serious health problems for your pet. Be sure to keep all glasses out of reach from pets and let your guests know ahead of time if pets will be roaming during dinner and dessert. Pets that consume alcohol may suffer from lack of coordination, difficulty breathing, or even coma or death.

Nuts: The oils and fats found in nuts are what make them so amazing to cook with. There are walnuts mixed into banana bread and almonds, macadamia nuts, or pecans used to add sweet, nutty flavor to pastries and cakes. Although these oils and fats add depth to food, they also cause diarrhea, vomiting, and sometimes fatal pancreatitis in pets. When giving Fido a treat, avoid this people food.

Coffee: With family and friends coming over for Thanksgiving, there’s probably a big pot of coffee brewing for guests after dessert! Be sure to keep dogs away from those unattended cups of coffee that were set down by guests in the living room. The caffeine that makes coffee so wonderful to humans is fatal to pets. One or two laps of coffee will likely have a mild impact on dogs, but greater ingestion may lead to hypertension, vomiting, heart tremors, or seizures. Treat caffeine consumption by inducing vomiting and seeking veterinary care.

Chocolate: Most pet owners know the dangers of feeding their dogs chocolate. But chocolate is also highly fatal to cats and could even lead to severe health complications or death. Chocolate has theobromine, which is found in all chocolate regardless of type. While the lower percentages of cocoa found in milk or white chocolate may be less fatal to pets, baking or dark chocolate has much higher cocoa percentages and therefore greater presence of toxic theobromine.

Apricot Stems, Leaves, and Pits: Apricot pits contain cyanide, which can be fatal to pets if ingested. Wilting, rotting apricots have greater presence of this toxic substance.

Peaches, Persimmons, and Plums: However perfect in pies, these fruits contain toxic seeds and pits that may cause intestinal blockage. The pits in plums and peaches are particularly toxic, as they contain cyanide. Humans know to avoid these dangerous pits, but dogs are not able to distinguish between the safe fruit of peaches and plums and the toxic pit.

Xylitol: This sugar-free sweetener is completely harmless to humans and is found in gums, some peanut butters, candies, and more. In fact, dogs are the only known mammals who have shown signs of health effects after xylitol consumption. However, dogs that ingest this sweetener risk increased insulin levels that could result in hypoglycemia or even hepatic failure. Check the label before feeding your dog any processed foods that could contain xylitol.

Coconut and Coconut Oil: Coconut oil is a healthy alternative to canola and vegetable oils in desserts. However, coconut and coconut oil may lead to diarrhea and tummy troubles for your pets if they consume a large amount. Keep your pet away from shredded coconut and coconut oils and seek veterinary care if they ingest a large amount.