Holiday celebrations wouldn’t be complete without our furry family members. Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, and we want to keep pets safe during the biggest meal of the year. Kitchen nightmares and fire hazards are only some of the things that can turn a day from festive to frightening, leading to frantic calls to the ASPCA animal poison control, or a drive to the nearest animal emergency room. Ensure a peaceful post-turkey nap with your pet by following these tips from your Gentle Touch Animal Hospital team.  

#1: Keep pets out of the kitchen

Family members—let alone our pets—cannot resist the tempting smells of a cooking turkey and pie. However, Thanksgiving chefs will appreciate the absence of curious paws and fingers while they prepare the feast. Many common rich, high-fat holiday foods, such as turkey skin, fried turkey, and marinated meats, are difficult for pets to digest, and can lead to gastrointestinal distress, inflammation, and pancreatitis, a potentially deadly inflammatory condition. Clinical signs include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and dehydration. While less common in cats, those with pancreatitis will experience lethargy, dehydration, anorexia, and low body temperature.  

As well as fatty foods, many common ingredients in Thanksgiving dishes are toxic to pets. Here is a breakdown:

  • Stuffing
    • Onions, garlic, and chives — Cats are especially susceptible, and only small amounts can cause life-threatening anemia, and red blood cell breakdown. Dogs are also at risk if they consume large amounts. Clinical signs in dogs include panting, high heart rate, and blood in the urine.
    • Raisins and grapes — For some dogs, one raisin or grape can be toxic to their kidneys. Clinical signs can occur up to two hours after ingestion, and include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, tremors, and excess urination.
    • Spices and herbs — Stuffing and other premade holiday foods often contain sage, various herbs, and other essential oils and resins that can be especially toxic to cats, and result in gastrointestinal upset or central nervous system depression.
  • Side dishes 
    • Yeast rolls — Eating unbaked yeast rolls or other raw dough can result in painful gas or, in severe cases, intestinal bloating.
    • Corn cobs — Most pets easily digest cooked corn, but not their dangerous cobs. Corn cobs are difficult to chew, and dogs can swallow them whole, leading to gastrointestinal tearing or blockage.
    • Casseroles — Most casserole dishes contain heavy cream or other milk-based products. Animals lack enough of the enzyme lactase that they need to properly digest dairy products, and any milk-based product can cause gastrointestinal upset and diarrhea.
  • Desserts
    • Chocolate — All chocolates, especially dark and baker’s chocolate, contain the stimulants caffeine and theobromine, which can be deadly to dogs. Clinical signs include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, elevated heart rate, and possible death.
    • Sugar-free treats — The artificial sweetener xylitol is present in many sugar-free foods, and some peanut butters. Small amounts can be toxic and cause liver failure, seizures, and sometimes death. 
    • Alcohol — Foods or beverages containing alcohol can cause a variety of problems, including vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, tremors, or death. 

#2: Cover the garbage can with a pet-safe lid

During the chaos of cooking and meal preparation, food scraps accumulate, and pet noses will investigate the discarded food remains and wrappers, particularly the post-meal scraps and bones. Eating turkey bones can lead to intestinal obstructions or tears, and wrappers with raw meat remnants can cause salmonella, leading to gastrointestinal distress, infection, or pancreatitis. Remove all garbage and food scraps outside frequently, and ensure all garbage cans have pet-proof lids, to prevent a Thanksgiving pet emergency.

#3: Keep candles out of your pet’s reach

Scented candles, votives, and diffusers help create the perfect Thanksgiving ambience, but ensure all lit candles are out of paws’ and tails’ reach to prevent burnt fur or house fires. Don’t use scented candles or potpourri that contain essential oils, which are toxic to pets, especially cats, puppies, or dogs with liver disease, and can cause variable effects that include coughing, difficulty breathing, seizures, and possible death. The following essential oils are known to be toxic to pets: 

  • Wintergreen oil
  • Oil of sweet birch
  • Citrus oil
  • Pine oil
  • Ylang Ylang oil
  • Peppermint oil
  • Cinnamon oil
  • Pennyroyal oil
  • Clove oil
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Tea tree oil

#4: Designate a pet-safe area during the celebration

During meal preparation and celebrations, ensure pets have a safe room or crate where they can relax away from the chaos, because loud noises and new smells can cause stress to the most laid-back pets. Play soft music, and provide a special toy or treat to ensure your pet is comfortable and calm away from all the temptations. Also, always ensure they are wearing an identifiable collar or tag, and their microchip has up-to-date contact information, in case they slip outside in search of tasty treats.

Our Gentle Touch Animal Hospital team wishes you and your pet a safe, enjoyable Thanksgiving, but contact us should any part of your feast become a danger to your pet.