Thanksgiving Food Quiz: Is Your Feast Safe for Your Pets?

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Thanksgiving feasts bring the whole family together, sharing food around the table…and under it. Many pet lovers admit to sneaking human food to their pets (guilty here!), and who can resist those puppy or kitty eyes peeking up at them when the holidays roll around?

2 dogs begging for food

If you and your relatives are guilty of cross-species food sharing, it’s important to know which foods are safe for pets before you sit down to eat. We put together a little quiz of what common Thanksgiving food is safe for pets, what’s borderline and what is not. Test your knowledge below!

Thanksgiving Food Quiz – Is Your Feast Safe for Pets?

Thanksgiving turkeys

Q: Turkey?

It seems natural during the holidays to “give a dog a bone,” but passing turkey bones or fatty meat to pets is a big mistake. Bones dry out during cooking and can splinter or crack when chewed by your cat or dog, leading to painful slivers in your pet’s intestines. Turkey skin is also a no-no, as it is usually too fatty for your pet to digest, and may pose an additional hazard if seasoned with garlic, onions, chives, leeks, or other similar seasonings; these plants, known as alliums, are extremely toxic to pets (especially cats). However, if you’re sure no alliums are present in your bird, feeding a small amount of boneless, skinless, cooked turkey meat is usually fine.

A: Safe in Small Amounts

"canned" homemade cranberry sauce

Q: Cranberry Sauce and Stuffing?

While it’s unclear exactly how cranberries affect cats and dogs, one ingredient often present in cranberry sauces and dressings – the infamous raisin – can look very similar, and be very harmful to your pet. Raisins and Grapes can cause acute renal failure  in dogs and cats and should be avoided at all costs. Some berries and fruits are harmless (or even potentially beneficial), but unless instructed by your veterinarian, you should avoid feeding them to your pet.

Nuts are another potentially harmful ingredient in many stuffing recipes. Some varieties, such as walnuts and macadamias, cause upset stomachs and may contain toxins. Since these ingredients can hide in otherwise innocuous sides, it is wise to hold off feeding these dishes to your pet.

A: Potentially Unsafe

Bread dough

Q: Bread Dough?

When breaking bread with human companions, you may be tempted to share some doughy goodness with your four-legged family members…but at least until it’s fully cooked, resist the urge! Dough rises into rolls through a combination of yeast and heat; feed raw dough to pets and it can rise inside their warm little tummies, leading to painful swelling and blockage (yeast also creates alcohol – see below). Raw dough is the worst, but your pet probably shouldn’t be eating bread products anyway.

A: Unsafe


Q: Sweet Potatoes or Yams?

Does your fluffy friend melt for sweet potato sides? Good news: a little sweet potato is A-OK for most pets. Sweet potato is a filler ingredient in many commercial pet foods, and in moderation, can be a nice treat for pets. Of course, sweet potatoes are also very starchy (and usually come loaded with sugar at the holidays), so remember to feed only a little or your pet may pack on unnecessary weight.

A: Safe in Small Amounts

Drunken Cider Tasting

Q: Alcohol?

If your pets need a drink or two to make it through the holidays, you may want to have a talk with the in-laws. Alcohol affects pets much in the same way it affects humans (nausea, dizziness, disorientation… occasionally embarrassing “accidents”), but even if you know when to stop, your pet doesn’t. There is no safe amount of alcohol for small animals – alcohol poisoning can occur in pets from just a couple licks of your drink, and each year many pets face life-threatening side effects from alcohol consumption. Chances are your pets will be the life of the party anyway, so do not let them near any unattended drinks or liqueur-laden desserts.

A: Unsafe

Merrick Thanksgiving Day Dinner Canned Dog Food

Q: Pet Food and Treats?

Alright, you probably won’t be serving kibble at your Thanksgiving table, but an easy way to prevent your pets from begging all night long (and receiving sneaky scrap-feeding from your guests) is to offer a safe alternative treat. By serving pets a favorite wet food or special toy during the human meal, you can spread holiday cheer to your pets without risking their health and happiness. Try leaving a small bowl of dog or cat treats in reach of your human guests so they aren’t tempted to feed Fluffy or Fido from their own plates, feeding pets and people at the same time in separate rooms, or use a food dispenser ball to keep pets occupied. There are even pet foods made to mimic Thanksgiving feasts – Merrick sells Thanksgiving Day Dinner canned food for both dogs and cats. Knowing your pets have a great, safe holiday meal of their own will put your mind at ease…and that’s something we can all be thankful for!

A: Safe ♥

For more information about pet food safety, visit the Pet Poison Helpline

Do you know of any other harmful foods that we should add to this list? Leave a comment below.

6 Responses

  1. Carrie says:

    Wow, great tips! I have two dogs at home and one is always begging for scraps. This was a great help in knowing what I can and cannot give her! Thanks!

  2. Jeanne says:

    I used to feed my dogs scraps from the table, or leftovers from restaurant meals and thought nothing of it. Several years ago, my sister and brother in law watched my dogs while I was having work done at the house. My brother in law fed the dogs some left over Hamburger Helper from their dinner, which I wouldn’t have thought about twice. Long story short, one of my dogs, a healthy 7 YO lab mix develped pancreatitis from that “treat.” After two weeks of agonizing sleepless nights, he died from the complications, even after receiving the best possible care from my vet and the experts at UC Davis…$8000 worth of vet bills that I don’t regret, except for the fact that they couldn’t save him. DO NOT FEED YOUR BELOVED PETS THE SCRAPS FROM YOUR PLATE THAT YOU WOULD NOT EAT!!! THEY LOVE YOU AS IS, UNCONDITIONALLY, WHETHER YOU GIVE THEM TREATS OR NOT! DO NOT COMPROMISE THEIR HEALTH AND WELL BEING BY THINKING THEY NEED THAT SCRAP OF FAT FROM YOUR PLATE! YOU ARE THEIR GUARDIAN AND STEWARD IN THIS LIFE… exercise them, hug them, play with them, and feed them only what is good for them so they live a long and healthy life!! I LOVE & MISS YOU SAMMY!

  3. Chris says:

    Thank’s for the info. Did not know about the “alliums”
    were toxic to kitties. Mine does not like them but did
    not know they were potentionally deadly.

  4. jane says:

    Always a good thing to know. Don’t want my babies having anything that’s not good for them.

  5. Rubi says:

    Definitely a much better idea to have pet food instead of feeding human food :)