When the leaves turn golden, and roasted turkey aromas fill the air, you know Thanksgiving is around the corner. For many families, Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude, pumpkin pie, and endless banter, but while you’re busy diving into cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes, your pet may be sneaking table scraps or finding a culinary masterpiece in the unsecured trash. Many traditional holiday dishes can be harmful to pets and lead to an unexpected trip to an emergency veterinary clinic—yet food isn’t the only potential pet hazard. Our Caring Hands Animal Hospital team shares five tips to keep your Thanksgiving holiday safe and enjoyable for everyone—including your pets. 

#1: Stuff yourself, not your pet 

Indulging in a bountiful feast is a Thanksgiving tradition, but many foods that people find delicious can be harmful or toxic to pets. Rich, fatty foods can lead to gastrointestinal (GI) distress and inflammation, including pancreatitis, in pets. Pancreatitis is a potentially deadly inflammatory condition that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and dehydration. Dangerous holiday dishes include:

  • Turkey — Turkey skin is high in fat, which can trigger pancreatitis. In addition, cooked turkey bones are brittle and can splinter and injure your pet’s mouth or GI tract.
  • Garlic and onions — Garlic, onions, and related plants from the Allium family contain compounds that damage red blood cells and their hemoglobin-carrying capacity, which causes hemolytic anemia, (i.e., where the body destroys the affected cells). Pets severely affected may require blood transfusions. Notably, cats are more susceptible than dogs, but any pet can suffer ill effects.
  • Alcohol — Pets are attracted to alcohol’s sweet smell, but can suffer from alcohol toxicity. Don’t let your pet tie one on—keep alcoholic drinks out of their reach.
  • Uncooked dough — Ingested, uncooked yeast dough can expand in your pet’s warm stomach, causing dangerous bloating. In addition, the fermentation process can produce alcohol and lead to alcohol poisoning.
  • Chocolate — Theobromine and caffeine, two methylxanthines found in chocolate, act as toxic stimulants for pets. While your pet will likely be fine if they eat a snack-size white chocolate bar, they could die if they eat a similarly sized square of baker’s chocolate. Keep in mind that the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous to your pet’s health.
  • Sugar-free treats — The artificial sweetener xylitol is present in many sugar-free foods, including some peanut butters and in inedibles, such as toothpaste. Small amounts can be toxic and cause liver failure, seizures, and sometimes death. 

#2: Supervise interactions between pets and kids

If children will be joining your Thanksgiving celebration, always monitor their interactions with your pets to ensure everyone’s safety and comfort. Children, whose lively energy and unpredictable movements can sometimes overwhelm or frighten pets, may also not understand the nuances of a pet’s body language. Model gentle handling and sign recognition when a pet wants to be left alone. If you aren’t able to supervise your pet, keep them separated from children. 

#3: Create a safe place for your pet

The hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving—the doorbell ringing, guests arriving, and the kitchen frenzy—can become too much for pets, and they need a calm and secure space, such as a small bedroom, where they can escape the noise and activity and relax. Create a familiar, calm environment, complete with their bed, toys, fresh water, and some soft music, that will help reduce their stress and prevent them from becoming overwhelmed.

#4: Update your pet’s identification

During gatherings like Thanksgiving, your pet has numerous chances to slip away. Avoid a missing pet scenario by ensuring they are always wearing a well-fitted collar and current identification and checking their microchip information is up-to-date. For added safety, ask guests to close doors and gates behind them, or keep pets confined during high-traffic times.

#5: Make your pet’s travel plans in advance

If you plan to travel for Thanksgiving, ensure you prepare your pet in advance. Airlines require paperwork to ensure your pet is healthy enough to fly, which your veterinarian can provide. Ask your airline what documents your pet needs, and schedule a pre-travel veterinary examination. If you plan to board your pet, do not wait until the last minute to make a reservation, because the boarding facility will likely be completely booked for the holidays. Ensure you book your pet’s reservation well in advance. 

Amid the Thanksgiving fun and chaos this year, ensure your pet’s safety by taking simple precautions. If you are planning holiday travel and your pet needs a health document, contact our Caring Hands Animal Hospital Team and schedule an appointment.