Your pet’s favorite holiday is almost here—the one day when a smorgasbord of fragrant, festive food opportunities are laid out on every counter and table before their begging eyes, drooling jowls, and greedy paws. Before your pet’s hunger gets the best of them—and your turkey—read Pierson Pet Hospital’s guide to Thanksgiving pet safety, to help them stay on their best behavior and out of the emergency room.

What’s in your mouth?—Thanksgiving foods and pets

Most Thanksgiving pet emergencies are food-related—no surprise—occurring on, in, or around the crowded dinner table or chaotic kitchen. While some holidays can boast one or two dangerous foods for pets, the traditional Thanksgiving menu is a regular horn-of-plenty filled with pet toxins.

Pets who consume dangerous foods can suffer potentially deadly consequences, including:

  • Pancreatitis — High-fat, greasy, or rich foods—including turkey skin, fat, grease, and many side dishes—can send your dog’s pancreas into overdrive, and result in a painful and dangerous inflammatory condition requiring hospitalized treatment. Pets with pancreatitis may exhibit vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and a painful or distended abdomen.
  • Choking and lacerations — Raw and cooked bones can cause pets to choke, or may splinter into shards and lacerate the oral cavity, esophagus, stomach, or intestines.
  • Intestinal obstruction — Raw or cooked bones, corn cobs, and food wrappers can lodge in your pet’s gastrointestinal tract and form a blockage—halting intestinal motility and impairing circulation. Intestinal obstructions require endoscopic or surgical removal.  
  • Toxicity Human foods can cause devastating consequences in pets, including arrhythmias, seizures, kidney or liver failure, dangerously low blood glucose, and blood disorders. 

If your pet is a known counter-surfer or “dumpster diver,” keep them out of the kitchen, and place trash cans behind a closed door or barrier. If you know or suspect your pet has consumed a dangerous food or food-related item, immediately contact Pierson Pet Hospital, or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. 

Look but don’t touch—Thanksgiving decor and pets

When you stand back and admire your well-appointed home, you see a warm harvest display, but your pet sees a land-of-plenty ready to be chewed, tasted, tugged, and tossed. While decorations add charm, they can also add unexpected veterinary bills to your holiday. You’ll be thankful if you keep the following items out of your pet’s reach:

  • Candles — They may set the scene, but they can also set fire to your home. Curious pets may paw the dancing flame or knock over decorative votives with their wagging tails.
  • Small gourds, pumpkins, and acorns — Dogs may mistake these for toys and accidentally choke or consume them, leading to painful intestinal obstruction.
  • Essential oils or liquid potpourri — Many oils are toxic to cats, who may inhale droplets or absorb them through their skin, or while grooming, leading to respiratory distress, neurological signs, or liver failure. Popular holiday oils toxic to cats include cinnamon, citrus, clove, wintergreen, and pine.
  • Christmas tree and trimmings — If you’re decking the halls early, ensure your tree is secured, and fragile ornaments are kept on higher branches. Cats may find tinsel and lights irresistible, so consider alternatives if your kitty likes to chew.

Where are your manners?—Thanksgiving guests and pets

If you will be hosting friends and family this holiday season, ensure they know about your pet in advance. Provide basic “house rules” for two- and four-legged guests, to prevent potential emergencies. Advise all guests—especially children—to not disturb your pet while eating, resting, and eliminating, feed your pet from the table, or let them outside without asking. Request that guests keep medication, mints, gum, and candy securely stored, to prevent accidental ingestion and toxicity.

Holiday hubbub can be stressful for pets. Set up a quiet retreat, such as an unused room or a covered crate, for your pet when things get hectic. Include some long lasting toys, comfortable bedding, and basic necessities (e.g., litter box, water) so that your pet can avoid a potentially frightening or overwhelming social situation until they’re ready.

Where are you?—Thanksgiving pet disappearances

Between family and friends arriving and departing, outdoor decorations, neighborhood activities, and endless deliveries, your pet has numerous chances to slip out the door. Whether they bolt out in terror, or simply to relieve themselves, countless pets go missing each year during the holiday hustle and bustle. 

Don’t leave your pet out in the cold—ensure they wear a well-fitted collar and current identification at all times, and check their microchip at Pierson Pet Hospital. For added safety, ask guests to close doors and gates behind them, and keep pets confined during high-traffic times.

Thanksgiving is a day for gratitude and reflection, not stress and regret. By protecting your pet from these common holiday hazards, the only thing you’ll need to worry about is whether they’ll share the couch during the big game. For more advice on a happy, pet-safe Thanksgiving, contact Pierson Pet Hospital.