Features November 2012 Issue

Share the Thanksgiving Feast with Your Dog!

Don't let your pups miss out on Thanksgiving fun! Here’s a healthy meal that will cause your four-legged family members to celebrate!

Thanksgiving is a time when families gather together to enjoy good food and to remember all the things we have to be grateful for. Unfortunately, one part of our family often gets left out – our dogs! It must be frustrating for them to smell all the wonderful aromas coming from the kitchen, but not be able to share in the feast. We’re here to relieve that vexing situation with recipes for some healthy Thanksgiving dishes just for them.

On the next page are recipes you can use to give your dogs a special treat on this wonderful holiday, or to use up leftovers afterwards. Note these recipes are fine to feed occasionally, but they are not a complete diet. 

Thanksgiving for dogs

Etta, One of our designated taste testers, happily takes her place at the kitchen table to sample the results of some of our meals found in the "Thanksgiving Recipies" section. Her favorite,as you can see, was the dressing.

One serving of each of the three recipes together, or three servings of either of the first two recipes alone, would provide a complete meal for a dog weighing about 25 pounds. One serving of any of the three recipes individually could be used to supplement the same dog’s regular diet (reduce the amount you usually feed by one-third to account for the extra calories). All recipes are low in fat, and leftovers can be frozen for later use.

Why Shouldn’t Our Dogs Just Share Our Dinner?

We are warned over and over again that sharing human food with dogs can be dangerous. That’s true if you’re sharing fatty foods or scraps, such as turkey skin or pan drippings, cheese, bacon, or butter. Too much fat can lead to pancreatitis, particularly in dogs accustomed to eating a low-fat commercial diet. Sugary treats such as pumpkin pie are also not a good idea, since they may cause tummy upset, as well as providing unneeded calories that contribute to obesity. Cooked bones can perforate the esophagus, stomach, or intestines and cause impactions, and should never be fed to dogs.In addition to these foods, certain ingredients can also cause problems for dogs, including:

-Xylitol, used as a sugar substitute in some baked goods, sugar-free gum, candy, and toothpaste, can cause life-threatening hypoglycemia in dogs, even in small amounts – as little as five sticks of sugar-free gum can sicken a 44-pound dog.
-Macadamia nuts can cause paralysis; fortunately this resolves within about 24 hours.
-Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs.
-Onions cause a form of anemia and should not be fed (very small amounts in leftovers would be okay).
-Garlic is similar but much less potent, so small amounts can be used for flavoring.
-Nutmeg and sage are safe in very small amounts, but too much can cause gastrointestinal upset and central nervous system depression or excitement.
-Chocolate, coffee, and caffeine are all dangerous for dogs (dark chocolate is more toxic than milk chocolate).Yeast dough can expand in the dog’s stomach causing pain and even rupture.
-Milk can cause stomach upset due to lactose intolerance (yogurt and cottage cheese are low in lactose and are good to feed).

Foods Okay To Share with Dogs

There are many foods that can be safely shared with dogs. As long as your dog doesn’t have a health problem that requires a special diet, there’s no reason you can’t feed a special meal on this holiday. Just be careful what you offer. Make good choices and limit amounts to help your dog enjoy the holiday without suffering from overindulgence afterward.Some foods, such as turkey meat (without the skin) can be shared without needing any special preparation, but other dishes may require changes to make them appropriate for dogs. Set aside a portion during preparation, before adding butter, cheese, sugar, onions, or other high-fat and high-calorie ingredients, to make servings appropriate for dogs.

thanksgiving for dogs

Try putting food into a Kong or other hollow toy. Your dog will enjoy the challenge of removing his treat, and the task will keep your dog occupied while the rest of the family enjoys their dinner. Add plain yogurt and freeze ahead of time to make the treat last even longer.

Holiday Recipes for Dogs

Anyone who knows me well knows that I don’t cook, so when I was asked to create some Thanksgiving recipes for dogs, I panicked. Recipes? I’m the one who has argued against the use of recipes for homemade diets (I prefer diet guidelines so that the same food is not fed every day), and against the need to create special recipes for dogs using multiple ingredients and flavorings more suitable for human palates. While it’s hard for me to imagine, however, I realize that some people actually enjoy cooking, and may find it especially gratifying to prepare a special and healthy  holiday treat for their dogs.

In desperation, I appealed to my friend Jill Petersen, of Kenmore, Washington, who not only volunteered to help me create the recipes, but also tried them out on her own dogs. Etta, her Norwich Terrier, was the first to volunteer for the “sniff and taste” test, and she gave an enthusiastic two paws up to all the dishes (her favorite was the giblets and rice dish).

My primary goals with these recipes were to ensure that they were each low in fat and included only ingredients that are good for dogs, so that the usual holiday warnings would not apply. It was harder than I expected; I was surprised at the amount of added fat in many dishes. I almost despaired of finding a low-fat, low-calorie pie crust; the low-fat versions substituted light Karo syrup for butter or oil, and there was no way I was going to tell people to feed that to their dogs! Once again, Jill saved the day with her oatmeal and applesauce crust.

