Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks and indulge in delicious feasts with family and friends. However, this day of celebration can be stressful and, in some cases, dangerous for pets. From turkey bones to toxic plants, it’s important to be aware of the potential hazards that can pose a threat to your pet’s safety. Use these tips from our Bayview Animal Hospital team to avoid a Thanksgiving pet emergency.

#1: Prevent your pet from door dashing

If you are hosting a holiday gathering, remember that the unfamiliar faces and surge of sound and activity can leave your pet looking for a way to escape. A frightened or stressed pet may see an open door as a chance to get away from the chaos. To prevent your pet from bolting outside and becoming lost or injured, block their access to the front door when guests are coming and going, and ensure your pet wears a well-fitted collar displaying your contact information at all times. If your pet is microchipped, ensure the chip is registered with current information in the manufacturer’s database. If your pet isn’t microchipped, contact our team to schedule this safe and painless procedure. 

#2: Manage your pet’s stress

Pets thrive on consistency, and the hustle and bustle of preparing for Thanksgiving can disrupt their daily routine and increase their stress levels. For your pet’s safety and comfort, explain to your guests that they should allow your pet to approach them when they are ready and move away when they are finished. If you know your pet is anxious around large groups, ensure they have a quiet place to retreat to away from the festivities, such as a spare bedroom. Create a calming environment with these tips:

  • Include your pet’s favorite toy, blanket, and treat.
  • Play soft, calming music. 
  • Use pheromone sprays, such as Adaptil for dogs or Feliway for cats, to help your pet feel calm.
  • Wrap your pet in an anxiety vest (i.e., ThunderShirt), which will provide gentle pressure around their torso to decrease stress.
  • Provide a food-stuffed toy (e.g., Kong) for distraction.

#3: Keep your pet out of the kitchen

Many classic Thanksgiving dishes contain ingredients that are unsafe for pets. The following foods can cause pets serious health problems:

  • Meat trimmings Turkey skin, drippings, and gravy contain a lot of fat and can cause pancreatitis—a severe and sometimes life-threatening inflammatory condition—if ingested. 
  • Bones — Raw or cooked bones can cause choking, cuts, broken teeth, and life-threatening intestinal obstruction. 
  • Onions, garlic, chives — These vegetables and herbs, which are often used to add flavor to Thanksgiving side dishes, can cause gastrointestinal issues and weaken your pet’s red blood cells, resulting in anemia.
  • Raisins, currants, or grapes — These foods, which are often found in stuffing and desserts, can lead to acute kidney failure.
  • Macadamia nuts — These nuts cause nerve and muscle abnormalities and pancreatitis in dogs.
  • Alcohol — Alcohol poisoning can cause low blood pressure, temperature, and blood sugar in pets.  
  • Yeast dough — Dough can ferment in your pet’s stomach and form a life-threatening blockage, as well as cause alcohol poisoning.  
  • Chocolate — Caffeine and theobromine compounds in chocolate affect the cardiac and nervous systems. Dark and bitter chocolates (e.g., cocoa powder, baking chocolate) have the highest toxicity levels. 
  • Xylitol — Xylitol is a sugar substitute often found in sugar-free food items that is extremely toxic to pets. Ingestion can cause a pet’s blood sugar to drop to a dangerous level, which may progress to liver failure.

Designate the kitchen as off-limits to pets to prevent them from counter-surfing and accidentally ingesting something toxic. In addition, ask guests not to feed your pet table scraps—no matter how cute they look. 

#4: Decorate with your pet in mind

Holiday decor adds to the ambience, but can be dangerous for curious pets. Remember these tips when decorating to help protect your pet:

  • Candles and open flames — Scented candles can lead to singed whiskers or burned paws. Ensure that all candles are out of paw’s reach, and never leave pets unsupervised in rooms with lighted candles. Battery-operated votives are a safer choice.
  • Essential oils — Many scented candles, potpourri, and votives also contain essential oils that are toxic to pets.
  • Floral centerpieces — Thanksgiving floral centerpieces look beautiful, but some fall flowers can be harmful if your pet nibbles on them, including autumn crocuses, lilies, and chrysanthemums.

You can create a pet-friendly Thanksgiving by following these tips, but if your pet gets into trouble, contact our Bayview Animal Hospital team for help.