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Can Dogs Eat Turkey? (Asking for a Friend...Who’s My Dog)
Image by Ian Carroll (aka "icypics")/Getty Images

Let’s cut to the chase: Thanksgiving is all about the turkey. You know it. We know it. And your dog knows it. It’s why Harrison Ford (the dog, not the actor) sits politely under the table waiting oh-so patiently for any scraps he can get his paws on. But can dogs eat turkey? If you’ve ever seen the “The Merv Griffin Show” episode of Seinfeld, you know that turkey has tryptophan, which can make you sleepy. But can it make your pup sleepy? Also, is turkey safe for dogs?

The short answer: Yes. And no. Don’t worry, we’ll break it down for you.

NYC veterinarian Dr. Katja Lang (aka @doctorkibble) informed us that unless your pet has a poultry allergy, there’s nothing toxic in turkey for cats or dogs—yep, even tryptophan is OK (it’s actually a necessary amino acid). In fact, you’ve probably fed your dog turkey before as it’s a common ingredient in dog food. But she also warned, “There are risks from bones and fatty, rich portions.” 

Turkey roasted in butter, oil, herbs, garlic and spices and packed with onions and stuffing is not a common ingredient in dog food. Why? Well, because as much as Harrison Ford would absolutely love to chow down on Ina Garten’s decadent Thanksgiving recipe, those delicious extra ingredients could make your dog sick, upsetting his digestion (hello, 3 a.m. diarrhea run) and possibly lead to longer-term affects, like pancreatitis. Sure, you may be loving your high-fat, low-carb keto diet, but high rates of fat for Harrison could be fatal.

It’s also probably why my vet had such an extreme reaction when learning what the patient before me was feeding her Shih Tzu: “Rotisserie chicken?! NOOOOO!” 

Of course your dog’s gonna wanna eat food with lots of spices and fats, but they shouldn’t. That doesn’t mean you can’t include your pup on a little Thanksgiving feast (after all, there’s nothing you’re more grateful for than your dog). So, boil up some ground turkey to supplement your dog’s regular food. (No skin, no bones, no seasonings and absolutely no onions, which are toxic for canines.) And per Dr. Lang: “In general, only tiny portions of new food items are recommended to your dog’s diet.”

If a tiny amount of boiled turkey sounds boring, opt for an after-dinner treat like turkey jerky, freeze-dried raw turkey or—not turkey but still on-theme—homemade sweet potato chews.

See? Now everyone’s happy.

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