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Thanksgiving feast for pets: Ensuring a safe holiday

Thanksgiving feast for pets: Ensuring a safe holiday

A black Pug dog is sitting on the chair staring at a pie on the table.

As we prepare to gather with loved ones and give thanks, we must remember that our four-legged family members are integral to the festivities. 

Thanksgiving can be a delightful time for pets, but it also comes with potential hazards. 

Here are some tips for Thanksgiving pet safety to ensure your furry friend enjoys the holiday as much as you do.

  1. Mindful meal planning

While sharing your festive feast with your pet is tempting, some human foods can be dangerous for them. Avoid feeding your pet anything containing chocolate, alcohol, onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, or artificial sweeteners like xylitol. These substances can be toxic and cause serious health issues. Instead, consider preparing a special pet-friendly meal or offering small, safe portions of cooked turkey, plain pumpkin, or sweet potatoes.

  • Before making any changes to your pet's diet, seek advice from your veterinarian. They can provide personalized recommendations based on your pet's age, breed, and health status.
  • Opt for pet-friendly, unseasoned foods. Some safe options include:
  • Skinless, boneless, and well-cooked turkey in small, bite-sized pieces.
  • Sweet potatoes, cooked and plain, without any added sugars or seasonings.
  • Plain, cooked pumpkin (not pie filling), rich in fiber and vitamins.
  • Green beans, steamed or boiled, with no added salt or seasonings.
  • Fresh or unsweetened dried cranberries in small quantities.

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  • Ensure you steer clear of foods that can be toxic to pets, such as:
  • Chocolate: Contains theobromine, which can be lethal to dogs and cats.
  • Alcohol: Even small amounts can cause serious health problems.
  • Onions and garlic can cause damage to red blood cells, leading to anemia.
  • Grapes and raisins can lead to kidney failure in some pets.
  • Xylitol is a sugar substitute in many sugar-free products and is highly toxic to pets.
  • Cook the chosen ingredients without adding any salt, spices, or seasonings. Avoid cooking oils or butter, as high-fat content can lead to digestive issues. Remove all bones from the turkey.
  • Serve the meal in portions suitable for your pet's size and activity level. Avoid overfeeding, as rich or fatty foods can lead to digestive upset.
  • Keep a watchful eye on your pet while they enjoy their special meal. This allows you to monitor their behavior and ensure they're eating safely.
  • Keep an eye out for any signs of adverse reactions, such as itching, upset stomach, or changes in behavior. If any issues arise, consult your veterinarian.
  • Ensure your pet has access to fresh water at all times, especially after their special meal.
  • Resist the temptation to offer your pet any desserts or sweets. Many human desserts contain ingredients that can be harmful to pets.
  • Try to maintain your pet's regular feeding schedule and avoid making drastic changes to their diet.
  1. Secure the trash

After a hearty Thanksgiving meal, it's vital to properly dispose of leftovers and food scraps. Pets are known for rummaging through trash bins and ingesting spoiled or harmful foods that can lead to upset stomachs, choking hazards, or worse. Use a sturdy trash can with a secure lid, and consider placing it in an area your pet can't access.

Two Persian Cats.

Here are more suggestions: 

  • Choose a trash bin with a secure, latching lid. This can make it more difficult for pets to open.
  • Some trash bins come with weighted lids or can be opened with a foot pedal. These can be more challenging for pets to open.
  • Some companies make trash cans designed specifically to be pet-resistant. These may have features like locking lids or specialized designs that make it difficult for pets to access the contents.
  • If possible, store the trash can in a cabinet with a door that can be closed. Alternatively, you can use a trash bin enclosure or a cabinet to hold a trash can.
  • Place the trash can on a high surface or inside a cabinet that pets can't access.
  • Apply pet-friendly deterrents around the trash can. This could include double-sided tape (cats dislike the texture) or pet-friendly sprays.
  • Train your pet to stay away from the trash can. Consistency is key. Reward them when they avoid it and use gentle corrections if they attempt to get into it.
  • Regularly emptying the trash can will help eliminate any tempting smells that might attract pets.
  • If your trash can is in a cabinet, consider using a child lock to secure the cabinet door.
  • Keep an eye on your pet when they're near the trash can. If they show interest, redirect their attention with a toy or treat.
  1. Create a quiet retreat

The hustle and bustle of holiday gatherings can be overwhelming for some pets. If your furry friend tends to be shy or anxious around strangers, set up a quiet, comfortable space where they can retreat. Provide their favorite toys, a cozy bed, and freshwater to help them feel secure.

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Here's a step-by-step guide to setting up a peaceful space for them:

  • Pick a room or area away from the main gathering space where your pet can relax without being disturbed.
  • Remove any potential hazards, such as small objects that could be swallowed, electrical cords, or items your pet could knock over.
  • Place their bed or a soft blanket in the space. If your pet has a favorite toy or comfort item, include that too.
  • Ensure the room has adequate airflow, but avoid placing your pet's retreat near drafty windows or doors.
  • Ensure the room is at a comfortable temperature for your pet. If necessary, use a space heater or fan to adjust the climate.
  • Use soft, ambient lighting, or consider using a nightlight if the room is too dark.
  • Use a baby gate or other barrier to keep the room secure and prevent your pet from wandering into areas with potential dangers.
  • Place their water bowl and, if needed, some food in the room. Make sure they have access to fresh water throughout the day.
  • Check that there are no items in the room that could be harmful to your pet, such as plants that are toxic or small objects they could swallow.
  • Soft background music or white noise can help drown out the noise from the festivities and create a calming environment.
  • Provide a clean litter box in the retreat if your pet is a cat.
  • Spend some quiet moments with your pet in their retreat before the festivities begin to help them associate it with positive experiences.
  • Keep an eye on your pet to ensure they're comfortable and not showing signs of stress or anxiety.

