Melissa holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and is a plant and animal
enthusiast with multiple pets.
Check out these tasty and fun holiday treat recipe ideas for your beloved
Wokandapix, CC, via Pixabay
I’ve always viewed Thanksgiving as a preview of Christmas time. While there
are no presents or hefty décor, the meal is just about the same. I mostly have
cold-blooded pets (eight snakes, a turtle, an iguana, roaches, a centipede,
and an axolotl) and two mammals: a dog and an exotic pet called a spotted
If you’re like me and get a warm fuzzy feeling when you include your non-human
housemates in the holiday festivities (whether they’re aware of it or not),
and you are not blessed with the responsibility of scrambling to prepare
dinner for your human family, then you might be interested in creating a
special dining experience for your pets on Thanksgiving and Christmas that can
also benefit their health (wouldn’t it be great if the same were true for us).
Last year’s Thanksgiving meal for my pets, including cranberry sauce, a small
sweet potato pie (store-bought crusts, I now make my own healthy option), and
a salad for my iguana including edible flowers, fruits, dandelion greens and
Feeding Thanksgiving Day Scraps and Turkey
I’ll start off by saying that it is generally not a good idea to feed the
scraps of the human meals to animals. Remember that the turkey meat we love is
not appropriately balanced for dogs and cats. In addition, animals tend to
have sensitive stomachs that are easily disturbed when eating so-called human
This isn’t to say that the higher quality food that humans sometimes eat is
bad for pets; I’m a strong advocate of natural diets for animals, which
include raw or slightly cooked human-grade whole ingredients, such as free-
range meats and organic vegetables (although let’s face it, most people have
trouble providing this for themselves). Animals, however, may not respond well
to new foods/meats that are heavily cooked, spiced, or possess other qualities
that they simply aren’t used to eating.
We, however, do give our dog some white meat turkey mixed in with her usual
food, since we are aware of how she typically reacts to it. As long as you are
familiar with how your pet digests certain people food (and as long as it
isn’t food that isn’t recommended for the species, such as onions for dogs and
animal-based foods for green iguanas), it should be OK in moderate amounts and
as treats. With turkey for carnivores, the best route is to add small amounts
of lightly cooked, skinless meat (such as that from the leg) and do not feed
any cooked bones. Dogs and cats that are used to eating raw meat can also have
raw turkey, organ meat (the turkey giblets), and _uncooked _bones.
Some common fall-time cuisine is actually healthy for animals and can be
wonderful if specifically prepared with the needs of the animals in mind.
Squash is a healthy choice for many animals.
Food to Avoid Feeding Your Pets
- Cooked bones
- Sweet potato skin
- Unknown spiced food (such as on turkey skin)
- Onions and garlic
Some ingredients I use in my pie.
Thanksgiving Food That’s Good for Pets
To get pets to sample new foods, mix small portions in with their usual food
or a bit of turkey (for dogs, cats, and other carnivores). You may be
surprised what your pet might end up eating, however.
I have omitted ingredients like butter, sugar, and salt from the list of pie
crust options that are less necessary to feed to pets given that they may do
more harm than good. Substitute wet and dry ingredients that are not only safe
for pets, but actually have great health benefits, such as apple cider
vinegar, pumpkin puree, or coconut oil and coconut meat.
Sweet Potato or Pumpkin Pie
Why not offer your pets sweet potatoes to celebrate the fall harvest? Often an
ingredient used in many prepared dog foods, sweet potatoes make a healthy
addition in the right amount to the diets of many pets. Unlike normal
potatoes, sweet potatoes have more nutrition, including antioxidants and anti-
inflammatory qualities, and are higher in fiber, which is why sweet potato
fries are recommended for humans in place of French fries. The food is often
recommended for dogs that have digestive problems, therefore allowing your
dog, cat, and other animals an option that is not likely to be a problem if
fed in small amounts to begin with. Pumpkin puree has similar health benefits
For Thanksgiving, I actually create a special sweet potato pie for my animals
that is very nutritious (pumpkin pie is also a good idea). It is simply the
same treat enjoyed by my family without the added eggs (in the filling),
sugar, and other spices (a bit of cinnamon is not likely to be harmful and
hosts health benefits) that are normally added to the filling for the human
palate. I make this the traditional way, by boiling the sweet potatoes until
they are soft, cooling them, peeling back the skin, and blending them with
animal-friendly ingredients for flavor.
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You can make the sweet potato or pumpkin puree blend in any way you want. If
your pie filling recipe calls for milk, a good substitute is coconut milk.
