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Thanksgiving Food and Your Service Dog

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, there’s food, celebrating and fun galore. However, just because you’re able to enjoy something doesn’t mean your Service Dog should. Read on to learn about 10 common Thanksgiving food stuffs your partner shouldn’t have, and 5 fun options you can share instead.

Thanksgiving Food Not To Share

1. Fatty Pieces of Meat
When cooking or carving the turkey, many people like to cut off the fatty pieces and share with their dog. While straight fat won’t hurt your Service Dog, if your partner isn’t used to it, it can give them a very upset belly. This goes for the skin of the turkey as well – it has a high fat content and rich balance of minerals.Thanksgiving Food Ideas for Service Dogs

2. Green Bean Casserole
Green beans are a healthy treat that many dogs enjoy, but unfortunately, green bean casserole often contains onions, garlic or other additives that can prove dangerous for your Service Dog. Onions and garlic both have been shown to induce anemia in many dogs.

3. Gravy
Gravy usually consists of dairy, flour, and added herbs/seasonings. Dairy gives many dogs a severely upset stomach, and many herbs and spices dangerous for dogs. Even the ones that aren’t, like regular black pepper, can cause digestive upset.

4. Turkey Bones
Cooked turkey bones are extremely brittle and splinter easily. Every year around the holidays, there are horror stories about dogs with bone fragments embedded in the roof of their mouth. Keep your Service Dog safe and don’t share any cooked poultry bones.

5. Bread or Pie Dough
Dough contains dairy, eggs and/or yeast, and most dough is made to rise. Uncooked dough can continue to expand in your Service Dog’s stomach, which can create a dangerous obstruction or severe discomfort. There have even been cases of raw dough causing bloat in some dogs.

6. Raisins/Grapes
Raisins are extremely lethal to dogs. Even small amounts (1 oz) can kill a large dog. It takes a significantly higher amount of grapes, but they’re just as dangerous. Keep all raisins and grapes well out of reach of your Service Dog, including any foods that may contain them, like fruit cake, cookies or other holiday treats.

7. Chocolate and Nuts
While chocolate isn’t nearly as dangerous as many people think (it takes a massive amount to cause major toxicity or death), small amounts can prove devastating enough to ruin any holiday gathering with explosive diarrhea, excessive slobbering and projectile vomiting. The darker the chocolate, worse the effects, as well as the more toxic it is. Now, chocolate can be lethal, but it takes well over 2 pounds to kill a large dog. View the “Chocolate Toxicity Calculator” to determine how much chocolate it would take to cause a serious problem for your Service Dog.

TksgvgDogTurkeyMany types of nuts are also highly toxic, with macadamia nuts topping the list. Keep bowls of holiday nuts, as well as any food containing them, like cakes, cookies or casseroles/salads, away from your partner.

8. Fatty Foods
Mashed potatoes, buttered corn and macaroni and cheese are truly delightful, but they can wreak havoc on your Service Dog’s stomach. Chances are that if it’s a food you generally believe you should “eat in moderation,” your partner probably shouldn’t have a bite.

9. Sugary Foods and Desserts
It just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without candied yams, a tableful of pies and a decadent selection of deserts. As tasty as all that sugary goodness is, though, don’t share with your Service Dog. Sugar is not only very unhealthy for your partner (the canine body cannot metabolize it well), but in larger amounts, it can cause dangerous neurological issues.

10. Adult Beverages
From eggnog to hard cider to wines, many people enjoy a nice holiday drink. Alcohol is exceptionally dangerous for your Service Dog, though. A dog’s liver cannot break down the molecules that alcohol is comprised of, and toxicity occurs very quickly as a result. Alcohol is literally poison for your partner. Keep all adult beverages well out of reach.

Now that you know what not to share, here are some fun alternatives your Service Dog can enjoy, if you’re so inclined. There’s no obligation, of course, to share any holiday spirit with your partner, but if you’d like to, these Thanksgiving foods won’t wreck your Service Dog’s system.

Thanksgiving Food to Share

1. Plain Turkey Meat
Before any butter or seasonings are added, plain turkey meat can be a great holiday treat for your Service Dog. Some dogs have a hard time digesting cooked meat, but almost all dogs enjoy a sliver of raw. For dogs on a raw diet, this one is a no-brainer. For an extra fun treat, as well as a way to provide your partner with some entertainment, shred some meat into a KONG or other puzzle toy after mixing with a small amount of plain apple sauce, pure pumpkin or plain, no-dairy-added mashed potatoes.

2. Raw or Cooked Veggies
Many dogs really enjoy small pieces of sweet potatoes or green beans. Some families use whole raw sweet potatoes as an alternative to bones, and many trainers love adding raw green beans to a training treat mix.  Make sure that any veggies you share with your Service Dog don’t have added spices, creams, butters or dangerous ingredients. While corn isn’t dangerous, many dogs have a thanksgivingdindindifficult time digesting it and it gives them gas – offer with discretion.

3. Raw or Cooked Fruits
Pumpkin, apples and cranberries, oh my! Raw pumpkin is a great addition to your Service Dog’s diet year-round, but this favorite Thanksgiving food is especially easy to come by this time of year. It has great digestive benefits (fiber, any one?), tastes great and is full of vitamins and minerals. Make sure it’s raw pumpkin, and doesn’t have pie spices in it! You can chunk up an apple or offer a small handful of cranberries, too. Whether you offer it straight, add it to your partner’s meal or blend it with another option on the list, you’ll find most dogs really enjoy raw fruits. Just avoid grapes at all costs!

4. Plain Rice, Couscous, or Quinoa
If you’re preparing a dish that includes a cooked grain, consider setting a small amount aside for your Service Dog, if you’re planning on sharing Thanksgiving foods with your partner. Cooked, plain grains like rice, couscous and quinoa are gentle on the stomach and many pooches greatly enjoy them. Quinoa offers some great health benefits and is a solid source of protein, too!

5. Stuffing or Plain Breads
As long as your Service Dog isn’t sensitive to wheat or grains, a couple bites of stuffing or an unbuttered roll can be a real treat. Just ensure any stuffing shared with your partner is 100% free of garlic, onions, and herbs, particularly sage. Sage is extremely toxic to canines and felines both.



  • Jessamy J'anguisette November 21, 2014

    SDs should never be fed from a human plate or table. They need to remain public access ready, and that means knowing a solid Leave It. Dogs which beg, surf, expect, or ask for table scraps in any way are not Service Dogs.

    If my SD were to exhibit this behavior even once, he would be removed by me immediately from public access and retrained in the faulty area. When he retires, he will be given all privileges of my pet dog, plus dog sport classes.

    Please remember, everyone, John Q Public is constantly basing everything they “know” about Service Dogs on what they see you do as a team Every moment we are visible is someone’s first impression about Service Dogs everywhere.

    Please also stay away from most traditional Christmas plants that are on retail shelves currently.


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