Thanksgiving sentiments are in the air, and you are likely feeling generous in spirit. However, before you share the bountiful harvest—your grocery store haul—with your pet, check out our Creature Comforts Veterinary Service team’s Thanksgiving safety tips.

#1: Do not give your pet turkey bones, trimmings, or packaging

Many traditional Thanksgiving foods are hazardous to your pet, especially the main course—turkey. Before you break the wishbone or begin the stuffing-versus-dressing debate, consider pets’ poultry problems:

  • Bones — Never allow your pet to gnaw or consume raw or cooked turkey bones. Eager pets can literally bite off more than they can chew, which can lead to choking, lacerations, internal puncture, or intestinal obstruction.
  • Trimmings — Turkey skin, drippings, and gravy are high fat. Although your dog may ingest a small amount of turkey trimmings, they can develop pancreatitis—a severe and sometimes life-threatening pancreatic inflammatory condition.
  • Foil, plastic, or twine — The perfectly roasted bird may be on the table, but the turkey trappings—foil, plastic wrapping, and twine—which are laden with turkey aroma and flavor, are tempting your pet to gobble them down. These items are dangerous to your pet, and can ultimately become trapped in their intestinal tract, requiring surgical removal. Prevent such an emergency by keeping your meal prep area tidy and immediately tossing this trash in bins your pet cannot open.

#2: Keep your pet out of the kitchen

Hungry family members—including pets—love to hang out in the kitchen while you prepare the feast. Although your attentive four-legged observer is undeniably adorable, they can also cause an accident. Your unrestrained and excited pet may get underfoot, causing you to trip and fall, suffering an injury, spill scorching hot food, leading to a severe burn, or break dinnerware, causing lacerations. Ensure everyone’s safety by keeping your pet out of the kitchen, which also keeps pet hair out of your feast! In addition, by confining your pet to another room, you prevent them from snatching and wolfing down goodies that are harmful, such as bones, food wrappers, or dishes that include toxic ingredients.

#3: Do not feed your pet dangerous foods

Traditional Thanksgiving foods likely leave you feeling content and satisfied. However, many holiday favorites can leave your pet suffering. Some holiday dishes are toxic to dogs and cats, and you should never offer your pet foods containing the following harmful ingredients: 

  • Onions and leeks
  • Grapes, raisins, and currants
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Rising yeast dough
  • Chocolate 
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Xylitol (i.e., natural sugar substitute used in sugar-free candy, snacks, spreads, and baked goods)

If your pet consumes a toxic food, immediately contact our Creature Comforts Veterinary Service team for guidance, because prompt treatment can reverse a potentially life-threatening condition. If you are visiting with out-of-town family, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, or the nearest veterinary emergency hospital.

#4: Give pets and guests etiquette lessons

You may be concerned about how your dog or cat will behave with guests. You must also ensure your guests know how to behave appropriately around your pet. Whether hosting the Thanksgiving feast or visiting with loved ones, ensure everyone gets along by establishing the following friendly ground rules:

  • Calm greetings — If your four-legged friend is easily excited or agitated, advise arriving guests to ignore your furry pal or remain neutral until your pet is calm and settled. 
  • No hugs, please — Guests, especially children, love to wrap their arms around furry pets, but many dogs and cats view getting a hug as a threatening gesture. Instruct guests to give your pet a head scratch or gentle pats below the chin or along the chest.
  • Do not disturb — Ask your friends and family to leave your pet alone when they are resting, eating, eliminating, or playing. Pets feel threatened if they are disrupted while tending to these essentials, and they may react by biting, scratching, or running away.
  • Prioritize comfort for all — If a guest expresses concerns (e.g., allergies, fear) regarding your pet’s presence, keep your furry pal leashed or confined to another room during the gathering.

#5: Distract your pet when dinner is served

Norman Rockwell’s classic Thanksgiving scene did not include a pet—likely for many reasons. However, if your perfect turkey day tableau includes a dog or cat at your feet, provide your furry pal with a positive distraction that ensures good behavior. 

While you and your guests enjoy your Thanksgiving feast, ensure your pet is preoccupied with their own meal. While you are preparing the meal, plan ahead by setting aside some traditional Thanksgiving foods for your pet. However, only include unseasoned whole-food ingredients such as sweet potato, white meat turkey, green beans, pureed pumpkin, and fresh apple slices or unsweetened applesauce. Give your dog a Kong filled with these foods, and freeze the toy to provide a longer-lasting treat. For your cat or flat-faced dog, spread their Thanksgiving meal on a LickiMat

#6: Manage your pet’s mood and behavior through physical activity

Although physical activity may not be on your Thanksgiving day menu, exercise can help your pet relax during the holiday excitement. Physical activity helps your pet burn energy that they may otherwise release as misbehavior. Nervous or shy pets will enjoy the natural stress relief the rush of exercise-induced endorphins provide.

Although you likely plan to spoil your pet this Thanksgiving, remember that the most generous act is to ensure their safety. Our Creature Comforts Veterinary Service team wishes you and yours a happy and safe Thanksgiving—but if you need us, contact our caring team for 24/7/365 emergency assistance.