Thanksgiving Safety: Six Tips for Pet-Friendly Holidays

Sarah Rae Murray is a writer, former veterinary practice receptionist and an advocate for all animals. 

If it’s your year to host Thanksgiving dinner you probably have a lot on your mind. Grocery lists, holiday décor, invitations, cleaning—but what about your pets? Food and guests are two holiday variables that can dramatically impact your pet’s wellbeing. We’ve got some helpful tips to ensure that the feast is enjoyed, the guests are happy, and your pets stay safe.

The Feast 

Thanksgiving is pretty much synonymous with feasting. Turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie—so many delicious dishes to fill the air with a mouth-watering aroma. Those enticing smells will probably capture the attention of your pets and they will no doubt be interested in finding the source. Since our human menu isn’t always safe for pets, it’s important to ensure your pets aren’t having a feast of their own. Here are a few tips for Thanksgiving dinner:

There’s nothing quite like freshly baked bread. Be extra careful that your pet doesn’t consume raw dough, yeast can have life threatening effects on both cats and dogs.

Many people don’t realize that common ingredients like garlic, onions, and raisins are harmful to pets. Politely remind your guests not to feed your pet table scraps. Check out the ASPCA’s list of the top toxic foods [] to learn more.

Discarded food items, like raw bones, can be dangerous to your pet. Take out your garbage or ensure it isn’t accessible to pets. While you’re busy enjoying the fruits of your culinary labor, your pet may be on a covert mission to dine on the remnants. They won’t even mind if it comes from a black garbage bag.

The Guests: 

The holidays are a traditional time for friends and family to gather. Pets are family, so we naturally want them to be a part of the festivities. Each pet is as unique as your Uncle Bill’s tie collection. Some animals are highly social and can’t wait to visit with all of your guests. Other animals view your holiday gathering as an unwanted, even scary home invasion. Here are a few things to be mindful of with pets and guests:

You know your pet best. If they’re sensitive to changes in environment or easily overwhelmed, it’s best to create a sanctuary for them away from the action. Make sure your pet has food, water, a comfortable place to relax, their favourite toy, and for cats, their litter box. 

Make sure your pet has identification. With guests coming and going, there’s more opportunity for your pet to escape. According to an Ohio State University study, 73 percent of animals entering shelters with microchips were reunited with their owners.

Provide your guests with details of your pets prior to their arrival. Allergies to cats and dogs are not uncommon. If you have exotic pets be sure to tell any guests who are pregnant, elderly, or have suppressed immune systems. Reptiles can carry and transmit disease-causing organisms, like salmonella, to humans.

Klingenberg, Robert J. “Special Considerations for Reptiles.” Merck Veterinary Manual, 2018, Web. Lord, Linda K. “The Microchip World: Recent Advances and Options for Shelters and Veterinarians.” The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, 2018, Web.“Thanksgiving Pet Safety.” American Veterinary Medical Association, 2018, Web.

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