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Can My Dog Eat This?

Can Dogs Eat Turkey?

Before you invite them to Christmas dinner, here’s what you should know

by Rebecca Caplan
31 October 2023
Lovely Dog Sit On Chair And Looking At Whole Roasted Turkey.
Lawren Lu / Stocksy

This Christmas, you might be tempted to slip your dog some turkey under the table. But is it safe to give in to those puppy-dog eyes? The fact is, turkey alone is OK, but certain spices and dressings that turkeys are commonly prepared with can be a no-go for your pup. For more, we reached out to veterinarian Dr Amy Fox to teach us how to safely ‘accidentally’ drop some turkey your dog’s way this Christmas.

Nutrition facts of turkey for dogs

Is turkey good for dogs?

Turkey is rich in nutrients, such as riboflavin and phosphorus. It’s also a common ingredient found in dry dog food, given its high protein content. But the turkey found in dog food is hardly the kind that makes its way to our Christmas tables: more likely than not, your Christmas turkey includes salt, seasoning and fats that most dogs should avoid. That being said, your dog still might be able to partake – under the right circumstances.

“Plain white-meat turkey can be OK in small bite-sized amounts,” says Dr Fox. “But pet parents should avoid sharing anything fatty, such as the skin or dark meat, and anything with sauce or seasoning on it.”

Can dogs have turkey bones?

Definitely save the wishbone for your human guests this Christmas. Dogs should never, under any circumstances, have bones.

“Smaller, hollow bones, like turkey bones, can splinter and break, especially once cooked, causing injuries as dogs try to chew and swallow them,” says Dr Fox. “They can also cause intestinal blockages and bone impactions further down in the digestive tract.”

Can dogs have white-meat turkey?

Dogs can have a few small bite-sized pieces of plain white-meat turkey without any sauces or seasoning.

Can dogs have dark-meat turkey?

While not toxic to dogs, it’s best to avoid dark-meat turkey, given its high fat content, which can put your dogs at risk for digestive upset or pancreatitis.

Is turkey completely safe for dogs?

Both white- and dark-meat turkey are non-toxic to dogs. However, pet parents should proceed with caution when treating dogs to some turkey. If you do choose to give your dogs a few bites of white-meat turkey, ensure they are small and are served without seasoning or sauces.

And, as with giving your dog any people food, moderation is key. “Some of the common emergencies pets encounter around the holidays include digestive upset from overindulging in foods they are not accustomed to,” says Dr Fox. “In more serious cases, this can also cause pancreatitis, often from eating fatty or spicy foods.”

Other commonly served Christmas foods that are safe for dogs


Plain carrots are a healthy and nutritious snack for dogs. However, because most carrots are served salted and seasoned, maybe slip your dog a plain one during Christmas prep.

Cooked sweet potato

Sweet potato is considered a superfood for both humans and dogs thanks to its digestive properties. But dogs should definitely enjoy this food as plainly as possible and in moderation. Similar to the carrots, if you plan to season your sweet potatoes this Christmas, consider setting a plain one off to the side for your dog when cooking. For more info on safely sharing this snack with your pup, read about feeding your dog sweet potatoes.


Apples are a sweet treat your dog can enjoy safely, once the seeds and the core are removed. Not to sound like a broken record, but moderation is also key when it comes to apples and your dog. Similarly, avoid sharing apple pie with your dog. While cooked apples aren’t toxic to pups, the sugar and fat in apple pie is likely to upset their stomach. For more info on safely sharing apples with your dog, check out our guide.

Other commonly served Christmas foods that are not safe for dogs

Garlic and onions

Although not usually served by themselves, garlic and onions are usually involved somewhere in the process of making Christmas food delicious. But garlic and onions are toxic to your dog, particularly onions. Avoid giving your dog any foods cooked or seasoned with these items.

Grapes and raisins

Sometimes used in stuffing, raisins pose a very big risk to dogs. Even small traces of grapes or raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs. Besides stuffing, avoid serving raisins and grapes in dishes that dogs can easily reach (such as a pre-dinner charcuterie board perched on a coffee table). Do not offer dogs foods that were cooked with raisins or grapes, even if the raisins and grapes have been removed. Here’s more on why raisins and grapes are so toxic to pups.

Pecan nuts and walnuts

Common in pie fillings, walnuts and pecan nuts are both very toxic to dogs. Both nuts contain juglone, which can cause vomiting and gastrointestinal (GI) distress. Unlike raisins and grapes, one or two dropped nuts are not likely to harm your dog, though you should monitor your pup after any amount of consumption. If your dog gets into a bag of nuts or a pie, however, make sure to get them vet attention as soon as possible.

High-fat content foods

Christmas is a time when humans indulge in some delicious and rich dishes, but that doesn’t mean your dog should. Always make sure even ‘non-toxic’ human foods are served plain without butter, seasoning or tons of salt.

Bottom line: can dogs eat human food?

Most of the time, human food is best reserved for, well, humans – especially foods prepared with spices and sauces, such as those commonly found on the Christmas table. But some human foods, like plain white-meat turkey, are perfectly safe for your dog in moderation. That being said, if your dog has stomach sensitivities or dietary restrictions, it’s better to be safe than sorry and avoid human food altogether.

In the grand scheme of things, human food should never make up more than 10 percent of your dog’s diet and is best reserved for a special occasion. Even on special occasions, such as Christmas, it’s best to start off with a small amount and monitor your dog’s reaction to any new or special food.

rebecca caplan

Rebecca Caplan

Rebecca Caplan is a writer based in Brooklyn whose work has been featured in The New Yorker, Reductress, and Vulture. She lives in Brooklyn with her perfect, toothless dog Moose.

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