Updated: Oct 20
It’s the time of year when the crispness of the fall air moves us inside to congregate with our family and friends—and our pets, of course. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we’ve put together six of our favourite fall-themed DIY recipes for your dog or cat so you can show them your appreciation for them in a way we’re sure they’ll love—with treats!
It’s Not Always the Spice of Life: Ingredients that Hurt Your Pet
Before you dive into playing with DIY treat recipes for your pet, we should probably cover some of the more common but hazardous ingredients that might otherwise slip under the radar when making a tasty treat for your pet.
Remember that this isn’t a comprehensive list, but it should be enough to get you started safely on your DIY pet treat adventure this Thanksgiving.
Onions: Onions in any form are a no-go for your dog or cat. We won’t get into the science of it, but basically, too many onions can lead to anemia in your pet, so don’t risk it.
A Not-So-Fun Fact! Cats are about five times more susceptible to onion poisoning compared to dogs. However, since they tend to be pickier eaters compared to dogs, you don’t hear about cats poisoning themselves as much.
Alcohol: Our dogs and cats can’t metabolize alcohol, so keep an eye on your alcoholic beverages, lest some pets find them too tempting to resist.
Chocolate: Chocolate has naturally occurring stimulants called methylxanthines (theobromine and caffeine), which are toxic to our pets.
Grapes and Raisins: Ingestion of grapes, raisins, and currants has been known to cause significant kidney damage and failure in some dogs and cats, so avoid giving your pets these at all costs.
A Not-So-Fun Fact! The science currently is not clear on the exact substance in grapes that can make them so toxic to some of our pets, other than the consequences can be severe. So not worth risking it!
Salty Foods: Your pet can’t handle too much salt in their diet, so if your family celebrates with ham instead of turkey, avoid treating your pet with too much of this.
Fatty Foods: Similarly, excessively fatty foods can have immediate and/or long-reaching consequences for your dog or cat. Be careful that they don’t get into the gravy or turkey drippings—make sure you cover anything left on the counter when you sit down for dinner!
Sugary Foods: Our dogs and cats should not consume added sugars—they can upset their stomach and can cause diarrhea and vomiting, as well as other more dire side effects. If you’re using pumpkin in any of these recipes, make sure it’s pure pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling! Similarly, any cranberry sauce you use should be sugar-free.
All Artificial Sweeteners (and some “natural” ones!): these are an absolute NO with our pets. Many of these chemicals have no place or benefit in our pets' diets. In fact, some are highly toxic and can easily be fatal even in small amounts. Be sure to read labels, as the highly toxic xylitol can also be labelled as “birch sugar”. Keep any sugar-free or no-sugar-added products out of your pet's treats or reach!
Seasoned Foods: Too many spices or spice combos can upset your pet’s stomach, or worse, poison them. While some spices are good for your pet, it’s only certain plants in certain amounts. If you have a dish that has been heavily seasoned like turkey skin, vegetables, sweet potatoes, or stuffing, keep it away from your pet. Particularly, nutmeg in the higher quantities that we like to have in our dishes is a hard NO.
Now that we’ve covered some foods to avoid, let’s look at some tasty treats you can have ready ahead of time so you can include your dog or cat in the Thanksgiving celebrations!
6 DIY Thanksgiving Treats
1) Turkey Dinner
Plan ahead to have one of RDBK’s Foundations Raw Turkey meals thawed and ready to go for Thanksgiving dinner. Remember, you might want to slim down your dog or cat’s regular dinner portion if you’re giving them any of the other meal treats on this list!
RDBK’s Foundations Raw Turkey (available for both dogs and cats!)
RDBK Dehydrated Treats to sprinkle on top (optional)
A bed of spinach to jazz it up! (optional)
Helpful Ingredients in this Meal:
RDBK Foundation’s Turkey: A healthy diet for pets includes a variety of fresh, whole, and minimally processed ingredients. Turkey meat is high in zinc, potassium, and selenium; zinc is essential for metabolic function, immune system health, wound healing, thyroid function, blood clotting, and correct development in young dogs and cats.
