How To Help Your Pet Enjoy Thanksgiving Turkey


It was Thanksgiving afternoon. Susan had been cooking all day. She expected a house full of guests in a few hours.  She was not at all ready for them. Much to her shock, she discovered that Rex, her six month old Labrador puppy, had taken and eaten a half-cooked turkey drumstick. Bone and all.

Certified vet homeopath Dr. Jeff Feinman will review your pet's lifestyle and diet. Dr. Jeff can help your pet remain health and recover from diseases holistically.

Dogs and cats evolved to eat meat (but not stolen from you during food prep). Photo courtesy of

Her regular vet had warned Susan to not feed her new pup any human food. And to absolutely never give bones. She therefore called her vet in a panic, but they were closed. Being a responsible pet owner, Susan dropped what she was doing and rushed Rex to the local 24 hour ER.

The intern on duty at the ER was as alarmed as Susan and whisked Rex away for blood tests and x-rays. The abdominal pictures showed food and bone fragments in Rex’s stomach. The intern offered to admit Rex for intravenous fluids and further testing. Because Rex was acting fine and showed no evidence of distress Susan opted to monitor him at home.

Rex was discharged with antibiotics and other medications. Just in case.

Thanks-Giving and Beyond

Susan arrived home just in time to greet her guests. Fortunately her great husband and kids had finished most of the preparations. All of the guests had a lovely afternoon and wonderful meal. Unfortunately not poor Rex. He had been isolated in his crate ever since

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“Of course I’m unhappy. I smell turkey in the other room!”

he arrived home. The ER vet said to limit his activity and food to avoid any internal damage.

The next day, Rex still seemed absolutely fine. And starving. Susan didn’t know what to do so she called the ER vet. A different doc was on duty. This vet’s advice was completely different. She told Susan that she and many of her clients feed their pets poultry and other meats with bones on a regular basis. She never had any problems and therefore thought that Rex could return to his normal life.

Understandably, Susan was now very confused. Was Rex ever in danger? Was the $600 she spent in the ER really necessary? Time to do some research and get some answers.

Dr. Google Says…

Susan’s first stop online was the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) where she read that they officially advised against feeding fresh (let alone raw or undercooked) food to pets. But in the same web search Susan found dozens of other sites that discussed fresh food feeding to pets. Some pet owners and vets even sung the praises of fresh and raw food feeding. Susan read case after case where chronically ill pets recovered fully just by upgrading from commercial to fresh food.

Susan knew that some online sources were not dependable, so she also started asking around. Much to her surprise, some of her friends were already feeding human quality food to their pets. She even found that most  of the local pet store sold frozen raw food. With bones!

Apparently, some people were knowingly feeding foods that the one ER vet said were very dangerous. Yet others disagreed strongly. Susan was really confused. She just wanted to do the best she could for Rex.

Can You Feed Table Scraps (aka fresh food) To Your Pets?

It turns out that Susan was a friend of a close relative of mine so she also told me her tale of Thanksgiving woe. She then asked if I thought her ER visit was warranted and if uncooked turkey is dangerous for Rex. My replies were yes, and not usually.

My rationale was that anytime a pet owner is worried about anything going on with their companion animal, that a vet visit is warranted. It is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to the health of your pet.

Regarding the commonly-heard Thanksgiving “danger” of feeding turkey to your dog or cat, the answer is not as simple. In my experience, almost all pets enjoy sharing a bit of your turkey. It’s safe in most circumstances. Little bits of turkey white meat make fabulous treats. Even for pets with sensitive stomachs. As long as the turkey piece is relatively bland and not covered with gravy.

Avoid cooked turkey skin and dark meat if your pet is not used to eating fresh food. Dog and cat gastrointestinal tracts did not develop to tolerate *cooked* animal fats. Raw is fine. Cooked is not.

Same goes for bones. Susan rushed Rex to the ER when he ate a mostly raw turkey bone. The intern on duty at the ER was also upset by this but should she have been?

Cooked bones are never OK. Cooked bones are sharp and can be dangerous. Feeding bones in general is controversial primarily for this reason. However, dogs and cats evolved to eat prey. Every part of what they catch or scavenge. Even the bones.

Certified vet homeopath Dr. Jeff Feinman in CT helps his patients holistically eat fresh and raw foods.

The truly natural diet.

Turkey Dinner For Everyone This Thanksgiving?

Yes, you can safely share most of your fresh foods with your dogs and cats. Certainly plain turkey. White meat if it is cooked. Avoid the fatty parts and in general avoid cooked animal fats. Even pets who are acclimated to eating fresh and raw foods can still get sick from eating cooked animal fat.

Table “scraps” are really just fresh foods on which most pets thrive. There are a few basic rules for feeding a fresh food diet. Follow them if you want to share food with your beloved companions (in their bowls and not from the dinner table please). They’ll thank you for the turkey.

Feel free to post your fresh food feeding below or join the discussion on the forum.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Stay safe and be well.

Dr. Jeff

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