Here are three Thanksgiving recipes for dogs brought to you by Whole Dog Journal:

Turkey and Vegetable Frittata for Dogs

Leftover turkey can be mixed with eggs and a variety of different vegetables to make a healthy meal for your dog.

turkey frittata for dogs recipe


2 cups (10 oz.) cooked turkey meat (light or dark, no skin), cut into pieces
1 cup (5 oz.) steamed broccoli
1 cup (5 oz.) steamed cauliflower
4 eggs
1/4 cup plain, lowfat yogurt


Steam broccoli and cauliflower for 8 minutes or until tender, and cut into bite-sized pieces (other vegetables may be substituted; see suggestions below). Beat eggs and yogurt together. Mix turkey and vegetables together in a quiche or glass pie pan (spray first with vegetable or olive oil cooking spray to prevent sticking). Pour egg mixture on top and stir, making sure the meat and vegetables are coated with egg. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes (can also be cooked at 375 degrees on top shelf if preparing at the same time as the rice dish). Dish is ready when a fork inserted comes out clean. Makes 8 servings (3.5 oz. each).

Nutritional Analysis per Serving

100 calories, 15g protein, 3g fat, 3g carbohydrates.


Zucchini, spinach, asparagus, bell pepper, green beans, or sweet potato. Chicken instead of turkey.

Quick & Easy Version

Mix leftover turkey with egg, plain yogurt, vegetables, mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes or canned pumpkin.

Rice, Apple & Giblet Stuffing

Broth from giblets gives brown rice an intoxicating flavor for dogs, and the addition of the giblets as well makes this dish suitable for a meal. This recipe can be made with a smaller amount of giblets (such as from a chicken) or a larger amount of rice when combined with other high-protein foods. 


Giblets from one turkey (liver, heart and gizzard, about 6.5 oz.)
1 cup brown rice (dry)
2 small apples, diced or cubed
2.5 cups of water


Combine water and giblets and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the giblets and let the water cool a bit. Spray a 2-quart baking dish with olive or vegetable oil cooking spray. Add brown rice and cooled water from the giblets and mix together well. Cover and bake at 375 degrees fahrenheit for 45 minutes. Remove from oven; rice should be almost fully cooked with most of the water absorbed. Add chopped giblets and apples. Return to oven and bake for another 15 minutes uncovered. Makes 12 servings (1/2 cup each).

Nutritional Analysis per Serving

100 calories, 4.5g protein, 2.3g fat, 15.6g carbohydrates.

Optional extras if you want to share with your dog:

Dried cranberries, celery, parsley, thyme, poultry seasoning.

Quick & Easy Version

Mix giblets with cooked rice and/or vegetables.

Mini Pumpkin Pies

Pumpkin is good for dogs, but they don't need the extra sugar and spices found in pumpkin pie mix. This recipe uses a low-fat, low-calorie crust suitable for dogs. 

pumpkin pie for dogs recipe


16 oz. canned pumpkin (plain)
8 oz. plain, low-fat yogurt
3/4 cup wheat flour, or a mixture of all purpose and whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup applesauce, unsweetened
3-4 tbsp. water


Mix oatmeal and flour together in a food processor. Add applesauce slowly, continuing to run processor. Add water slowly, using only enough to make a ball form (too much water will make the dough sticky). Spray wax paper and muffin tin with olive or vegetable oil cooking spray. Roll out dough onto wax paper and cut out 8 circles, about 4" across (alternatively divide dough into eight small balls before rolling). Press individual dough circles into bottom and sides of muffin tin. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 minutes. Let crusts cool, then remove from the muffin tin. Fill each crust with about 1/4 cup (2 oz.) of canned pumpkin. Top with a dollop of yogurt. Makes 8 mini pumpkin pies.

Nutritional Analysis per Pie

100 calories, 4g protein, 1g fat, 20g carbohydrates.

Optional Extras:

Cinnamon, ginger and honey can be mixed in or added on top if desired.

Quick & Easy Version: 

Give a scoop of canned pumpkin with a spoonful of plain yogurt on top (crustless version is much lower in calories). 

Healthy Substitutions for Dogs

Turkey skin or drippings Turkey meat (skinless)
Fatty ham scraps Lean ham meat
Cooked bones Giblets (not too much at one time)
Gravy made from drippings Low-fat gravy
Stuffing with onions Stuffing without onions
Candied yams and marshmallows Sweet potato or yams
Potatoes with butter and/or sour cream Plain mashed potatoes
Cheese and sausage Celery or carrot sticks
Green bean casserole with onions Green beans
Broccoli casserole with cheese Broccoli
Brussels sprouts with bacon Brussels sprouts with a few bacon bits
Pearl onions Creamed corn
Applesauce with added sugar Unsweetened applesauce
Grapes or raisins Blueberries and dried cranberries
Apple pie Apple slices
Berry pie Berries
Pumpkin pie Canned pumpkin
Nutmeg Cinnamon
Whipped cream Yogurt (plain)
Alcohol Water flavored with low-fat gravy


Author Mary Straus would like to extend special thanks to Jill and her taste testers: Etta, Raisin’ (a 15-year-old Cairn Terrier), and Chip, a 12-year-old Norwich Terrier).   

Comments (5)

When I tried to access the recipies I got a bubble that says I'm not authorized' even though I'm logged in.

Posted by: Jayne | October 21, 2013 8:52 AM    Report this comment

I don't see any recipes.??

Posted by: Cathy E | October 21, 2013 7:34 AM    Report this comment

Raw giblets would be fine. Even of your dog does not get fed a raw diet, adding it to the food I'm moderation would be fine

Posted by: Dogman | October 19, 2013 4:36 PM    Report this comment

Is there any reason why I shouldn't feed giblets raw (in reasonable amounts)?

Posted by: Deborah B | October 19, 2013 11:19 AM    Report this comment

Be sure to watch the turkey--so many are enhanced and loaded with sodium

Posted by: Gloria F | October 19, 2013 8:49 AM    Report this comment

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