Feeding Dogs Thanksgiving Turkey: Yea or Nay?

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 one week 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.

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.


Calories Per Oz Minutes Walking*(2.5 MPH) Minutes Running* (6 MPH)

Turkey, White

44 74


Turkey, Dark 52 87


Ham, Honey Baked 34 57


Green Beans

10 17 5
Mashed Potato 32 54


Sweet Potato, Candied 40 67


Cranberry Sauce

42 71 22
Chestnuts, Roasted 70 118


Apple Pie

74 124


* 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.

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