The dropping temperatures and pumpkin spice-filled air let us know that the largest meal of the year is quickly approaching. Many people start their Thanksgiving preparations weeks in advance to ensure they are ready for the marathon cooking event and holiday celebrations would not be complete without including their four-legged companions. However, cooking chaos and family gatherings can be dangerous to curious noses and investigating paws. Our Animal Emergency Care team wants to ensure your pet does not get into trouble during the Thanksgiving celebrations, so follow these five safety tips. 

#1: Avoid sharing your plate with your pet

Many popular Thanksgiving dishes are the cause of holiday pet emergencies because rich fatty foods such as turkey with gravy or other marinated meats are difficult for pets to digest. Pets who indulge in the family meal are at risk for gastrointestinal problems including pancreatitis. This inflammatory condition can be life-threatening and require overnight hospital care. Many Thanksgiving dishes or ingredients may be toxic to pets and lead to kidney problems, heart arrhythmias, or blockages that could require surgery. Never feed your pet the following: 

  • Spices and herbs — Stuffing, turkey brine, and other premade holiday foods often contain herbs, essential oils, and resins that can be toxic, especially to cats. Pets who eat these ingredients have an increased risk of gastrointestinal upset or central nervous system depression. 
  • Onions, garlic, and chives — Small amounts can cause life-threatening anemia.  Signs that your pet has ingested these foods include panting, high heart rate, and blood in the urine.
  • Raisins and grapes — Just one raisin or grape can cause kidney failure in dogs. Signs can occur up to two hours after ingestion and include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, tremors, and excess urination.
  • Yeast rolls — Eating unbaked yeast rolls or any raw dough can result in painful gas and intestinal bloating.
  • Casseroles Pets do not have enough of the enzyme lactase which is needed to properly digest the dairy products commonly used in most casserole dishes. Eating any milk-based product can cause gastrointestinal problems.
  • Chocolate — All chocolate, but especially dark and baker’s chocolate, contain methylxanthine stimulants, specifically caffeine and theobromine, which can be deadly to dogs. Clinical signs include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, elevated heart rate, and possible death.
  • Sugar-free treats — Many sugar-free foods and peanut butters contain the sweetener xylitol. Small amounts can be toxic to dogs and result in liver failure, seizures, and death in some cases.
  • Alcohol — Desserts or beverages containing alcohol can cause a variety of problems including vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, tremors, or death. 

#2: Pet-proof your decor

Pumpkin spice-flavored candles, decorative cornucopias, and festive flowers set the perfect Thanksgiving mood but can spell disaster for your pet. Always check the ASPCA toxic plant list before adorning your table or home with floral or plant centerpieces. Place lit candles out of paws’ reach to prevent singed whiskers and burned paws. Many scented candles, potpourri, and votives contain essential oils, which are toxic to pets, especially cats, puppies, or dogs with liver disease. Essential oils can be absorbed by inhalation or through the skin. The toxic effects vary and may include coughing, difficulty breathing, panting, seizures, and in some cases death. Ensure your Thanksgiving decor does not include any of these essential oils:

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

#3: Prevent your pet from counter-surfing and dumpster diving

Many curious noses will take advantage of the kitchen chaos during Thanksgiving meal preparations and post-meal cleanups. The tempting smells of sizzling meats and discarded food scraps are difficult for pets to resist, and nosy snouts may want to sample wrappers, leftovers, and discarded bones. Eating turkey bones or corn cobs can lead to intestinal obstructions or tears which may require emergency care and surgery. Wrappers with raw meat remnants can cause salmonella poisoning, leading to gastrointestinal distress, infection, or pancreatitis. Ensure that a pet-proof lid is placed on all garbage cans and frequently remove all garbage and food scraps from your home to prevent a Thanksgiving pet emergency. 

#4: Provide your pet a safe space during celebrations

Loud noises, unfamiliar people, and strange smells can be stressful to pets so set up a safe space such as a crate or comfortable room where they can retreat during festivities. Play soft music, provide a special toy or treat, and consider using a pheromone spray such as Adaptil or Feliway to promote a calming environment. Pets with severe anxiety may benefit from a short-term prescription sedative or serotonin-increasing medication. It is easy to become distracted during the Thanksgiving chaos and some pets may go on an unplanned adventure to join the neighbors’ celebrations. Ensure your pet is wearing an identifiable collar and bring them to your family veterinarian to check that their microchip is functioning properly and your contact information is current. 

#5: Be prepared for pet emergencies

Pet accidents can happen at any time despite your best efforts to prevent them. Common holiday emergencies including gastrointestinal inflammation or toxic food ingestion may require an extended hospital stay which can result in a larger veterinary bill. Fortunately several payment options are available to cover treatment costs including pet health insurance like Trupanion. Trupanion can pay your veterinary clinic directly, which eliminates the need to submit paperwork and wait for your reimbursement. Other payment options include pet health savings accounts, Care Credit, Scratch Pay, and short-term loans.

Call your family veterinarian right away if your pet gets into any Thanksgiving trouble. If you need help after hours, contact Animal Emergency Care and bring your pet in for emergency treatment. #AECprevents

Sources:

https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/petcare/thanksgiving-pet-safety

https://www.aspca.org/news/how-have-happy-healthy-and-humane-thanksgiving-your-pets

https://www.petmd.com/dog/seasonal/evr_multi_dangerous_winter_holiday_plants

https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/blog/essential-oils-cats/