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Can Dogs Have Thanksgiving Turkey?

With Thanksgiving around the corner, many of us have one thing on our minds: a huge, juicy turkey shared with all of our family members. Your four-legged family members will probably gather around, too, in hopes of using those puppy-dog eyes to earn a few bites. But some portions can pose a health hazard to dogs. Keep these turkey sharing tips in mind to keep your dog safe on Thanksgiving.

Can My Dog Have Cooked Turkey?
With your extended family around your dinner table, it can be hard to keep track of who’s sneaking scraps to your pup. Veterinarians see an influx in cases of pancreatitis around Thanksgiving when dogs overindulge on fatty cuts of turkey.
The pancreas, an organ near the stomach, produces enzymes that help digest food. When a dog eats fatty foods, the pancreas over-produces enzymes to help break down the fat. The enzymes cause painful inflammation and tissue damage as the pancreas essentially digests itself.
Symptoms of pancreatitis include severe vomiting and diarrhea, a hunched back due to a painful abdomen, and a fever. Pancreatitis is a life-threatening medical emergency. Dogs typically recover with treatment but may need to be on a low-fat diet for the rest of their life.
If you can’t be certain that your guests won’t feed your dog scraps, it’s best to crate them (your dog, not the guests!) or keep them in a separate room during dinner. Remember to collect all picked bones and scraps after the meal and dispose of food waste in your outdoor garbage bin.
Dogs can safely have small pieces of cooked Thanksgiving turkey. It’s best to feed white meat, as it’s lower in fat than dark meat, with any skin or visible fat removed. Turkey is often brined or marinated in a high-sodium solution, and can be seasoned with onion, which is toxic to dogs in high amounts. A few bites of white meat is unlikely to do your dog any harm.

Can My Dog Have The Giblets?
Inside your turkey you’ll find a goody bag containing the turkey’s liver, gizzard, neck, kidneys and heart. You may throw them away, or use them to make stock or gravy.
The liver, gizzard, kidney, and heart of the turkey are all nutrient-packed, protein-rich organ meats that are generally safe for dogs to eat, raw or cooked. Organ meats are an essential part of a raw food diet for dogs.
However, organ meats are very rich. Even dogs that are normally raw-fed can get diarrhea if they eat too much of it. If you would like to feed the “giblets” to your dog, it’s best to offer just a small portion as a between-meal snack. Organ meats can be served raw, cooked without seasoning or added fats, or even chopped up and dehydrated to make training treats.

Can Dogs Have Turkey Bones?
In the wild, canines gnaw and may consume their prey’s bones, which are rich in calcium, while the marrow is full of fats that provide energy. Dog parents that feed a raw diet that mimics that of a wild canine typically also include bone as a primary food source.
However, this does not mean that your guests can scrape their plates into your dog’s bowl at the end of a meal. Once bones have been cooked, they become hard and brittle, and they’re very likely to form sharp, splintery pieces. Cooked bones are a common cause of injuries to the dog’s digestive tract, from lacerations in their mouth to bowel perforations. Cooked bones are dangerous and should never be fed.
Raw bones, on the other hand, are softer and less likely to cause issues. A dog’s stomach acid has a lower pH than a human’s, allowing raw bones to break down in their digestive system. But even raw bones can cause issues for some dogs. Dogs can still choke if they do not chew raw bones properly. Certain types of bones are hard enough to break teeth, and others break into sharp pieces even when uncooked.
The turkey neck, often found in the bag of giblets, is generally safe for dogs to eat raw. But Thanksgiving is not a good time to experiment if your dog does not normally eat raw bones or organs.
Whether you’re interested in transitioning to a fresh diet or just want to give your kibble-fed dog a special treat every now and then, it’s important to do your research and talk to your veterinarian. You can freeze those Thanksgiving goodies for a later date, a day on which you won’t be too busy to supervise your dog while they chow down.