Is Fido Invited to Thanksgiving Dinner? Lessons from the Pilgrims on what to feed your dog.

Dr. Michael Forcier

History suggests that the first Thanksgiving on American soil took place in 1621, at the Plymouth Plantation subdivision somewhere in New England. In Edward Winslow’s account of the event, the first successful harvest in the New World was the impetus for the gathering and the party went on for three days! Nearly 90 Native Americans hunkered down with another 53 of Winslow’s closest pilgrim friends. Nowhere in the document does Winslow mention that dogs were a part of the celebration; not under tables begging for scraps of wild turkey, corn, venison or eel, not circumnavigating the skirts of pilgrim women as they cooked and baked, and not stealthily licking the dessert plates as pilgrim men, belts loosened to the last notch, slept in front of the football game

Nearly 400 years later, it seems few American homes are without a dog. (The ASPCA estimates that nearly 40% of households have a friendly canine.) So, this Thanksgiving we urge you to resist the temptation to set a plate for your four-legged son or daughter. Unfortunately many of our dogs and cats will participate, through our own weakness to include them in the meal.
We know the look that begs for the tiniest of morsels. Fight it, Pilgrim. Human foods are rich and fatty. Rich and fatty are the sharp sticks that stir up the pancreas, and when a pancreas is angry… bad things happen. Pancreatitis is a potentially harmful inflammation of the pancreas that releases toxic enzymes leading to vomiting and/or diarrhea. We have seen many cases where pancreatitis leads to dehydration, a painful abdomen, or worse. Any of which may result in an emergency room visit or an extended hospital stay. A life of kibble and biscuits that suddenly gives way to a slice of deep fried turkey, a mound of cheesy mashed potatoes slathered in giblet gravy and a bite or two of warm apple crisp is a recipe for digestive disaster for our pets.
Consider too that turkey bones splinter and could perforate vital organs leading to a miserable holiday for your dog. We all know that, dogs don’t. So if you have won the battle to voluntarily offer up goodies, remember to keep things out of paw’s reach of the counter surfers lurking in the kitchen, waiting for the opportunity to drag the poultry carcass out into the living room. Same can be said for the trash can. Don’t think that immediately filling the can with leftovers will out smart the dog, you have only prepared a 13 gallon buffet…take the trash to the curb when clean-up is done.
Speaking of leftovers, we recommend: NO. NONE. NEVER.
The rich delicious fatty content of our foods doesn’t just magically dissipate into the cool air of the fridge. Additionally, improper storage of Thanksgiving trimmings may cultivate some bacteria. Bacteria that would love to populate our dog’s GI systems and raise large happy families of bacteria. Result: the dog needs a visit to your Vet and you are enjoying the newest Holiday tradition in your home…cleaning vomit and diarrhea off your rugs.
Tell yourself, in the finest Pilgrim tradition, that your dog will not be the recipient of table scraps at this year’s family gathering. You can do it, I know you can. Fight the urge, if you can’t… you might be adding another tradition: a drive to your family Vet as part of the festivities.
By the way, contrary to popular belief, I was not at the 1621 Thanksgiving. But I will be at this years with those I love, hopefully you will do the same.
Enjoy the Holiday.

We hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving Holiday- your friends at Animal Medical Center of Mt. Pleasant.



  1. Dr. Forcier,
    Thank you for the good reminder about people food for dogs. Well written, informative and your wonderful sense of humor helped make a serious subject very digestible.
    We miss all of you at AMC. We’re spending this winter in Arizona City, near Phoenix and Tucson.
    Stay well.


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