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Thanksgiving Pet Safety Guide: Keeping Pets Happy and Healthy

Thanksgiving Pet Safety Guide: Keeping Pets Happy and Healthy

Happy Thanksgiving!

Before we collectively indulge in our festive feasts, let's peruse this Thanksgiving safety guide to ensure the holiday is also a safe and happy experience for our fur babies. Our pets are at the top of our “things to be thankful for” list, so they deserve nothing less. So here are some essential Thanksgiving pet safety tips.

a dog sitting in a kitchen next to a trash can
a dog sitting in a kitchen next to a trash can

Health Risks

No one ever thinks of a Thanksgiving feast as potentially dangerous, even though over-indulging can be unhealthy for humans, and worse still for pets. 

For example, fatty foods are very difficult for animals to digest. If your pet eats a poultry bone, it can cause serious damage to your pet’s digestive tract. And those delicious holiday sweets and desserts may have ingredients that are poisonous to your pet.

During Thanksgiving, dog and cat fur babies require your diligence and constant supervision to avoid any unfortunate mishaps. 

Fire/Cooking Hazards

An unattended turkey carcass left sitting out on the counter or in an easily accessible trash container is an accident waiting to happen for your pets. 

Make sure you dispose of your turkey carcasses, scraps, and bones in a covered, tightly-fastened garbage bag placed in a closed trash can, and put it somewhere your pet can't get it. 

Keep your curious pets away from the stove and any other hot surfaces to prevent spills and burns. Watch out for packaging material as well: things like foil, plastics, and strings can prove irresistible to your pet but are harmful if swallowed. 

Be sure to immediately dispose of all these packaging hazards in a secured trash can. 

Pets and Children

When your guests arrive, inform them of the rules regarding your pet’s diet. Actively discourage feeding under the table so your guests aren’t trying to get on your dog’s good side by being their forbidden food connection. 

Supervise any interactions between pets and children. Your fur baby is in the middle of a home invasion and any children are in unfamiliar territory. Both pets and kids are at risk for overstimulation, so be proactive if your pet is showing signs of distress.

Safe Space

The unending barrage of grandparents, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins can be upsetting for you, so imagine your fur baby’s distress. Thanksgiving puppy love can get quickly out of hand.

Pets are creatures of habit and when their routines are disturbed, some animals get anxious. Remember your home is your pet’s home as well, and act accordingly. If your pup is a social butterfly, let them work the room and mingle. But if they aren't comfortable around lots of people and noise, then crate them or create a safe space in a quiet, people-free area of the house like a bedroom or the basement.

Party Precautions

As we gather with our family and friends to give thanks, we are grateful for the opportunity to include our fur babies in the celebration. 

But, according to VCA Animal Hospitals:

“The holidays are a time for merriment and festivities, but they also bring numerous potential dangers for pets.”

Aside from food dangers, other party props could spell disaster for your pet if you're not mindful as a host and a pet owner. 

Read on.

Decoration Dangers

Holiday displays featuring candles are cozy and attractive, and set a festive holiday mood. Your pets think so too, so be sure to take every precaution for the safety of your guests and your home.

Never, ever leave a pet unattended with lit candles in case of fire. It only takes one second to amass a lifetime of regret. 

Other holiday decorations like plastic or fabric ornamental leaves can cause choking or intestinal blockage if eaten, so it's best to keep them far out of reach. 

Floral centerpieces

Some flowers and plants used for decorations and centerpieces can be toxic to pets. A few of these dangerous plants include baby’s breath, hydrangeas, Sweet William, and some varieties of ferns, for starters. 

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has a comprehensive list of toxic plants on its website for reference.

Hosting Guests

If you’re hosting dinner and having overnight visitors, plan ahead so your pets are safe as visitors can throw your pet for a loop.  

On Thanksgiving, pets can become agitated around new people or many guests at once. The higher-than-usual noise level and bustling activity can overwhelm them. 

