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Is Turkey Bad For Dogs? & Other Thanksgiving Foods

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Last Updated: November 20, 2023 | 4 min read | 18 Comments

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high angle view of golden retriever near family holding glasses of white wine during thanksgiving dinner

I know it’s tempting to slip Fido a piece of Thanksgiving turkey or lunch meat. But could turkey harm your dog? A little won’t hurt, but here’s what you need to know and remember what to avoid. We also share a yummy dog turkey treat recipe to make with your Thanksgiving leftovers.

Can Dogs Eat Turkey? Is It Bad For Dogs?

Plain, unseasoned turkey is a tasty and nutritious snack for most dogs and is often an ingredient in commercial dog foods. There isn’t anything particularly toxic about it, but when processed, like deli meats and turkey hot dogs, the chemicals used to keep them “edible” are often not digested well by dogs. We do not recommend feeding your dog any processed meats. So it is best to avoid deli turkey and other sandwich meats.

Thanksgiving turkey can be just as dangerous. We like to cover and fill our birds with oil, butter, seasonings, garlic, onion, stuffing, etc. These extra ingredients can upset your dog’s digestive system or even cause pancreatitis. It’s better to avoid sliding the dog a piece under the table.

If you choose to give turkey to your dog, moderation is crucial, and always remember that each dog has unique dietary needs and sensitivities.

Our Personal Experience Giving A Dog Thanksgiving Turkey

Homemade thanksgiving turkey on a placemat with Cavalier eating it
To make it feel extra fancy, we even gave her a placemat and goblet with bones for dessert (if she had any room left in her belly after gobbling up the Turkey dinner).

Our dog Lexie was a huge fan of The Farmer’s Dog turkey recipe, so naturally, at Thanksgiving time, we would share the extra turkey with her as a special treat. I would make sure the meat we gave her was unseasoned without any skin or bones. Also chopped it up into bite-sized pieces and mixed it in unseasoned, cooked carrots and white rice for some grains and nutrients. The turkey breast was higher in sodium than what she usually ate, but given it was only once a year and a special occasion, we made an exception.

Sadie Cornelius, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel dog parent

7 Thanksgiving Sides: Are They Safe Or Dangerous For Dogs?

  1. Mashed PotatoesPlain cooked potatoes are okay, but dogs should stay away if they contain seasonings, salt, and fat, which can upset their stomach. Potatoes also contain solanine and oxalates, which can be toxic.
  2. Sweet PotatoesDogs can safely eat cooked, unseasoned, peeled sweet potatoes. The skin can be problematic for your dog to digest, and you should never feed your dog raw potatoes. Learn more about dogs and potatoes.
  3. GravyDogs should avoid gravy because the seasonings and salt can be toxic, and gravy is often loaded with fat.
  4. Pumpkin Pie & Sweet Potato Casserole – Plain canned pumpkin or cooked sweet potatoes are fine, but avoid giving them a slice of pie or casserole made with sugar and sweeteners. Too much sugar for your pup can lead to dental issues, obesity, and even diabetes.
  5. Dinner Rolls Most bread rolls are not safe for dogs. Just like yeast rises in bread, it will also expand and rise within your pup’s tummy. Make sure they don’t get any. While mild cases will cause gas, lots of farting, and discomfort — too much of it could rupture the stomach and intestines. Yeast dough is also dangerous because as it ferments and rises, it makes alcohol, which can lead to alcohol poisoning.
  6. Cranberries – Cranberries and dried cranberries are safe for dogs in small quantities. However, your dog may not be a fan of tart fruit. If you find that your dog likes cranberries, feed them in moderation to prevent an upset tummy.
  7. Alcohol – While tempting, do not let your dog indulge in beer, wine, or liquor. Alcohol can cause not only intoxication, lack of coordination, weak breathing, and abnormal acidity but potentially even coma or death.

Can Dogs Chew On Turkey Bones?

Feeding your dog meat bones is always a risk, especially if cooked. So, we recommend that you avoid feeding your dog meat bones. Like chicken and other poultry, turkey bones tend to splinter easily, which can wreak digestive havoc on your dog’s insides. To avoid this risk, it is also best to avoid giving your dog turkey bones.

Does Your Dog Have A Food Allergy?

Some dogs have food allergies. If you see a pattern with your pup eating turkey and subsequently getting sick, you may consider removing the turkey from their diet. To confirm a food or environmental allergy, you can order this test and consult your vet for more advice.

Turkey Dog Treat Recipe

If you want to try giving your dog some Thanksgiving leftovers, here is a dog treat recipe you can make at home. Remember to avoid giving your dog a butter-soaked, herb-covered, stuffing-filled turkey. Unseasoned cooked turkey is best, and only feed it in moderation.

Making these treats is a healthy alternative.

  • 1 unbaked loaf of bread or pizza crust
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1-2 teaspoons flour
  • 3/4 cup cooked turkey chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup cooked vegetables that are safe for dog
  • 1/4 cup grated cheese (pick your pup’s favorite)
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Roll out the dough and cut it into 3″ circles with a cookie cutter.
  3. Combine the water and flour in a saucepan, stirring until the flour dissolves.
  4. Heat on medium until the mixture thickens.
  5. Add the turkey and vegetables. Cook until the mixture is thoroughly heated.
  6. Simmer for a few minutes.
  7. Spoon one to two teaspoons of the turkey-veggie mixture onto each circle.
  8. Fold up the sides and pinch shut.
  9. Roll into a ball shape.
  10. In a separate small bowl, mix the cheese and sesame seeds.
  11. Roll or sprinkle each ball with the cheese-sesame seed mixture.
  12. Arrange the balls on a baking sheet and cook for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.

Allow the turkey dog treats to cool and store them in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Serving Size: Approximately 8 cups (64 oz.)

Is Turkey Bad For Dogs Infographic

Here’s a handy graphic you can share and print out to make the turkey treat recipe.

Can Dogs Eat Turkey And Turkey Dog Treat Recipe Graphic

A No-Cook, Year-Round Alternative

If you are looking for a delicious pre-made turkey recipe to enjoy all year long, we highly recommend you get your paws on The Farmer’s Dog. Your dog will gobble it up (or at least ours do!). The Farmer’s Dog is fresh, all-natural wet dog food packed with the nutrients your pup needs. If your dog prefers other flavors, they offer meat-first recipes with chicken, beef, pork, and turkey. For added convenience, it is delivered right to your doorstep. Learn more in our Farmer’s Dog review.

The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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