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Dog-friendly Thanksgiving
Turkey trimmings you and your dog can enjoy
Remember, when sharing a meal with your pet for the first time, a little goes a long way.

Thanksgiving has long centered on sharing a delicious meal with family, friends and those who mean the most to us. It is a time when we give thanks for the companions in our lives for which we are the most grateful. When the list of favorite friends comes to mind, dog lovers automatically include their four-legged companions. And what better way to show our appreciation for our pets’ devotion than with turkey and the fixins?


Preparing a traditional Thanksgiving meal that is satisfying, delicious and digestible for most everyone (canine companions included) is easier than you might think. My family will be sharing a little of several dishes, including turkey, with our chocolate Lab and our neighbor’s Lab. A dog’s digestive system is similar to ours, with some variation. For the purpose of preparing this meal, think of your pet as a lactose intolerant celiac with high blood pressure (i.e., needs to watch his or her salt intake) and with allergies to onion and garlic.


If your companions’ routine diet doesn’t include human food, please keep a few things in mind. 


Sharing a meal with your pet for the first time is a lot like taking your mother to a new ethnic restaurant—a little goes a long way. When introducing any new food into your dogs’ system for the first time, do not exceed more than 25 percent of his or her normal total food intake. For example, if your dog regularly eats 4 cups of dog food per day, on Thanksgiving, he or she would get 3 cups of dog food and one cup of assorted Thanksgiving dinner.


If you wouldn’t eat something, don’t give it to your pet. Ladling rich gravy over dog food only promotes overeating and is upsetting to the digestive system. Most dog foods are already coated with fat for palatability. Adding extra gravy isn’t necessary. Adding gravy to commercial kibble is the equivalent of pouring ranch dressing over potato chips. 


Keep cooked bones out of your dog’s serving. They can splinter and cause injury.


► Check in with Heidi Biesterveld’s posts on The Bark blog for the next four days for planning suggestions and recipes for a happy dog-friendly Thanksgiving.

Guest blogger Heidi Biesterveld is a certified canine nutritionist. She is the author of Bone Appetit Bistro, a blog dedicated to canine-friendly recipes. She lives in Dallas, Texas, with her husband, son and a chocolate Lab named Duncan. boneappetitbistro.com
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Submitted by Anonymous | November 19 2010 |

This is a fantastic article and very thoughtfully written. I definitely appreciate all the information about nutrition and digestibility of various foods. Looking forward to the recipes in the next articles!

Submitted by Carolyn | November 19 2010 |

I'm looking forward to this. I already home-cook for Maggie. Now all of us are on a high(er) protein, low carb diet thanks to my husband being diagnosed as a diabetic. I was just looking at some holiday recipes to adapt and will be looking forward to Heidi's especially. Thanks!

Submitted by Gerald | November 19 2010 |

Great read...can't wait for the rest of the submissions. Heidi, you should publish a cookbook!

Submitted by ScruffyDog | November 19 2010 |

We usually feed our dogs dry kibble, but for the holidays we spring for Merrick's "Thanksgiving Day Dinner" or "Grammy's Pot Pie". It almost looks good enough for people to eat and it's completely grain free (we have an extremely grain-sensitive dog). To them, it seems to be as yummy as the humans' Thanksgiving turkey and never causes the "day after" digestive issues of table scraps. I reviewed a few dogs foods several years ago on my blog in case anyone is interested: http://scruffydogs.blogspot.com/2006/07/review-scruffy-dogs-favorite-eat...

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