Spinach: Leafy greens are considered a superfood since they’re rich in nutrients that are essential for pet health. Greens like spinach and kale are high in beta-carotene, calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron, which help support healthy bones, and a healthy heart.
RDBK Dehydrated treats: Because who doesn’t love a little crunchy topper? These treats are made with wild-caught salmon (boost those omega 3s!!) and/or free-range kangaroo for a healthy, tasty, and sustainable treat.
2) Cran-Apple Sauce Frozen Paws
If you’ve been following RDBK’s recipes for a while, you know we LOVE frozen paws—there are just so many options! Check out this simple, minimal-ingredient recipe that you can make alongside your family’s cranberry sauce for a sweet, healthy side dish they won’t be able to resist!
1/2 cup of cranberries
1/2 cup of chopped red apple
1/2 cup water
Sprig of fresh rosemary
Boil cranberries, chopped apple, and rosemary sprig in water until the fruit is soft.
Fish out the rosemary sprig and discard.
Use a potato masher to turn the fruits into a paste.
Spoon or pipe your cran-apple sauce into molds and freeze!
Helpful Ingredients in this Meal:
Cranberries: When fed in moderation, cranberries can improve your dog's urinary health, promote a healthy gut and support the immune system, and even help to prevent cancer! They are also a great source of vitamins C, E and manganese.
Red apples: Apples are low in protein and fat, but high in fibre and vitamins A, C and quercetin.
Rosemary: Rosemary can act as a powerful antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory, removing free radicals (unstable molecules) to improve your dog or cat’s overall health. It can also help keep bad bacteria out of their guts, helping prevent gastrointestinal infections and indigestion! But use with caution if your pet has a seizure condition; this herb is a natural stimulant which may not agree with your epileptic pet.
3) Super Greens Frozen Broth Paws
It’s the often-spoken rule of all family feasts—you’ve got to eat your greens! But these super greens frozen broth paws will be so tempting for your dog or cat that you won’t have to do any convincing to get them to eat it!
1 cup spinach
1/2 cup green beans (alt: celery or broccoli)
1 cup grass-fed beef bone broth
Chop vegetables into small pieces.
Boil vegetables in the bone broth until they are soft.
Spoon/pour the mixture into molds and freeze.
Helpful Ingredients in this Meal:
Spinach: Leafy greens are considered a superfood since they’re rich in nutrients that are essential for pet health. Greens like spinach and kale are high in beta-carotene, calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron, which help to support healthy bones, and a healthy heart.
Green Beans: The iron in green beans promotes red blood cell production as well as healthy bones and teeth, while the manganese and vitamin K assist with blood clotting and wound healing. Vitamin B6 helps regulate your dog’s metabolism, while vitamin C battles oxidation.
Bone Broth: The benefits of bone broth are too many to list here! Suffice to say that bone broth is rich in minerals that support the immune system and contain healing compounds like collagen, glutamine, glycine and proline, and so, so much more.
4. Pumpkin Pie Frozen Paws
What’s a Thanksgiving feast without dessert? Satisfy your pet’s “sweet” tooth with these tasty pumpkin pie-themed frozen paw desserts!
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (**make sure it’s not pumpkin pie filling!**)
1 cup of plain organic goats milk (or kefir)
1 tbsp raw pumpkin seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
Coconut whip for topping (optional)
Mix pumpkin puree, goat’s milk (or kefir), and cinnamon vigorously until smooth.
Stir in raw pumpkin seeds.
Spoon or pipe mixture into molds and freeze.
When you’re ready to serve, put a dollop of coconut whip on top for some extra-special decadence!
Helpful Ingredients in this Meal:
Pumpkin: Pumpkin is a great prebiotic fibre that supports a healthy microbiome.
Goat’s Milk: A naturally-occurring probiotic support for the gut. Plus, it provides a great creamy texture that your pets can’t get enough of!
