Thanksgiving is a special holiday that brings together family and friends, but it can also carry some hazards for pets. Here are some tips to keep your furry friends healthy and safe during the holiday.
Overindulging in the family feast can be unhealthy for humans, but even worse for pets: Fatty foods are hard for animals to digest. Poultry bones can damage your pet’s digestive tract. And holiday sweets can contain ingredients that are poisonous to pets.
- No feast for Fido and Fluffy. Turkey bones will splinter when chewed and can get caught in a pet’s esophagus or intestinal track and could cause a veterinary emergency. 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, garlic, 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 sweets for your sweetie. Chocolate can be very harmful for pets, and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, high blood pressure, seizures, and other serious symptoms. Plus, the artificial sweetener called xylitol – commonly used in gum and sugar-free baked goods – also can be deadly if consumed by dogs or cats.
- Bread dough can cause problems for pets, including painful gas and potentially dangerous bloating.
- Ban the booze. Most people would not intentionally give their pet beer, wine or a cocktail. However, some pets may try some anyway which can be very dangerous. Also, be on the lookout for hidden sources of alcohol, like vanilla and almond flavorings.
- Hide the trash. A turkey carcass sitting out on the counter or 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) where pets can’t find it.
- Be careful with decorative plants. 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! Signs of pet distress include sudden changes in behavior, depression, pain, choking, vomiting, or diarrhea. You may also want to call the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline at 888-426-4435.
Precautions for Parties
If you’re hosting a party or overnight visitors, plan ahead to keep your pets safe and make the experience less stressful for everyone.
- Visitors can upset your pets. Some pets are shy or excitable around new people or in crowds, and Thanksgiving often means many visitors at once and higher-than-usual noise and activity levels. If you know your dog or cat is nervous with new people, put them in another room or a crate with a favorite toy or treat. This will reduce the emotional stress on your pet and protect your guests from possible injury. If your pet is particularly upset by houseguests, talk to your veterinarian about possible solutions to this common problem.
- Watch the exits. Even if your pets are comfortable around guests, make sure you watch them closely, especially when people are entering or leaving your home. While you’re welcoming hungry guests and collecting coats, a four-legged family member may make a break for it out the door and become lost.
- Identification tags and microchips reunite families. Make sure your pet has a collar with an ID tag with your current contact information, or better yet, a microchip with up-to-date, registered information. That way, if they do sneak out, they’re more likely to be returned to you. If your pet isn’t already microchipped, Tulare County Animal Services is offering them for free to all county residents.
- Decoration dangers. Special holiday displays or candles are attractive to pets as well as people. Never leave a pet alone in an area with a lit candle; it could result in a fire. And pine cones, needles and other decorations can cause intestinal blockages or even perforate an animal’s intestine if eaten.
Whether you take your pets with you or leave them behind, take these precautions to safeguard them when traveling over the Thanksgiving holiday or at any other time of the year.
- Your pet needs a health certificate from your veterinarian if you’re traveling across state lines or international borders, whether by air or car. Learn the requirements for any states you will visit or pass through, and schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to get the needed certificate within the timeframes required by those states.
- Never leave pets alone in vehicles, even for a short time, regardless of the weather.
- Pets should always be safely restrained in vehicles. This means using a secure harness or a carrier, placed in a location clear of airbags. This helps protect your pets if you brake or swerve suddenly, or get in an accident; keeps them away from potentially poisonous food or other items you are transporting; prevents them from causing dangerous distractions for the driver; and can prevent small animals from getting trapped in small spaces. Never transport your pet in the bed of a truck.
- Talk with your veterinarian if you’re traveling by air and considering bringing your pet with you. Air travel can put pets at risk, especially short-nosed dogs. Your vet is the best person to advise you about your pet’s ability to travel.
- Pack for your pet as well as yourself if you’re going to travel together. In addition to your pet’s food and medications, bring medical records, information to help identify your pet if it becomes lost, first aid supplies, and other items. Check out Traveling with Your Pet FAQ for more information.
- Are you considering boarding your dog while you travel? Talk with your veterinarian to find out how best to protect your pet from kennel cough, canine flu and other contagious diseases, and to make sure your pet is up-to-date on vaccines.
Thanksgiving and pets go hand in hand…after all, we’re forever thankful we brought our four-legged friends into our lives. That’s why it's a good idea to make sure your Turkey Day will be as pet-friendly as possible.