Make Thanksgiving Safe for your Pet

It’s almost Turkey Day and that means family, friends and great food.  No doubt your golden retriever will enjoy the attention also.  Those pleading brown eyes make it tempting for you or your guests to be overly generous sharing Thanksgiving dinner with your furry friend.  Sometimes, however, too many treats can lead to illness or injury for our pets. 

Our friends at the ASPCA, PetMD and North Shore Animal League have some important tips to help keep your golden safe this holiday – and to keep the “Happy” in Thanksgiving!



Certain bones, particularly poultry bones, can lacerate or obstruct your golden’s insides.  Save the bones for the broth – not your dog.

Grapes and Raisins

Grapes and raisins contain a toxin that can cause kidney damage to both dogs and cats.


Chocolate is a well known off-limits indulgence for pets. During the holidays however, baking chocolate is used in recipes and sometimes forgotten about by the time the dishes hit the table. Make sure this holiday season that your golden does not ingest any kind of chocolate.


Alcohol is definitely a big no for dogs. What we people may consider a small amount can be toxic for a smaller animal. Alcohol poisoning can occur in pets from atypical items like fruit cake (the recipe may have called for rum or other liquor).


Alliums such as sage, garlic, onions, leeks and scallions make your Thanksgiving stuffing taste delicious, but it and many other herbs contain essential oils and resins that can cause gastrointestinal upset and central nervous system depression if eaten in large quantities. Onions will destroy your dog’s red blood cells, which can lead to anemia.

Raw Bread Dough 

According to ASPCA experts, when raw bread dough is ingested, an animal’s body heat causes the dough to rise in his stomach. As it expands, your golden may experience vomiting, severe abdominal pain and bloating, which could become a life-threatening emergency, requiring surgery.


If you’re baking up Thanksgiving cakes, be sure your pets keep their noses out of the batter, especially if it includes raw eggs—they could contain salmonella bacteria that may lead to food poisoning.

Xylitol (artificial sweetners)

While you may be making the healthier choice by cooking with artificial sweeteners over the real thing, sweeteners containing Xylitol are poisonous to animals, and potentially deadly to dogs.

Too Much of a Good Thing 

A little cooked turkey, mashed potatoes and fresh green beans are okay.  However, don’t allow your golden retriever to overindulge in fatty, rich or unfamiliar foods, as they could wind up with a case of stomach upset, diarrhea or even worse—an inflammatory condition of the pancreas known as pancreatitis. In fact, it’s best to keep dogs on their regular diets during the holidays.

Food Wrappings

Aluminum foil, wax paper and other food wrappings can cause intestinal obstruction. Make sure to place these items securely in the garbage. Guard against counter surfing, a sport some golden retrievers excel in.

 Now that you know what is harmful, what foods or alternatives are safe? 



If you decide to feed your pet a little nibble of turkey, make sure it’s boneless and well-cooked. Don’t offer raw or undercooked turkey, which may contain salmonella bacteria.

Cranberry Sauce

Plain cranberry sauce is just fine for pets but watch the amount of sugar in it. It is probably best to only provide a small helping to your pet’s plate.

Mashed or Sweet Potatoes

Plain mashed or sweet potatoes are a great vegetable to share with your pet.  But beware of additional ingredients used to make mashed potatoes.

Fresh Green Beans

Plain green beans are a wonderful treat for pets. If the green beans are included in a casserole, be wary of the other ingredients in it.

A Little Taste

A few small boneless pieces of cooked turkey, a taste of mashed potato or even a lick of pumpkin pie shouldn’t pose a problem. However, don’t allow your pets to overindulge, as they could wind up with a case of stomach upset, diarrhea or even worse—an inflammatory condition of the pancreas known as pancreatitis. In fact, it’s best to keep goldens on their regular diet during the holidays.

A Kong Feast

While the humans are chowing down, give your goldens their own little feast. Offer them Nylabones or made-for-pet chew bones. Or stuff their usual dinner—perhaps with a few added tidbits of turkey, vegetables (try sweet potato or green beans) and dribbles of gravy—inside a Kong toy. They’ll be happily occupied for awhile, working hard to extract their dinner from the toy.

Fresh Water

Make sure your pet always has fresh water. When there are more people in the house, there’s more chance to bump into the water bowl leaving your pet dry.

Quiet Time

Make sure your dog has a quiet retreat should the holiday festivities be too much for him. Watch his behavior to make sure he is not stressed.

Diet and Exercise

Maintain your golden’s regular meal and exercise schedule and avoid too many holiday leftovers. A disruption in his dietary routine can cause stomach upset, diarrhea and/or vomiting.  Go for a walk after dinner; it will help your digestion as well.

May you and your golden have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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