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Share the Feast: Thanksgiving Recipes for Dogs

Here’s a healthy meal that will cause your four-legged family members to celebrate!

Article by Mary Straus, published in the Whole Dog Journal, November 2012

Etta (right), one of our designated taste testers, happily takes her place at the kitchen table to sample the results of the recipes found below. Her favorite, as you can see, was the dressing.


Thanksgiving is a time when families gather together to enjoy good food and to remember all the things we have to be grateful for. Unfortunately, one part of our family often gets left out – our dogs! It must be frustrating for them to smell all the wonderful aromas coming from the kitchen, but not be able to share in the feast. We’re here to relieve that vexing situatin with recipes for some healthy Thanksgiving dishes just for them.

Below are recipes you can use to give your dogs a special treat on this wonderful holiday, or to use up leftovers afterwards. Note these recipes are fine to feed occasionally, but they are not a complete diet.

One serving of each of the three recipes together, or three servings of either of the first two recipes alone, would provide a complete meal for a dog weighing about 25 pounds. One serving of any of the three recipes individually could be used to supplement the same dog’s regular diet (reduce the amount you usually feed by one-third to account for the extra calories). All recipes are low in fat, and leftovers can be frozen for later use.

Why shouldn’t they just share our dinner?

We are warned over and over again that sharing human food with dogs can be dangerous. That’s true if you’re sharing fatty foods or scraps, such as turkey skin or pan drippings, cheese, bacon, or butter. Too much fat can lead to pancreatitis, particularly in dogs accustomed to eating a low-fat commercial diet. Sugary treats such as pumpkin pie are also not a good idea, since they may cause tummy upset, as well as providing unneeded calories that contribute to obesity. Cooked bones can perforate the esophagus, stomach, or intestines and cause impactions, and should never be fed to dogs.

In addition to these foods, certain ingredients can cause problems for dogs, including:

Okay to share

There are many foods that can be safely shared with dogs. As long as your dog doesn’t have a health problem that requires a special diet, there’s no reason you can’t feed a special meal on this holiday. Just be careful what you offer. Make good choices and limit amounts to help your dog enjoy the holiday without suffering from overindulgence afterward.

Some foods, such as turkey meat (without the skin) can be shared without needing any special preparation, but other dishes may require changes to make them appropriate for dogs. Set aside a portion during preparation, before adding butter, cheese, sugar, onions, or other high-fat and high-calorie ingredients, to make servings appropriate for dogs.

Try putting food into a Kong or other hollow toy. Your dog will enjoy the challenge of removing his treat, and the task will keep your dog occupied while the rest of the family enjoys their dinner. Add plain yogurt and freeze ahead of time to make the treat last even longer.

Healthy substitutes for dogs

Instead of this: Feed this:
Turkey skin or drippings Turkey meat (skinless)
Fatty ham scraps Lean ham meat
Cooked bones Giblets (not too much at one time)
Gravy made from drippings Low-fat gravy
Stuffing with onions Stuffing without onions
Candied yams covered with marshmallows Sweet potato or yams
Mashed potatoes with butter Plain mashed potatoes
Baked potato with butter and sour cream Baked potato with plain yogurt
Cheese and sausage Celery or carrot sticks
Green bean casserole with onions Green beans
Broccoli casserole with cheese Broccoli
Brussels sprouts with bacon Brussels sprouts (a few bacon bits won’t hurt)
Pearl onions Creamed corn
Applesauce with added sugar Unsweetened applesauce
Grapes or raisins Blueberries and dried cranberries
Apple pie Apple slices
Berry pie Berries
Pumpkin pie Canned pumpkin
Nutmeg Cinnamon
Whipped cream or other milk products Yogurt (plain)
Alcohol Water flavored with low-fat gravy

Recipes? We don’t need no stinkin’ recipes!

Anyone who knows me well knows that I don’t cook, so when I was asked to create some Thanksgiving recipes for dogs, I panicked. Recipes? I’m the one who has argued against the use of recipes for homemade diets (I prefer diet guidelines so that the same food is not fed every day), and against the need to create special recipes for dogs using multiple ingredients and flavorings more suitable for human palates. While it’s hard for me to imagine, however, I realize that some people actually enjoy cooking, and may find it especially gratifying to prepare a special and healthy holiday treat for their dogs.

In desperation, I appealed to my friend Jill Petersen, of Kenmore, Washington, who not only volunteered to help me create the recipes, but also tried them out on her own dogs. Etta, her Norwich Terrier, was the first to volunteer for the “sniff and taste” test, and she gave an enthusiastic two paws up to all the dishes (her favorite was the giblets and rice dish).

My primary goals with these recipes were to ensure that they were each low in fat and included only ingredients that are good for dogs, so that the usual holiday warnings would not apply. It was harder than I expected; I was surprised at the amount of added fat in many dishes. I almost despaired of finding a low-fat, low-calorie pie crust; the low-fat versions substituted light Karo syrup for butter or oil, and there was no way I was going to tell people to feed that to their dogs! Once again, Jill saved the day with her oatmeal and applesauce crust. I want to say thanks to Jill and her taste testers: Etta, Raisin’ (a 15-year-old Cairn Terrier), and Chip (a 12-year-old Norwich Terrier). I could not have done this without you.



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I regret that I no longer have much time to respond to questions. See my Contact page for more information. My name is Mary Straus and you can email me at either or


Rocky is a Yorkie-Poodle mix who had suffered from digestive problems his whole life. Click on his image to read about the diet his owner finally found to help him.
Pashoshe Fisher, a Chihuahua, was a wonderful, joyful companion to his owner for 19 & a half years. He was on a high quality raw diet for over half his life.
This is Ella, my Norwich Terrier.