A picture illustrating Welcome Home for a little kitty.

  1. Beware of decorative dangers

Thanksgiving decorations can add a festive touch to your home, but some can pose risks to your pet. Look for items like candles, potpourri, and small decorations that could be ingested or knocked over. Opt for pet-friendly decorations, such as unlit candles, or place them in areas your pet can't reach.

  • Use flameless, battery-operated candles instead of real ones. If you use real candles, keep them where pets can't reach them, and never leave them unattended.
  • Avoid using small decorations like beads, crystals, or small figurines that could be ingested or pose a choking hazard.
  • Some common Thanksgiving plants like poinsettias, lilies, and chrysanthemums are toxic to pets. Keep them out of reach, or opt for pet-safe alternatives.
  • Liquid potpourri and essential oils can be toxic to pets. Keep them stored securely and out of your pet's reach.
  • Secure loose wires and ensure lights are out of your pet's reach to prevent chewing or entanglement.
  • Balloons and streamers can be a choking hazard if ingested. Keep an eye on your pet if these decorations are being used.
  • The materials used in some cornucopias can be harmful if ingested. Opt for non-toxic or edible fillings if you have a cornucopia as a decoration.
  • Ribbons and bows can be tempting for pets to play with and may pose a choking hazard or intestinal blockage if ingested.
  • Aluminum foil and plastic wraps are often used for cooking but can be dangerous if ingested by pets. Dispose of them properly and securely.
  • While not exclusive to Thanksgiving, holly, mistletoe, and certain types of ivy are toxic to pets. Avoid using them in your decorations.
  • Some artificial plants are made with materials that can be harmful if ingested. Ensure they're out of your pet's reach.
  • Make sure that any decorations that can be pulled down or knocked over are securely anchored to prevent accidents.
  • Keep an eye on your pet, especially if they are curious or playful. Redirect their attention to pet-friendly toys and activities.
  • Have the contact information for your vet and an emergency vet clinic readily available in case of an accident or ingestion of something harmful.

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  1. Watch out for bones

While it's a tradition to indulge in turkey on Thanksgiving, be cautious about bones. Cooked bones, especially those from poultry, can splinter and cause choking or internal injuries. Dispose of bones safely, and ensure any leftovers are stored securely away from your pet's reach.

  1. Maintain your routine

Even with the holiday festivities, stick to your pet's regular routine as much as possible. This includes feeding times, playtime, and walks. Consistency can help your pet feel more at ease amidst the changes in their environment.

  • Feed your pet at their usual meal times. Avoid giving them extra treats or table scraps, as this can disrupt their regular diet.
  • Stick to your pet's regular exercise routine. This helps them burn off energy and maintain their physical and mental health.
  • Spend quality time playing with and interacting with your pet. This helps them feel loved and provides mental stimulation.
  • Ensure your pet has regular access to their usual bathroom spots. 
  • Provide your pet with a quiet, comfortable space to rest and relax. This is especially important if there are many people or noise in your home.
  • If your pet has a specific bedtime, keep to that schedule. Having a consistent sleep routine can help them feel secure.
  • Pets can pick up on their owner's emotions. If you're feeling stressed or anxious due to hosting, try to find moments of calm and spend some quality time with your pet.

A dog and, behind him, a Halloween decoration.

  • If possible, maintain your pet's usual environment. Avoid moving their bed or changing their living space, as this can be unsettling.
  • If there will be fireworks or loud noises in your area, ensure your pet has a safe and quiet space to retreat.
  • Offer toys and activities to keep your pet mentally stimulated. Puzzle toys or treat-dispensing toys can be incredibly engaging.
  • Stick to your pet's regular grooming routine. This includes brushing, nail trimming, and any other grooming tasks they're used to.
  • Inform guests about your pet's routine and ask for their cooperation in maintaining it. For example, let them know not to feed your pet from the table.
  1. Keep them out of the kitchen

The kitchen is often the hub of activity during holiday meal preparation. Consider using a baby gate to block off the kitchen area to prevent accidents and keep your pet safe. This will also help prevent them from sneaking food or getting underfoot while you're cooking.

  1. Avoid overindulging

While sharing the holiday feast with your pet is tempting, too much rich food can lead to upset stomachs or more severe health issues. Stick to pet-safe treats and small portions of safe human food.

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  1. Educate guests

If you're hosting guests, tell them about any specific rules or restrictions you have for your pets. Ask them not to feed your pets any human food, and ensure they know where the pet-friendly areas are.

  1. Monitor stress levels

Pay attention to your pet's body language and behavior. If they seem stressed or anxious, give them some space and consider moving them to their quiet retreat.

Here are some stress signs in pets:

Body language: 

  • Pacing, trembling, or restlessness.
  • Excessive panting or drooling.
  • Hiding or seeking isolation.
  • Ears flattened back, tail tucked, or body crouched low.

Changes in behavior: 

  • Aggression or excessive vocalization (barking, meowing, etc.).
  • Changes in appetite (sudden loss of appetite or excessive eating).
  • Destructive behavior (chewing, scratching).
  • House soiling (especially in well-trained pets).

Physical symptoms:

  • Excessive shedding or changes in fur quality.
  • Diarrhea, vomiting, or other digestive issues.
  • Dilated pupils (in cats).
a cat lying down with Christmas lights around it.
  1. Be prepared for emergencies

Have the contact information for your veterinarian and an emergency vet clinic readily available. Familiarize yourself with the signs of common pet emergencies.

The Bottom line

By taking these precautions, you can ensure that your furry friend has a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving. Remember, a happy and healthy pet is something to be genuinely thankful for. We wish you and your beloved pets a wonderful holiday season!

A picture saying, "Have a nice Thanksgiving."

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