Coconut oil does the job of butter and is safe and very healthy for most
animals. A touch of cinnamon is a healthy spice as well that is enticing for
dogs to throw into the mix. A little honey can provide more flavor in the mix
if desired and approved for your pet. Sweet potato pie filling may also be
combined with pumpkin puree. Sweet potatoes can be given to animals raw,
boiled, or in the form of a full pie. It might sound intimidating and time
consuming, but it’s actually rather simple.
Typical pie crust is not healthy for dogs, but a crust made with coconut flour
(as opposed to grain-based crusts) can actually be a fun way to cook for your
pets and give them added nutrition. Coconut flour is high in fiber and does
not raise blood sugar levels, optimizes gastrointestinal health, and is
Getting the right size (if you want a smaller pie) and desired texture may
require some experimentation, but the good news is that pets tend not to be
too discriminative. You simply need something to place the soft sweet potato
(or pumpkin) mix on. Simply add wet ingredients until your dough is moldable,
and not too loose.
Ingredients for Pet-Safe Pie Crust
- 2 tablespoons Virgin Coconut Oil
- 1 cup Coconut Flour
- 3 Eggs (for carnivores and omnivores), or ice water/fruit juice/coconut milk)
- 1 tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar (if you have it), (Apple Cider Vinegar is very healthy)
- 1/2 cup Shredded Coconut, (optional)
- 1 tablespoon Honey, (optional, not for young animals)
- Spices, like cloves, cinnamon, and ginger (approx. 1 teaspoon)
My Homemade Sweet Potato Pie for Pets
For this pie (in the crust) I used coconut flour, coconut flakes, 2 eggs,
around a cup of water, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, raw honey and coconut oil.
A pinch of salt enhances the flavor in the dough, but I won’t include it here
to make the pie as healthy for pets as possible.
- Mix the ingredients together and blend well with a spoon.
- Line the dough in a pie tin in equal proportions.
- You can cook the crust separately and add the sweet potato/pumpkin filling, or bake the completed pie at 300 degrees F for about 40-50 minutes (or less depending on how big your pie is).
The combined wet ingredients (2 eggs, water, coconut oil, apple cider
1 / 5
Instructions for the Dough
- Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, and mix the wet ingredients in a separate bowl.
- Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until the dough is at the right consistency.
- Form the dough into a 9-inch pan then add your filing at the desired amounts, smoothing it in the pan evenly.
My dog eating a slice of pie.
Cranberry Sauce Recipe
Cranberry sauce (pictured in the top photo) is an easy dish to make safe for
pets. Do not use the canned jellied version (which is really a bunch of high
fructose corn syrup, but it sure is tasty). Cranberries are known to be one of
the fruits containing the highest amounts of antioxidants and other beneficial
All you need are cranberries and orange juice (you can also add a bit of honey
for sweetness if you are OK with your pet having this). Simply add your
desired amount of orange juice (you can also combine the orange juice with
water to dilute out this ingredient) into a small saucepan and bring it to a
boil over medium heat, adding the cranberries (in about equal portions) and
honey after it has reached the boiling point while stirring. The berries will
quickly begin to ‘burst’ in about seven minutes, thickening the sauce until it
has completely changed into the final product. This is an easy and tasty treat
for pets willing to sample it. You can pepper small amounts of this in your
Vegetables and Fruit
For animals that are vegetarians (like my iguana) or as a supplement for
omnivores and carnivores, you can treat them to new flavors and interesting
additions. Spice up your pet’s dish with unique and fall-themed vegetables.
All squashes make a wonderful treat to jazz up a pet’s dish (a nutritious
preferred food choice for the diet of my iguana). I also like to use mixed
salads that include leafy greens like various baby lettuce, spinach, and red
In light of the special occasion, I buy some less common salad additions such
as edible flowers (available in specialty stores like whole foods and Fairway
market), that are really enticing and flavorful (for my iguana at least,
probably less so with carnivores). When available, I love to add star fruit,
which creates a decorative touch as well as more variety for fruit eaters.
Your pets can certainly have steamed (or raw) green beans, and other common
vegetables without cream and other additives. For dogs, mix in veggies with
their meat ingredients to make it more appealing.
Mixed vegetables and Cantaloupe
Some Other Veggies and Fruits I Like to Offer My Pets
- Dandelion greens
- Collard greens
- Prickly pear cactus fruit
- Berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
- Cantaloupe, mango, and papaya
The foods listed in this article are safe and healthy for most animals, but
always research whichever species you plan on feeding these ingredients to.
For instance, dogs should not be given grapes or raisins, and iguanas
shouldn’t be given animal-based foods. It is probably a good idea to avoid
milk-based ingredients (even for cats). Do not introduce new ingredients in
excessive amounts. Be aware that some animals might have allergic reactions to
some ingredients (such as honey) so always start small and discontinue use if
a problem like this arises.