Cinnamon: This spice is abundant in anti-inflammatory properties— great for aging pups with arthritis or muscle soreness! It’s also a wonderful antioxidant that can also help regulate blood sugar and may even reduce bacteria and yeast growth in the body. Keep in mind with this spice, a little goes a long way; when it comes to cinnamon for our pets, less is more.
Who hasn’t had a Thanksgiving dinner with WAY too many leftovers? If you’re dreading yet another cold turkey sandwich as you drag yourself through your Thanksgiving leftovers, there’s a way you can share the love with your dog or cat with these special leftover treats! We got this recipe from Two Healthy Kitchens, and we LOVE this unique way of sharing the remnants of our Thanksgiving feasts with our pets!
1/2 cup plain mashed and cooked sweet potatoes (see note)
3/4 cup water
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cups cooked white turkey meat, finely chopped
2 cups whole wheat flour or white whole wheat flour
*Note: Consider grabbing an extra sweet potato when you’re doing your shopping for your dinner and making it plain alongside your own sweet potato recipe to save you some cooking time down the road!
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a medium bowl, combine sweet potatoes, water, and egg, stirring until thoroughly incorporated. Add turkey and flour (gradually) and stir until combined. The batter will be very thick and sticky.
Use a rubber spatula to spread the dough evenly onto a parchment-lined baking sheet to form a rectangle (approximately 10" x 14") at about 1/2" thickness.
Use a knife or pizza cutter to score the dough into rectangles of whatever size you'd like.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until the treats are a light golden brown.
Cool completely and then break along the score lines or use a knife/pizza cutter to cut along the score lines.
Store in the refrigerator or in zippered freezer bags in the freezer (thaw before serving).
Helpful Ingredients in this Meal:
Turkey: Plain, white turkey meat is high in zinc, potassium, and selenium. Zinc is essential for metabolic function, immune system health, wound healing, thyroid function, blood clotting, and correct development in young dogs and cats.
Egg: High in fatty acids, protein, and vitamins, eggs are a fantastic supplement for dogs and cats.
Sweet potatoes: Sweet potatoes are high in dietary fibre (always a good thing!), as well as vitamins A, B6, C, calcium, potassium, and iron.
6) Calming Paws
There’s a good chance this Thanksgiving might be the first time you’ve had a large gathering in your house in a while. While finally getting together with all our friends and family at home will undoubtedly be a delight for everyone, your dog or cat might end up a little on edge with a whole bunch of new people in their home! If you’re worried about your pet stressing out, consider making a few of these frozen calming paws to help them mellow out during the festivities.
¼ cup Chamomile Tea, mixed with water (chill tea in the fridge)
¼ cup Organic Blueberries
2 tablespoons Passion Flower (herb form) or Fresh Basil
1 cup of Raw Goats Milk
Blend all ingredients together
Pour or spoon into molds and freeze.
Helpful Ingredients in this Meal:
Herbs: Chamomile, passion flower, and basil all have a calming effect on the nervous system.
Goat’s milk: A naturally-occurring probiotic support for the gut.
Blueberries: These berries are a verifiable superfood! They’re packed with antioxidants as well as vitamins C and K.
Creating an Emergency Action Plan
The old adage “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” could be a little harsh for a Thanksgiving dinner, but there is a kernel of wisdom there: when you are under unexpected stress, a logical sequence of actions can be difficult to follow off the top of your head. While we’re hoping your beloved fur baby stays out of trouble this Thanksgiving, sometimes it’s best to prepare for the worst—which is your pets getting into the food they shouldn’t! We made an emergency pet information form that you can download and print. Remember to fill it out with all the necessary information before the holiday action! Here are some of the details below!
1. Pet Poison Helpline
Have the Pet Poison Helpline number printed and posted where you won’t have to scramble to find it: +1 (855) 764-7661. We recommend putting it on the fridge—that way everyone can access it if you need to start delegating tasks. This is a 24/7 hotline, and they can run the calculations comparing your pet's weight with what and how much they ate and determine if you can continue with at-home monitoring or if you need to go to an emergency veterinary clinic. There is a reasonable per-incident fee (follow-up calls are included), but we promise you: when you need this service, the last thing you will care about is a nominal fee. If you have pet insurance, some companies offer this service as part of your plan, so check with your provider for details.