If you already know your pet gets nervous when visitors arrive, put them in a quiet room or their crate with a favorite plaything. This will lessen your pet’s stress level and yours, because you don't have to worry about them nipping someone.

two pictures of a dog in a crate and a photo of a family gathering
two pictures of a dog in a crate and a photo of a family gathering

Travel Concerns

Whether or not you should travel with your pets is a serious decision that depends on many variables, including your mode of travel, your accommodations, and how well your pet handles new environments.


Training your dog to go potty on command is invaluable when you’re traveling. Some dogs are used to only peeing on one surface, like grass. Unfortunately, a nice, grassy surface might not be available at every rest stop or hotel. A dog that can go potty on cue is also helpful late at night or when the weather is lousy. 

Microchipping & Wearing Current ID Tags

Identification tags and microchips reunite lost pets with families. Make sure your pet has a microchip with up-to-date, registered information. You may never need it, but if you do, it's indispensable. 

When your pet is chipped and they make a break for it as your guests are coming and going, if they decide to explore outside your hotel, they’re far more likely to get back home to you.

Anti-Anxiety Products

You can try some over-the-counter anti-anxiety medication or calming aids to help your pet settle down for the trip. You could also wrap your pet up in a thunder shirt to help calm their nerves. 

If your dog or cat is super anxious about traveling and there's no way you can leave them home with a pet sitter, talk with your vet about a prescription-strength anti-anxiety medication.

Food Safety: Is Thanksgiving Dinner Safe for Dogs & Cats?

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), fatty foods are very difficult for animals to digest, and a lot of people food is poisonous to pets, including raisins, onions, and grapes. If you want your fur baby to have a Thanksgiving treat, make or buy something suitable specifically for them.

Thanksgiving Foods Safe for Pets

So, is Thanksgiving food safe for dogs? 

Certain foods in small doses can be, yes.

If you decide to feed your pet turkey, make sure it’s a small amount of boneless and well-cooked meat. Don't offer your pet undercooked turkey, which could contain salmonella bacteria. And no one wants to spend Thanksgiving cleaning up the barf. 

According to Zoetis, never give your pup leftover bones. Not only are turkey bones a choking hazard, but they can splinter inside your dog’s digestive tract, necessitating an emergency visit to the vet. 

Not very festive!

What about Thanksgiving pet safety for cats? While cats prefer meat, they’ll probably be curious about all that other stuff on your Thanksgiving dinner plate. 

So what human foods can cats eat on Thanksgiving, if any? In general, cats are allowed to enjoy the same Thanksgiving fare dogs can, meaning not much. 

Turkey is generally okay for both species, and most vegetables including plain pumpkin (no butter, no seasoning) are safe for cats.

Thanksgiving Foods Not Safe for Pets

The following foods are culinary Thanksgiving safety hazards for your pets. Turkey Bones: Poultry bones can splinter easily, posing a choking hazard or causing internal damage. Onions and Garlic: These ingredients, often present in stuffing and other dishes, contain compounds that can be toxic to pets and lead to gastrointestinal issues. Chocolate Desserts: Many Thanksgiving desserts, like chocolate pies or cakes, can be harmful to pets due to the presence of theobromine, which can cause symptoms ranging from vomiting to seizures. Grapes and Raisins: Found in some stuffing recipes or desserts, these can cause kidney failure in dogs and should be kept away from pets. Xylitol-containing Treats: Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in some sugar-free desserts. It can cause insulin release in dogs, leading to hypoglycemia, seizures, and even liver failure.

Preparing for emergencies

If you think your fur baby has eaten something they shouldn’t have or been poisoned, immediately call your vet or your local veterinary emergency clinic. 

Or call the ASPCA Poison Control Center (888-426-4435), or the Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661). 

Signs of pet poisoning include discomfort or pain, sudden behavior changes, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you observe any of these symptoms, call your vet for guidance right away.

Rundown: Safe Thanksgiving for Your Pets

As long as you are adequately prepared, there's no reason your pup or kitty can't be a part of your holiday. 

Be aware of all the potential dangers and how to address them if need be. 

Thanksgiving is a day to reconnect with those we love to give thanks for all we have. It's only natural pet parents would want their fur babies included in the fun.