We all know that many human food scraps are toxic for dogs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a special Thanksgiving feast that will allow your dog to celebrate with you. Many dog experts are advocates of a raw diet for dogs, made up of the same foods you will likely be eating on the big day. The main thing to remember is that the seasonings that make things taste so good for us are often the very things that give our dogs gastrointestinal troubles.
While you’re preparing the family’s meal, make sure you keep your dog out of the kitchen, both to keep him from absconding with the turkey and to prevent the temptation of over-feeding him little scraps as you cook. My dogs love to both counter-surf and clean up spills for me when I cook, but this can easily lead to tummy aches. Cleaning up dog vomit is likely the last thing you want to worry about as you prepare for friends and extended family to visit.
Because your dog’s gastrointestinal tract is built a little differently than yours, you don’t need to worry about giving your pet salmonella from raw turkey. It’s fine to give him the gizzards or some of the meat without cooking it first. It’s also fine to cook it, if that makes you feel better. The vegetables are best kept raw, as cooking removes some of the nutrient value.
Onions and garlic are the two primary seasonings that aren’t good for dogs. Even in small quantities they can cause stomach upset. Another poor seasoning choice is salt.
Fruits and vegetables to avoid include raisins, grapes, and avocadoes. Macadamia nuts can cause problems, as can chocolate and anything containing xylitol. That’s the artificial sweetener found in sugar-free candies and gums. Finally, alcohol and the canine system just don’t mix well.
Most of the foods you probably plan on feeding your family for Thanksgiving will also be good for your dog, so long as you take out the dog’s portion before you add the seasonings.
It’s always best to start out with protein, and turkey will do just fine as a lean protein source for your dog. Make sure all of the bones have been removed. Poultry bones are especially troublesome for dogs because they can splinter and perforate the animal’s gastrointestinal tract. About half of the dog’s food should be protein. Other good sources include beans, eggs, and soy.
For the other half of your dog’s feast, you’ll want to provide some carbohydrates and a little fat; however, you probably won’t want to pile on the stuffing and gravy for this purpose. Better choices for the carbs are sweet potatoes, wild rice, and green beans. The best choice for fat is fish oil because it contains both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids important for your dog’s nervous system and coat.
If you feel strongly about giving your dog a dessert for the holiday (although he doesn’t need it any more than you do!), the best choice of the conventional Thanksgiving desserts is probably pumpkin pie Raw pumpkin is an excellent tasty snack for dogs, and a small wedge of pie won’t hurt as a one-time extravagance. Another option would be to make or buy some dog treats especially for the holiday. Below are a couple of easy recipes.
- 1 raw sweet potato or 1 very orange yam
Preheat oven to 250°F. Wash the sweet potato or yam. Cut it down the middle lengthwise, then cut each half lengthwise again into slices about 1/3-inch wide. Place the slices on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Bake at 250°F for 3 hours (chewy) or longer to make them crunchy.
What if your dog is diabetic? It can be hard to find a treat that won't raise the dog's blood sugar to unacceptable levels, but these tasty treats will meet your dog’s needs, provided you dole them out in small quantities.
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 pounds beef liver, cut into pieces
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a 10x15 inch jellyroll pan with parchment paper. Pulse the liver in a food processor until finely chopped. If you have room in the processor bowl, add the flour and eggs, and process until smooth. Otherwise, transfer to a bowl, and stir in the flour and eggs using a wooden spoon. Spread evenly in the prepared pan. Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the center is firm. Cool, and cut into squares using a pizza cutter. The treats will have a consistency similar to a sponge. Store leftover treats in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
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