Set out the fancy china, and pull on your stretchiest pants—Thanksgiving dinner will be here in the blink of an eye. As you prepare to celebrate with family, friends, and—far too much—food, consider your four-legged vacuum who will be slinking under your festive table, hoping to gobble up a tasty morsel during your holiday feast. Follow our Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital team’s guide to Thanksgiving pet safety to ensure your turkey day is pet-friendly.  

Not all pets enjoy a party

If you are the lucky family member chosen to plan, prepare, cook, host and clean up the gathering’s aftermath, first and foremost—we salute you. Preparing to host Thanksgiving requires time, energy, and focus, in addition to considering your pet’s wellbeing. As you prepare to host the Thanksgiving feast, you can ensure your pet will stay safe and calm by taking the following precautions: 

  • Consider your options — If you know your pet becomes anxious around unfamiliar people or large crowds, consider having your cat or dog stay with a trusted pet sitter, or board them for the night. If your pet will be at home during the gathering, ask your veterinarian whether your stressed four-legged friend might benefit from anti-anxiety medication, which you can administer before guests arrive. 
  • Create a quiet space — Some pets enjoy socializing, but others may prefer solitude. Provide a room away from the festive chaos in which your pet can relax. Turn on a television to provide calming white noise, and leave your pet with engaging toys and treats to occupy them during the party. 
  • Watch the exits — No matter if your pet is comfortable around unfamiliar people or crowds, they still require supervision—especially when guests are entering or leaving your home. While you are distracted, your pet can easily slip out an open door and become lost. Consider keeping your pet on a leash when bidding welcome and farewell to guests, or using a pet gate to keep them away from the continually opening door.  
  • Ensure your pet has identification — Ensure your pet’s collar is secure, and includes your current contact information. In addition, confirm that their microchip’s registration is up-to-date. If your pet is not microchipped, contact our Star of Texas Hospital team to schedule this simple and beneficial procedure. 

Human foods are unhealthy for pets

As you enjoy your Thanksgiving meal, your pet will likely be on the prowl for table scraps and unattended food platters. You may be tempted to sneak your pet a tasty morsel, but many common Thanksgiving foods contain ingredients that can harm them. Keep your pet away from these dangerous festive foods:

  • Turkey — Fatty dark turkey meat and skin can cause your pet to experience pancreatitis (i.e., an inflamed and swollen pancreas). In addition, never give your pet leftover turkey bones, which are a choking hazard and may splinter inside their digestive tract. 
  • Stuffing  Thanksgiving dressing often includes onions, scallions, or garlic, which are toxic for pets and can cause life-threatening anemia. 
  • Unbaked yeast dough — If you plan to make Thanksgiving dinner rolls, keep the dough out of your pet’s reach. Unbaked yeast dough can ferment in your pet’s stomach, and can cause alcohol poisoning or bloat—two potentially life-threatening conditions.
  • Alcohol — Some pets find alcohol’s sweet aroma appealing, but imbibing can lead to alcohol poisoning.
  • Desserts — Many people know chocolate is toxic to pets, but other dessert ingredients—such as raisins, currants, and the popular sugar substitute xylitol—can also be harmful. 

Pets are resourceful at reaching unattended foods and table scraps, and they have been known to nose in the trash. Securely close trash bins to ensure your highly motivated pet cannot open them. In addition, ask your guests to forgo sharing any food or drink with your pet or leaving food unattended within your cat’s or dog’s reach. 

Thanksgiving decor can be dangerous for pets

Festive holiday decor can add to the ambiance, but some decorations are far from pet-friendly. Ensure your pet cannot reach any hazardous decorations:

  • Floral arrangements — If your Thanksgiving decorations include a floral table centerpiece or other floral arrangements, ensure they do not include plants that are toxic for pets, such as chrysanthemums and lilies. 
  • Pumpkins, corncobs, and gourds — These popular harvest-time decorative items are a choking hazard for pets, and can result in intestinal blockages that require surgical removal.
  • Candles — Curious pets and burning candles do not mix. A pet can easily burn themselves or start a fire. Keep burning candles out of your pet’s reach, or use  battery-operated candles that safely mimic a real flame. 

Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude, and our Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital team is grateful for our amazing pet patients and their families. We hope you enjoy a safe and happy Thanksgiving, but if your pet has an emergency, contact our team, or call the ASPCA Pet Poison Control Center.