Sitting down to a delicious Thanksgiving meal with friends and family is the holiday highlight, but everything leading up to the wonderful day can be hectic. With so much on your plate—literally and figuratively—your pet’s safety can easily slip your mind. Our team at LaGrange Veterinary Hospital has you covered with five tips for a pet-safe Thanksgiving. 

#1: Make a pre-turkey day plan for your pet

Consider your pet’s needs as you finalize your Thanksgiving plans. If you are traveling, will your pet be joining you, or do you need to reserve a boarding facility? If you plan to host Thanksgiving, will your pet be comfortable with the influx of people and changes in their routine, or would they prefer staying with a trusted pet sitter? Wherever you will be for Thanksgiving, ensure you plan for your pet early enough to make boarding arrangements, secure travel health certificates, or set up your home to accommodate your guests and keep your pet comfortable and safe. 

#2: Trot with your pet before—and after— turkey time

Pets can pick up on their owner’s excitement leading up to the Thanksgiving feast. To calm your pet’s nerves—and maybe your own—take time before the chaos commences to tire them out. Set aside time to walk in the morning, or to play with your pet to help use up their energy. Mental and physical stimulation will make for a more mellow pet by the time friends and family arrive. Also, you may feel that moving is impossible after eating an enormous Thanksgiving meal, but a post-turkey walk can help you and your pet recharge and get out of that tryptophan-induced slump. 

#3: Keep your pet out of the kitchen chaos

Not surprisingly, pets like to be where the food is—always in hopes of catching a dropped morsel. While you’re busy preparing for the feast, the last thing you need is a pet weaving between your legs or jumping on the counter and adding to the kitchen craziness. You won’t have time to vacuum, and many ingredients in traditional Thanksgiving dishes can be harmful to underfoot pets, so for your pet’s safety—and your sanity—designate the kitchen as a pet-free zone.  

#4: Give your pet a place to escape the craziness

The unfamiliar faces and loud sounds of a holiday gathering can become too much for the most sociable of pets. Ensure your pet has a quiet room where they can go to decompress and relax by themselves. Provide a supply of fresh water, their favorite bed and toys, and some calming music or background television noise. Some pets may do best staying in this private space until the day’s festivities are done, but remember to take them outside regularly.

#5: Keep an eye on your pet during the festivities

With the doorbell ringing, family in the kitchen busy with preparation and cooking, and guests mingling, your pet can easily get lost in the shuffle. An unsupervised pet with access to food, open doors, and decorations can get themselves into serious trouble. 

  • Door dash — As guests arrive, your front door will likely be opened frequently, and your furry pal can easily slip out unnoticed. When greeting your guests, ensure your pet is confined to a bedroom, or behind a baby gate, so they cannot rush through the door and potentially become lost.
  • Dangerous decor — Thanksgiving table centerpieces usually include a variety of fall flowers, gourds, and candles that can be dangerous if your pet chews on toxic plants and moldy vegetables, or knocks over a burning candle. If your pet is likely to chew or play with decorative items, display them out of reach, or restrict your pet’s access to decorated areas.
  • Stress signs — Supervise your pet as they interact with guests—especially children—and watch for subtle stress signs, such as panting, wide or darting eyes, frequent yawning, and a stiff posture. Remove them from the situation at the first sign of anxiety, and take them to their calm, quiet room to rest. Never force your stressed pet to interact.

#6: Say “No” to sharing table scraps with your pet

Resist those sad, longing eyes, and refrain from tossing table scraps to your pet, who can be seriously harmed by these Thanksgiving foods: 

  • Turkey — Small amounts of turkey or turkey skin can cause life-threatening pancreatitis in pets. 
  • Bones — Cooked bones are extremely brittle and may splinter in your pet’s mouth, causing oral or esophageal injuries. Swallowed bone pieces can also lead to intestinal blockage and require surgical removal. 
  • Garlic, onions, leeks, and chives — While these vegetable seasonings add flavor to dishes like mashed potatoes and stuffing, they can cause anemia if ingested by your pet.  
  • Pies and desserts — Most people know that chocolate is harmful to pets, but the artificial sweetener, xylitol—commonly used in sugar-free baked goods—is also highly toxic. 

We hope these pet safety tips help you and your pet enjoy a safe and happy Thanksgiving. If your pet is highly anxious, contact our LaGrange Veterinary Hospital team to discuss anti-anxiety medications that can help reduce their holiday stress. Also, make an appointment if they need to be microchipped before all the festivities.