Use CARE When Sharing “Treats” This Thanksgiving

Nothing says November like a Thanksgiving feast complete with cranberry sauce, stuffing, sweet potatoes, turkey and pumpkin pie. Many of our four-legged family members would be thrilled to be offered a seat at the holiday dinner table — and many of us wish we could make the offer.

As responsible pet parents, we know carte blanche access to the Thanksgiving Day table is not good for our canine companions. And if your dog has kidney disease, you also know how important an appropriate kidney-friendly diet is to managing your furry friend’s health. But even the best-trained dog may not be able to resist sampling the Thanksgiving feast if given the opportunity.

Which begs the question: Are there any foods you can share from your dinner plate if your dog has kidney disease?

Yes, and no.

If you feel compelled to share “people food” treats and your dog has kidney disease, you’ll want to talk first with your veterinarian. There are some people foods that dogs with kidney disease can have, so you don’t need to avoid sharing Thanksgiving tidbits altogether. However, you do need to be more conscientious about what and how much you share.

Consider these food treat suggestions

According to Deborah Linder, DVM, MS, DACVN, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, you should choose treats that are not too high in phosphorus, salt or protein. Dr. Linder recommends that treat options for most dogs with chronic kidney disease contain less than 150 mg (milligrams) of phosphorus per 100 Calories (kcal) and 100 mg of sodium per 100 kcal. What does that mean in terms of food treats? Choose from these Some fruit and vegetable options for low-phosphorus treats:

  • Apple slices
  • Green beans (plain, cooked or steamed — no green bean casserole)
  • Carrots, including baby-cut carrots (plain, raw or cooked — no brown sugar-butter glaze)
  • Broccoli (plain, raw, cooked or steamed — skip the cheese sauce)
  • Zucchini (plain, raw, baked, roasted — forget the butter, cheese and garlic)
  • Sweet potato (baked, with or without a little maple syrup or honey)
  • Watermelon chunks
  • Banana
  • Blueberries

You can also offer a small amount of turkey breast meat, limiting the amount to less than 2.5 ounces. This amount provides a good source of protein, yet controls the amount of phosphorus that your dog gets.

When giving food treats at Thanksgiving, offer small pieces of only one or two new foods to avoid upsetting your dog’s digestive system.

Be sure to let your guests know which treats, if any, they can share. Don’t hesitate to explain why it’s important that they not sneak tidbits to your dog under the table. And of course, as you would with any dog, always remember to avoid giving chocolate, grapes, raisins, avocado, garlic or onions because they can cause potentially life-threatening health issues.

Alternatives to food treats may be your best bet

You can still include your dogs — regardless of their kidney disease status — in Thanksgiving Day festivities without treating them to a plateful of your holiday feast. Consider these options:

  • Buy a new toy that your dog will adore.
  • If your dog doesn’t already have a food puzzle, consider getting one and putting kidney-friendly food in it. Not only will your canine companion get food treats while playing with the puzzle, but it will provide a distraction from your food table.
  • Spend extra one-on-one time with your dog — that’s the best treat of all for your furry friend. A long walk, weather permitting, or more time playing fetch or tag may be the best gift you can give your canine companion.

Feeding dogs with kidney disease requires keeping a close eye on what they’re being fed, including treats. Although treats should make up no more than 10 percent of a dog’s diet, they can still have a substantial impact on kidney health if they’re high in sodium (salt), phosphorus and protein. But with a little planning and creativity, you can still spoil your dog that has kidney disease on Thanksgiving Day.

The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.

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