Be prepared to have the following information available when you make the call:
The weight of your pet (weigh them before Christmas dinner, and write the number down! You won’t remember this if you are panicking).
If they got into a commercial treat, chocolate or otherwise, keep the wrapper on hand—the vet will want to know the ingredients. How much cocoa was in that chocolate can be the defining detail of the situation's seriousness.
The time they ate the offending item, or when you first noticed symptoms. This will be important to track the progress of the toxin. If the symptoms suddenly change or worsen, note the time again.
2. Emergency Vet
Have the phone number and address of your closest emergency vet clinic printed and available. If you know your pet has ingested a dangerous and potentially lethal amount of toxin (e.g. an entire chocolate bar), there is no need to call the Poison Helpline first: call the vet and tell them you have an emergency, or start heading to your nearest emergency vet. Time is of the essence here. If you’re not sure how much they ate, but you're starting to see symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea? This means they ate enough for it to be a problem, and it’s been long enough that the toxins are starting to take effect. Don’t wait! Get to your vet ASAP.
3. Monitor Behaviour
When a cat tastes something funky—whether it’s a serious toxin or not—they turn on the waterworks and start drooling like nobody’s business. This isn’t necessarily an emergency, as they could just be trying to flush out an unpleasant taste in their mouth. Monitor them closely (unless you know what they got into was toxic, then contact the vet immediately); if you start to see vomiting, diarrhea, twitching, seizures, or any difficulty breathing (laboured, wheezing, or hyperventilating), call the Pet Poison Helpline and be prepared to go to the emergency clinic.
4. Induce Vomiting Only When Advised by a Professional:
There is a misconception when it comes to making your pet vomit after you suspect they’ve ingested poison. There are several reasons this might not be recommended, but the main reason is this: most at-home methods for inducing vomiting can cause some other kind of medical concern, and there’s no guarantee it’ll work the first time, particularly with cats. So you might run into the scenario where you’ve tried giving your pet something to make them vomit, but they don’t, you wait a bit and try again. And again. And again. And now it’s been an hour, your pet still has that toxin in them plus whatever other irritant you’ve been using! You could have been at the vet by now! Even if they throw up, they will not get 100% of the toxin out, so a vet visit might be necessary anyway!
As with everything, there is some situational wiggle room here. If you live more than 2-3 hours from an emergency vet clinic and the Pet Poison Helpline has given you the go-ahead to induce vomiting, get your pet and a helper into the car and start heading to the hospital now, and try to get them to vomit on the way. Bring a bucket or tray of some sort to catch the throw-up if it happens. Not only will this avoid a messy car, but the vet will likely want to see what and how much came up (it’s gross but true!) as it may help to determine the next necessary steps in treatment.
5. Heimlich Maneuver
Familiarize yourself with abdominal thrusts (aka the Heimlich maneuver) for dogs and cats in case they start choking. There won’t be time to watch a video if this happens, so best to be prepared.
One last adage: Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. Take a deep breath before you call your vet or hotline. Make sure you have all of your information ready on hand. Being flustered and spitting out every detail of the incident like you’re trying to perform the world’s most stressed-out rap won’t help the vet get to the bottom of the issue as efficiently as they can. If you can’t compose yourself (we understand: a sick pet can be terrifying), then get one of your guests to make the call and drive you to the vet. Calm, collected thinking will make the process easier, faster, safer, and above all, the most beneficial to your pet.
Finally, remember to take a moment this Monday to be thankful. We’re sure you’ve got so much to be thankful for! Your pet, their health, and the health of yourself and your loved ones—not to mention the time you get to spend with them this year!—is enough to warm even the most fall-chilled hearts. And from all of us at RDBK, we’re thankful for you and your dedication to the health and happiness of your pet.
Want to show us how you show your pet thanks? Drop us a line on Facebook at Red Dog Blue Kat, or on Instagram at @Reddogbluekat!