Can I Give my Dog Turkey at Thanksgiving?

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Holiday Food Calories and the Exercise Your Dog Will Need to Burn off the Calories

Holiday season is once again nearing. In the U.S., we will be celebrating our Thanksgiving holiday in two weeks and will soon follow this up with Christmas/Hanukkah, and New Year celebrations. Most people tend to overindulge and likely will pack on a few pounds. The same can be true for our dogs, so we think the time is appropriate to present the calorie amounts and exercise equivalents of several popular holiday dishes.


If you are like me, you probably enjoy sharing some of the Thanksgiving and other holiday food with your dogs. Turkey, squash, mashed potatoes are all delicious treats that we and our dogs love.
turkey dog
It is certainly OK to give your dog a holiday plate of food. Just don’t overdo it and make sure that grandma or the kids don’t also give the dog a holiday food plate. You can make up the extra calories by cutting back on their regular food and treats and/or adding a little more exercise to burn some extra calories. Just how much exercise will you need to burn off those extra holiday calories? Well, in some cases, probably more than you will have time for.


Calories in Popular Holiday Food

We compiled a sampling of popular holiday foods along with their calorie amounts for a small one ounce (roughly 2 tablespoons) serving. We then calculated how long an average 25 lb. dog would need to walk or run to burn off that extra food. The results are shown below.


Food Calories Per Oz Minutes Walking* (2.5 MPH) Minutes Running* (6 MPH)
Turkey, White 44 74 23
Turkey, Dark 52 87 27
Ham, Honey Baked 34 57 17
Green Beans 10 17 5
Mashed Potato 32 54 16
Sweet Potato, Candied 40 67 21
Cranberry Sauce 42 71 22
Chestnuts, Roasted 70 118 36
Apple Pie 74 124 38

* Number of minutes a 25 lb. dog would need to exercise to burn off 1 oz. of each food


Remember that a one-half cup serving is 4 ounces (or 4 times the calories that are displayed). So if you decide to give your dog a ½ cup of mashed potatoes (which we don’t recommend), then you would have to walk an extra 215 minutes (54 minutes * 4 ounces in a ½ cup). As you can see, it is prudent to limit the amount of holiday food you give to your dog as it can quickly add up to be a lot of extra exercise!


What Should I do if My Dog Gets too Much Holiday Food Scraps?

If your family does over indulge your dog with holiday food, then besides some extra exercise that day, simply cut back on their regular food for their normal dinner. Depending on how much holiday food you give them, it is also OK to cut back on their next day’s meals as well. After all, a plump turkey is cool and festive. A plump dog is not.


Happy Thanksgiving from the folks and dogs at

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  1. Hi Y’all!

    My Humans usually don’t give me more than a few bites and them my Human Mama cuts my regular dinner ration. Wish you hadn’t posted those calories…’cause we probably will spend Thanksgiving in the mountains where it’s winter and weather keeps the “after dinner” exercise to a minimum. Unless it is a warm beautiful day!

    Y’all come on by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog
    Hawk aka BrownDog recently posted…It’s a Beautiful WorldMy Profile

    • Sorry Hawk – you do lots of running around and burn off all those calories. You should be able to eat a couple of pieces of turkey.
      mkob recently posted…Can I Give my Dog Turkey at Thanksgiving?My Profile

  2. wow honey baked ham has less calories that the meat of the turkey ? Hope than I will get a big piece this year. Mom promised me my own turkey (-breast) and a whole thanksgiving menu just for me. I have no clue what my staff will eat, probably Thanksgiving is not the best time for vegetarians lol
    easyweimaraner recently posted…easyblog WHAT THE…. F…RIDAYMy Profile

  3. I always share holiday food with my huskies. Not too much of course, but they love to have some plain turkey, carrots, things like that 🙂
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…Go purple this month for K9 EpilepsyMy Profile

  4. These guys get a few scraps from Grandma, she i really good about just giving them small bits though. Ans her dog too. You should see the three of them circled around her in the kitchen.
    Mary recently posted…Seeing Beautiful in random thingsMy Profile

  5. Poor Barley–she knows there are some foods that her mama likes too much to share and the Thanksgiving menu contains most of those! She’ll get a special dental chew, though, to occupy her while the family and I eat!
    Beth recently posted…Twilight Zone: The Weather EpisodeMy Profile

  6. This is great reminder for us humans too. We all will make sure to get in a little extra exercise over the holidays!
    Jessica Shipman recently posted…Is Lavender Safe for Dogs?My Profile

  7. Kilo always manages to sneak a taste around the table. Great post, the chart is very helpful.

  8. Great post! I shared it!
    Lauren Miller recently posted…ZoePhee Reviews: 4 Paws Only NoveltiesMy Profile

  9. I was going to say Ace usually gets a few bites from our holiday meal, but then I realized he also gets a few bites from most of our meals! Like you said, it’s about balancing the amount you give to make sure they don’t get too much too often and possibly stepping up the exercise a bit.
    Lindsay recently posted…How to get dog walking clients fastMy Profile

  10. Great post! I’m currently writing up a holiday safety one for mischief monday’s post. 🙂

    Our biggest issue is definitely other people feeding our dogs, you know because we obviously starve them (or so their BIG begging eyes would like you to believe!)
    DZ Dogs recently posted…Watch Out For That Tree!!My Profile

  11. Mr. N gets little dog bites of everything. I describe it as half the size of your pinky nail or smaller. People (usually men) are like is that all you’re giving him?

  12. We always share turkey breast.
    Jana Rade recently posted…Science Going Natural: Pain Relief For Dogs With ArthritisMy Profile

  13. The boys will get some Merrick Thanksgiving Day Menu canned food on the Big Day. I’ll feel like I am celebrating with them, but without the guilt. It’s like giving a baby strained turkey and sweet potatoes the first year. ☺
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…An Act of Dog ~ Museum of CompassionMy Profile

  14. I was surprised too about honey baked ham having less calories than white meat turkey. I never would have guessed that. My vet recommended green beans to help satisfy a dieting dog since they are very low calorie and most dogs like them. We make sure to buy the low sodium or no salt added canned green beans if we don’t have fresh ones. Thanks for the great info!
    Elaine recently posted…12 Easy Ways to Exercise Your Dog in the WinterMy Profile

  15. We usually get those gizards and other misc parts mom cooks up for us. She doesn’t want them and we love them.
    Emma recently posted…Beginner Tracking Course CompletedMy Profile

  16. That is surprising about the Ham. I don’t know if I should feel bad for Laika or not; she doesn’t get to enjoy all the Thanksgiving food since I don’t cook. I’m always a lucky guest at someone else’s gathering. If I get sent home with any leftovers I’ll give her a little bit of Turkey so she won’t feel so left out. But knowing Laika she’d be just as happy with carrots or green beans so we’ve got it pretty easy.
    Jen Gabbard recently posted…Why Some Dogs Have Spotted TonguesMy Profile

  17. Sure is a good think Rocco loves green beans! I think he’d like a little turkey treat too! We like to take a post Thanksgiving walk… a good idea after eating all this good food!
    Diane recently posted…Agility and a SwimMy Profile

  18. Brown dawgs won’t be getting any holiday scraps. I am sure they will feel deprived…lol. I do plan to cook some duck breast and may make a plain one for them to share. 🙂
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Health Screening Series–Progressive Retinal AtrophyMy Profile

  19. Not sure what I’ll share with Harley, but thanks to you I know what not to give him. Gobble – Gobble!

  20. this really puts things into perspective for me and the dogs.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Wordless Wednesday~Glory’s Boyfriend SilasMy Profile

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