Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for all we enjoy in life. But, if we are not careful it can be a time of tummy aches or worse, emergency vet visits and major expense for our pets.
The Thanksgiving meal is a joyous event, celebrating our life, the past year, and our future with friends and family. However, it also is a time when people can’t resist slipping your dog “just a bite” of the Thanksgiving Feast. There are so many opportunities for your dogs to eat something that can make them feel pretty bad or even cause more harm.
If you remember the following tips and share them with your less pet savvy guests, then you, your dog, your cat, and your guests can share a safe and happy holiday.
1. The Turkey – Turkey can be a wonderful protein for our dogs, but the Thanksgiving turkey can be bad for them if we aren’t careful. First there is all the butter, oils, and spices that we rub on and under the skin. Some recipes even fill the cavity with onions and other alliums (leeks, garlic, scallions). While in small, cooked portions these can be ok for our pets, the amount typically used throughout the meal in the various dishes can cause toxic anemia. The turkey skin on it’s own can be fatty and hard to digest, but on Thanksgiving, with all the seasonings, it’s particularly bad. If you really feel you must share Thanksgiving dinner with your dog or cat then remember no skin and preferably the leaner white meat.
2. Bones – You will see a multitude of cartoons depicting the dog getting away with the proverbial turkey bone. But please don’t let this translate to real life with your dog. Thanksgiving brings many traditional poultry entrees. Whether your choice is turkey, goose or duck, do not give the cooked bones to your dog. Although uncooked bones may be good for your dog, cooked bones are brittle. Bird bones are hollow, break easily and can cause a multitude of injuries including becoming lodged in the intestines, or worse perforating the abdominal cavity.
3. Side Dishes – This one goes hand-in-hand with the turkey skin. While some side dishes contain foods that are good for our dogs (green beans, pumpkin, sweet potatoes) we have to remember what has been added to the dish (butter, onions, sour cream, sugar, cheese) that can cause Pancreatitis in dogs at worst and diarrhea or vomiting at “best.” This isn’t saying you can’t give your dog some of these Thanksgiving favorites, just plan as you cook. Set aside some of the fresh green beans for them and pull the sweet potatoes or pumpkin before you add all the sweetening and flavors to them. For gravy, substitute a little turkey broth if you really want to give your pup a treat. And remember in this day and time we frequently modify the family recipes to be healthier for us. But, although you may be making the healthier choice for you by cooking with artificial sweeteners over the real thing, sweeteners containing Xylitol are poisonous to animals, and potentially deadly to dogs.
4. Desserts – Chocolate is one of the favorite dessert choices. And although awareness of chocolate’s dangers to our pets is on the rise, so I don’t believe you would intentionally feed your dog chocolate (which we all know can be toxic to our canine friends), it is found in the desserts and the candy bowls around the house. Ensure the bowls filled with chocolate and other candies are kept out of vision and out of reach of your dog.
5. Garbage – The holiday celebrations bring an abundance of trash, and that trash smells so tempting. If your pet is used to sharing meals, or is being fed later than their usual meal time and they are not given something to entertain them in the meantime… well then a frustrated pet may be tempted to play, dump and dig in the trash bin. What are they going to find…all the no-no’s we just mentioned above.
6. The Kitchen – During preparation for the meal, and clean up after, the kitchen can be filled with hazards for your pets and you’ll want to keep them out of there. With hot dishes being whisked from one counter to the next, there’s a chance a dog that’s under foot could be burned or cut if something were to shatter. Aluminum foil and wax paper will be in abundance and covered with smells and clinging food. Be sure to dispose of these when you’re done with them. There are two risks here: one, your pet will be licking the fatty substances off the wrappings, and two, swallowing these can cause an intestinal obstruction.
7. Holiday Plants & Decorations – It may be Thanksgiving, but a large portion of society will have already decked the halls with holly by this time. Be aware of the poisonous plants associated with the holidays (Poinsettias, holly berries, mistletoe and Cedar Christmas trees) that are toxic to dogs. Decorations can include glass ornaments and candles that are just begging for trouble. Like the chocolate, keep these out of reach of your dog.
8. Guests – Our guests are not always as well versed as us on what our dogs should and should not eat. Educate your less pet-savvy visitors (and hey, maybe even send them this list). A child may accidentally feed a dog some chocolate and your great aunt might think she’s being nice by sharing her turkey skin.
Also remember that as guests are coming and going it is a time to manage our pets to ensure they don’t ‘escape’ out the door. And if your pup is a little people shy then protect them – allow them the quiet of a separate enclosed space with a stuffed Kong or other toy to keep them busy.
Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks – plan in advance, make preparations for your pets, and enjoy the holiday. From our home to yours – have a joyous, safe, and Happy Thanksgiving!
Cindi Stone, CPDT-KA
Absolutely Pawsitive Canine
"I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me they are the role model for being alive."
- Gilda Radner