Thanksgiving Safety Tips for Pets

‘Tis the season for family, football, and, of course, food. And if you have pets, there’s one more thing you need to keep in mind this Turkey Day: while the cornucopia of tasty treats may be the highlight of your holiday, it could mean trouble for your furry friends.

Many of the foods we enjoy during our Thanksgiving feast can be harmful if ingested by cats or dogs, so it’s important to keep an eye on your pets to prevent them from stealing any table scraps. And if you have guests over, make sure you tell them not to give in to those puppy dog eyes either!

“Every year during the holidays, calls to Pet Poison Helpline increase substantially,” said Ahna Brutleg, DVM, MS, DABT, DABVT and associate director of veterinary services at Pet Poison Helpline. “Certain foods and items that bring holiday cheer to our homes can have the opposite effect on pets when ingested, making them very sick.”

To make sure both you and your pets can enjoy this Thanksgiving Day, check out the following tips, provided by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Keep the feast on the table—not under it.  Eating turkey or turkey skin – sometimes even a small amount – can cause a life-threatening condition in pets known as pancreatitis. Fatty foods are hard for animals to digest, and many foods that are healthy for people are poisonous to pets – including onions, raisins and grapes. If you want to share a Thanksgiving treat with your pet, make or buy a treat that is made just for them.

No pie or other desserts for your pooch. Chocolate can be harmful for pets, even though many dogs find it tempting and will sniff it out and eat it. The artificial sweetener called xylitol – commonly used in gum and sugar-free baked goods – also can be deadly if consumed by dogs or cats.

Yeast dough can cause problems for pets, including painful gas and potentially dangerous bloating.

Put the trash away where your pets can’t find it.  A turkey carcass sitting out on the carving table, or left in a trash container that is open or easily opened, could be deadly to your family pet. Dispose of turkey carcasses and bones – and anything used to wrap or tie the meat, such as strings, bags and packaging – in a covered, tightly secured trash bag placed in a closed trash container outdoors (or behind a closed, locked door).

Be careful with decorative plants. Don’t forget that some flowers and festive plants can be toxic to pets. These include amaryllis, Baby’s Breath, Sweet William, some ferns, hydrangeas and more. The ASPCA offers lists of plants that are toxic to both dogs and cats, but the safest route is simply to keep your pets away from all plants and table decorations.

Quick action can save lives. If you believe your pet has been poisoned or eaten something it shouldn’t have, call your veterinarian or local veterinary emergency clinic immediately. You may also want to call the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline: 888-426-4435. Signs of pet distress include: sudden changes in behavior, depression, pain, vomiting, or diarrhea. Contact your veterinarian immediately.

Consider a Turkey Day timeout. A house full of family and friends is a wonderful way to spend the holiday, but consider keeping pets in a safe, quiet place away from the festivities. Everyone (including your pet!) will be happier if the four-legged family members aren’t underfoot. Not all pets enjoy large groups of people and they might get nervous enough to growl, hiss, scratch, or bite. And if they are safely tucked away with their own food and toys, there’s less chance of them getting into anything that might be dangerous.

Keep these tips in mind as you make your holiday preparations—you and your pets will be thankful you did!

Thank you to our friends at the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association for these great tips. Join the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association on Facebook and receive tips on pet health, behavior, upcoming events, breaking news, and much more!