5 Tips to Keep Pets Happy and Safe on Thanksgiving

By Diane Levitan, VMD, veterinarian, and member of the Wag! Advisory Board

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks and enjoy time with family, friends, and pets. And then there’s the food! It’s one of my favorite holidays.

As a veterinary internal medicine specialist with 27 years of experience, I know there are many things that keep vet emergency rooms busy during this time of year. And the truth is, most are completely preventable. 

I want you and your dog to have a wonderful "pupsgiving," so here are some tips to help keep you both happy this holiday season.

Let's start with the food

Remember, friends don’t let furry friends eat table scraps! The fatty ingredients that make Thanksgiving food so delicious can make our pets sick. 

Tell your guests that feeding Fido — no matter how much he begs — is not negotiable. And watch small children because they often drop food, which dogs love to “clean up.” 

Keep these five tips in mind to help keep Thanksgiving fun and healthy for your four-legged friends:

  1. Fatty foods such as butter, bacon, gravy, nuts, meat drippings, and scraps can pose very real threats of pancreatitis and inflammation of the pancreas. These conditions can result in vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and abdominal pain. Symptoms may not be immediate and can occur up to four days after exposure.
  2. Raisins, currants, and grapes are found in some of our favorite Thanksgiving foods, and they pose a serious risk of renal failure in dogs, even when only small amounts are ingested.
  3. Some ingredients in our desserts are especially harmful to dogs, including chocolate and the artificial sweetener Xylitol. Even in small amounts, these can be toxic to dogs. 
  4. Turkey brine is full of salt, which can be very attractive to dogs (and cats) who will readily lap it up. This, though, can result in salt toxicosis, known to cause serious electrolyte changes and even brain swelling.
  5. Keep the trash can out of reach. No doubt, your dog would very much like to dig into it for food scraps. But items such as corn cobs and turkey bones can result in a gastric injury that could require surgery. In fact, turkey bones are never good for a dog, period!
Holiday stress can affect dogs, too

Many of us underestimate the anxiety our pets experience from the changes that the holidays bring. There's the company in the house, doorbells ringing, and, of course, all the delectable smells.  

You can lessen the stress by making sure there’s a calm place in your home where they can take a break from the bustle as needed. Also, with guests coming in and out of your house, watch the door carefully so your dog doesn’t become an escape artist. That would add a whole new level of stress for all concerned.

Take a walk!

If you want to give your dog a Thanksgiving treat, a handful of his regular kibble will make him almost as happy as those unhealthy table scraps. And he probably wouldn’t mind an extra walk or two. He’ll get to burn some energy — while you burn a few of those extra calories, perhaps making room for a second dessert. 

Happy Thanksgiving!