Thanksgiving is drawing closer—and if you’ve been meal-prepping, your pet is probably ready for the festivities! Check out Terra Linda Veterinary Hospital’s top tips for ensuring a safe and happy holiday for your four-legged family member.

In bad taste—hazardous holiday foods for pets

If we’re honest, a large part of the pet-owner bond involves sharing—which generally means we share whatever resources we have (e.g., shelter, food, couch, bed, car), and in exchange we receive unconditional love—or at minimum, an occasional head-butt. And, while Thanksgiving is a holiday built around meal-sharing, as with any healthy relationship, boundaries are required.

The following foods can cause pets serious health problems, including toxicity, gastroenteritis, pancreatitis, choking, and intestinal obstruction: 

  • Turkey trimmings, skin, grease, and fat
  • Gravy
  • Raw or cooked bones 
  • Onions, leeks, and garlic
  • Raisins, currants, and grapes
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Xylitol (i.e., a sugar-free sweetener)
  • Chocolate
  • Alcohol
  • Yeast dough
  • Corn on the cob

Because Thanksgiving dishes include many unsafe ingredients, avoid feeding prepared foods (e.g., stuffing, casseroles, side dishes) to your pet. Also, prevent choking and life-threatening obstructions by keeping trash and food wrappers out of your pet’s reach.

Treat them well—avoid these after-dinner dangers

Turkey or ham bones may seem like a fitting after-dinner treat for your dog, but raw or cooked bones frequently cause injury and illness. Common bone-related accidents include choking, tongue entrapment, oral lacerations from bone splinters or shards, fractured teeth, upper or lower gastrointestinal (GI) puncture or obstruction, gastroenteritis (i.e., vomiting and diarrhea), and constipation. Hospitalization or emergency surgery are often necessary to repair the damage caused by bone chewing.

Frozen Kongs stuffed with pet-friendly Thanksgiving ingredients make a satisfying and safe alternative to bones. We recommend filling a Kong or similar toy with lean white turkey meat, plain sweet potato or pureed pumpkin, green beans, and plain yogurt.

Fill my plate—safe foods for your pets

Don’t be discouraged by the long list of unsafe foods—many holiday options are perfectly healthy and safe for your pet. As always, we recommend introducing new foods gradually, in small quantities, to prevent GI upset.

Our favorite Thanksgiving pet treats include:

  • Skinless white meat turkey
  • Plain mashed sweet potato
  • Pureed pumpkin (but not pumpkin pie filling)
  • Unseasoned green beans
  • Baby carrots
  • Apple slices
  • Plain nonfat yogurt

Pets—like us—tend to eat their holiday meal with gusto. Prolong their enjoyment and improve their digestion by stuffing their goodies in a Kong or hollow rubber toy, or spreading them on a LickiMat

My pet is my co-pilot—travel safety for pets

Thanksgiving is a notoriously busy travel holiday, and many travelers take their four-legged family along for the journey. If your pet will be hitting the road or going “ears up” this holiday season, plan ahead to reduce travel-related stress.

  • Visit the veterinarian Schedule an examination to ensure your pet has a clean bill of health before you head out of town, and remember to refill any medication, diet, and parasite preventive prescriptions.
  • Check your pet’s microchip — Ensure your pet’s identification is up-to-date, including microchip registration and identification tags. If your pet needs microchipping, we can provide this quick service at any outpatient appointment. 
  • Plan to clean up after your pet — Responsible pet ownership includes preventing accidents and properly disposing of your pet’s waste. Pack pick-up bags, litter box materials, an enzymatic cleaner, and paper towels.
  • Keep your pet restrained at all times — Not everyone is as crazy about pets as our Terra Linda Veterinary Hospital team. In addition to respecting other people and pets, restricting your pet with a leash, or in a crate or carrier, keeps them safe. When traveling by car, ensure your pet rides securely in a crate or seat-belt.
  • Call ahead to confirm pet-friendly accomodations — Don’t rely on websites and online reviews—always confirm your hotel or transportation reservations by phone and ensure they know you’ll be traveling with a pet.

Escaping the paw-parazzi—provide your pet with a getaway

Between family, friends, and a busy schedule, the holidays can overwhelm anyone, including our pets—especially shy, nervous, or senior dogs and cats who may prefer their quiet home environment to a bustling social scene. 

Whether you’ll be at home or away, create a safe, quiet space where your pet can rest. This can be as simple as a crate or carrier draped with a towel or blanket for more privacy, or an unused room. Ensure you establish a relaxing space by supplying all your pet’s necessities (e.g., food and water, cozy bedding, a favorite toy, and litter box access). Block out voices and sounds with a white noise machine or a radio playing soft music. Finally, spray calming pheromones (e.g., Feliway or Adaptil) on your pet’s bedding and surrounding areas to calm and comfort your pet. Instruct guests—especially children—to leave your pet alone in their safe space.

From our two- and four-legged family to yours, the Terra Linda Veterinary Hospital team wishes you a happy and safe Thanksgiving. If you need assistance before or after the holiday break, contact our AAHA-accredited team. For after-hours care and emergencies, call The Pet Emergency and Specialty Center of Marin at 415-456-7372.