By Dr. Justine A. Lee, DVM, DACVECC

As Thanksgiving approaches, accidental poisonings often occur in dogs (and less commonly cats) – that’s because they often get into the delectable human foods while table or counter-surfing! To be safe, make sure to keep your dog crated or your cat locked out of the kitchen while you’re preparing your Thanksgiving feast. More importantly, satiate your dog or cat with non-toxic treats. Of course, not all Thanksgiving foods are dangerous. And it’s a holiday for your pets too, right? With that in mind, here are 6 safe treats you can give your dog or cat this Thanksgiving.

Turkey Breast

As long as your dog or cat doesn’t have any food allergies, it’s safe to feed a small amount of turkey breast. Ideally, we want to avoid any fatty snacks (such as trimmings, turkey skin, gravy, etc.), as this can over-stimulate and inflame the pancreas, resulting in life-threatening pancreatitis. Keep in mind that certain breeds such as Miniature SchnauzersYorkshire Terriers, and Shetland Sheepdogs are especially predisposed to pancreatitis, so meat snacks are a big no-no in these three breeds. Also a big no-no for any breed—bones. Bones are sharp and can result in an esophageal foreign bodygastrointestinal upset, or rarely, a foreign body obstruction! More importantly, keep that darn piece of yarn/string that is wrapped around the turkey out of reach – this is often accidentally ingested by dogs and cats directly from the garbage, and can result in a life-threatening linear foreign body obstructionwhen ingested.


Most vegetables are a great snack for dogs, including broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery, green beans and sweet potato. As long as the vegetables aren’t covered in anything too fatty (e.g., gravy, butter, etc.), they provide a low-calorie, high-fiber snack for dogs and make them feel more full. If you’re feeding sweet potato (especially if it’s cooked with marshmallows), make sure there’s no sugar-substitute on it (containing xylitol).


A small piece of bread is a safe snack for dogs, as long as it’s baked appropriately. This provides a relatively low-calorie filler for your dog. More importantly, keep unbaked bread dough out of reach – if accidentally ingested by dogs, the yeast and sugar can result in carbon dioxide  and ethanol formation in your dog’s stomach; this can result in secondary hypoglycemia (e.g., low blood sugar), bloat and even alcohol poisoning!


Serving smoked salmon as an appetizer? A small amount can be safely given to your cat or dog as a nice, healthy treat


Serving a cheese plate? A small amount of cheese is fine. While dogs and cats are often intolerant of lactose, there is a minimal amount in cheese (versus milk), so go for it.

Turkey stuffing

Alright, I’ll admit it – even I give a small amount of turkey stuffing to my pets as a snack. The breadcrumbs and savory meat flavor is a huge hit, and while it does contain some fat, it’s generally safe in small amounts. Just make sure that there aren’t any raisins or currants in it, which can result in acute kidney injury when ingested.

This Thanksgiving, show thanks for your friendship by giving asmall treat to your four-legged friend. Keep in mind, all in moderation – if you overdo any of these snacks, it can result in gastroenteritis (such as vomiting or diarrhea)!

If you have any questions or concerns, just call us at Animal Medical.  We’ll be happy to help. 

Reviewed by Bill Saxon DVM, DACVIM, DACVECC on Monday, October 13, 2014