cats and dogs at thanksgiving

Safety for Cats and Dogs at Thanksgiving

By Dr. Bruce Little

Thanksgiving is the time of year when families and friends get together to express their gratitude and celebrate their blessings. One thing to definitely be thankful for is the presence of our pets and the unconditional love they bring into our lives. However, we must take into consideration the health and well-being of our pets as we celebrate the Thanksgiving season. Household guests can be stressful for pets during this time. This is especially true if the house guests bring their own dog or cat to your house for the duration of their stay. Loud noises and the resultant anxiety of strange people can cause diarrhea and vomiting in many pets.  

Here are some safety tips for cats and dogs at Thanksgiving

  1. All pets should have access to a comfortable, quiet place inside if they want to retreat.  Make sure your pet has a room or crate somewhere away from the commotion thatthey  can go to anytime they want to get away.  Place a television or stereo in the room with music to temper the noise from the revelers. Many times, a chew toy that distributes a slow trail of treats will keep them occupied at least until they become accustomed to the noise and outside activity.  Be sure to place a litter box in that private room for your cats to use while the house is overtaken by guests.
  2. While preparing meals during these hectic days, be sure to take your pets into consideration. It’s impossible to eliminate the wonderful smells that emanate from the kitchen during these festive times.  Sometimes pets, especially dogs, become overzealous in eating the family’s food and drink, and that can be detrimental to their health. Be sure that all family members and guest are mindful not to overindulge them.
  3. Fat trimmings from the turkey and other meats, whether cooked or raw, can cause problems including pancreatitis, vomiting, diarrhea, and must be kept out-of-reach of the family pets.
  4. Safely dispose of all bones immediately as they can get lodged in your pet’s mouth, throat or intestines causing a digestive tract blockage. They can also penetrate the intestines causing infection leading to peritonitis and other digestive tract issues
  5. Safely dispose of kitchen twine used to hold meat together during the cooking process immediately. If pets consume, it can have a critical effect on their digestive health.
  6. Caffeine in large quantities in coffee grounds or soft drinks can make dogs disorientated and sometimes cause seizure-like symptoms. Make sure guests pour their remaining drops down the drain immediately when finished.
  7. Materials such as xylitol that is used as artificial or “sugar free” sweeteners in baked goods, chewing gum and other products is highly toxic to dogs and cats. Be mindful and keep any products well out of reach.
  8. Keep chocolate well out of reach and dispose of any wrappers immediately. Chocolate contains theobromine, a chemical that can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and in higher doses can cause heartbeat abnormalities, tremors, and possibly seizures.
  9. We’re not here to judge, but keep all marijuana products, either raw or in baked foods, strictly out of your pet’s reach. With the recent legalization of medical marijuana in more than half of US states, the incidence of marijuana toxicity in dogs has increased as much as 65% in some of those localities.
  10. Keep baked products that contain raisins, currants, and grapes well hidden. Even small doses can result in kidney failure in dogs.
  11. Small quantities of alcohol consumed by pets can cause vomiting, incoordination, confusion, and seizures in pets if given in enough quantity. Keep securely closed or out of reach.
  12. Open purses and suitcases that belong to guests can be dangerous if they contain certain human medications, wrapped gifts, or foods that could be toxic to dogs and cats. Keep well guarded.
  13. Make sure your garbage doesn’t overflow and has a secure cover.

Nothing can spoil good cheer like an emergency trip to the animal hospital. Talk with your veterinarian in advance to find out where you would need to take your pet if an emergency arises and plan your travel route so you’re not trying to find your way when stressed. Always keep your veterinarian’s clinic phone number and a 24-hour emergency veterinary clinic posted in an easy-to-find location in case of emergencies. Thanksgiving is a special holiday that brings together family and friends, but it also can carry some hazards for pets. If you believe your pet has been poisoned or eaten something it shouldn’t have, call your veterinarian or local veterinary emergency clinic immediately. Signs of pet distress include sudden changes in behavior, depression, pain, vomiting, or diarrhea.

For help if you suspect your pet has swallowed a poisonous product, call or visit:

Pet Poison Helpline: http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com; Telephone: 1-855-289-0358

ASPCA Poison Control Center: http://www.aspca.org/apce; Telephone: 1-888-426-4435