“Don’t give your dog people food.” That was the refrain I told pet caregivers day in and day out. That was what I was trained to tell people. This is the same line many people still hear from their vet.

The message has surely gotten through. I have had clients ask me why there was turkey in certain dog foods when turkey is toxic to dogs. I couldn’t understand why anyone would thing turkey was harmful. Then I realized it was the overly enthusiastic messaging from me and my colleagues about the dangers of “people food” especially at Thanksgiving time.

Here’s the deal. At every veterinary office around the USA, you can count on a glut of GI emergencies the day after Thanksgiving. The cause of this phenomenon is that too often pets are included in the Thanksgiving feast. It is not that turkey is harmful. Rather, the fatty table scraps, which may include cooked bones, are hazardous to a dog’s health.

I draw a distinction between table scraps and people food. The food we discard (table scraps) tends to be fat-laden skin and cooked bones. These can definitely case your dog harm. Feeding people food, on the other hand, means giving your pet a little of the health meat and veggies from your meal.

It is fine to share with your dog a small amount of turkey meat and/or non-starch vegetables. Be careful to avoid fatty portions and sauces or gravy that are likely to cause an upset stomach or even life-threatening pancreatitis. Also, cooked bones are not easily digested by pets and can cause intestinal blockage.

My 2 main concerns with feeding people food are:

  1. Adding any food to your pet’s usual diet also adds calories. Be sure to reduce your dog’s normal portion to avoid causing him to become over weight.
  2. Don’t overdo it. A little people food goes a long way. Too much different food is likely to cause problems.
  3. If your pet becomes accustomed to being fed at the table he may implement obnoxious begging behavior to get more goodies. If your pet begs for, or worse, demands food and you give in, you are rewarding the obnoxious behavior and you can expect more of the same at every meal. DO NO feed your dog directly from your plate. Give him some of your food AFTER you eat so he appreciates and respects you.

Keep these tips in mind and have a great Thanksgiving!

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