Thanksgiving festivities are centered on food, family, and friends. Your pet is part of your family, and you may want to include them in your celebrations. However, you should take precautions to ensure your pet is safe during the holiday feast. Our Pierson Pet Hospital team wants to help by offering tips to help make Thanksgiving safer for your four-legged family member.

#1: Prevent your pet from partaking of the Thanksgiving feast

You may be tempted to let your pet indulge in delectable offerings from the Thanksgiving table, but many ingredients and dishes are dangerous for them, including:

  • Rich, fatty foods — Many holiday favorites contain rich, fatty ingredients such as butter, cream, gravy, and bacon. In addition, dark turkey meat and skin are high in fat. These foods are hard for pets to digest and can trigger a dangerous, potentially life-threatening condition called pancreatitis. 
  • Bones — After breaking the wishbone, don’t offer the morsel to your pet. Turkey bones become brittle when they are cooked, and they can splinter and potentially cause injury to your pet’s mouth or gastrointestinal tract.
  • Onions — Vegetables, such as onions, garlic, chives, shallots, and leeks, that are found in many Thanksgiving dishes are toxic to pets. They contain N-propyl disulfide, a compound that causes oxidative injury to a pet’s red blood cells, leading to anemia. Initial signs include gastrointestinal upset, but as more red blood cells are damaged, signs include pale mucous membranes, weakness, and blood in the urine.
  • Chocolate — The Thanksgiving dessert table wouldn’t be complete without a chocolate option, but ensure your pet steers clear. Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine that act as central nervous system stimulants in pets. All forms of chocolate are dangerous for pets, but the darker the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains, making it more toxic. Signs include restlessness, excessive panting, vomiting, diarrhea, and heart complications.
  • Xylitol — Xylitol is commonly used to make sugar-free desserts, and while this is a healthy option for humans, the sugar substitute is toxic to pets. Xylitol causes a pet’s body to suddenly release insulin, resulting in severe hypoglycemia. Signs include vomiting, lack of coordination, weakness, and seizures.

Provide pet-friendly treats so your pet doesn’t feel left out, and ensure your friends and family know not to offer your pet leftovers. If your pet ingests a toxic food on Thanksgiving, contact Animal Poison Control for expert advice on how to provide care for them.

#2: Prepare your pet for the Thanksgiving gathering

Most pets are creatures of habit and a shift in routine can result in stress and anxiety. Consider how your pet responds to new people and take precautions to ensure they aren’t overwhelmed. Recommendations include:

  • Crate training your pet — Crate train your pet so they are comfortable in a secure location so you can send them to their crate if they seem stressed or if they become unruly. 
  • Creating a safe space — If your pet is comfortable mingling with your guests, ensure they have a safe area away from the crowd where they can escape if they become overwhelmed. If your pet is on the shy side, sequester them in this area during your gathering so they aren’t disturbed. Ensure you provide their essentials and leave music playing to help mask noises from the Thanksgiving festivities. 
  • Identifying your pet — Many pets go missing during holiday celebrations. Ensure your pet has proper identification so they can be returned to you if they go missing. Microchipping your pet is the best way to provide permanent identification, and your pet also should wear a collar and identification tags that have your current contact information.
  • Considering anti-anxiety assistance — If your pet is prone to anxiety issues, ask your veterinary team if anti-anxiety medications or supplements can help them cope with your Thanksgiving gathering.

#3: Prevent your pet from dumpster diving

As your guests discard their leftovers, your pet may be tempted to raid the garbage to retrieve a delectable bite. In addition to potentially ingesting a bone or a fatty or toxic food, they also may accidentally ingest plastic wrap, which could cause a gastrointestinal obstruction. This is a serious problem, typically requiring surgery to remove. 

#4: Prepare your pet for a Thanksgiving trip

If you are traveling for Thanksgiving, ensure your pet is ready for the upcoming trip. Recommendations include:

  • Making introductions — If you are leaving your pet with a pet sitter, introduce your pet to the person so they can get comfortable with each other before you leave.
  • Restraining your pet — Pets should never be left free in a moving vehicle. Ensure your pet is properly restrained before starting your trip. Small dogs and cats should remain in a size-appropriate carrier placed on the vehicle floor away from air bags, and large dogs should be restrained using a fitted safety harness. You also can place your pet in the cargo area and use a pet barrier to ensure they can’t roam around the vehicle. 
  • Ensuring your pet is flight ready — If you are traveling by air, schedule a wellness exam so you can be sure your pet is healthy enough for the flight. In addition, ensure that your pet’s breed isn’t excluded by the airline and that you have all the necessary health documents. 

Following these tips should help make Thanksgiving safer for your pet. If you would like to have your pet microchipped before the big feast, contact our Pierson Pet Hospital team so we can ensure they are properly identified.