Your Thanksgiving centerpiece and main memory should be the turkey—not a pet emergency. Learn a lesson from Palmer Veterinary Clinic’s “turkey tales,” to ensure this year’s holiday memories are made around the table—not of a pilgrimage to the nearest emergency hospital.

The bird is the word—turkey and pets

You return to the kitchen with dirty plates, and silently congratulate yourself on surviving another family Thanksgiving. As you enter the room, a furry four-legged blur scrambles under the table, awkwardly dragging something large and—judging by the trail left behind—greasy. Safely imprisoned by table and chair legs, your dog gnaws on the turkey’s bony remains.

Dogs and cats are opportunistic scavengers who simply can’t resist a free meal. And although white meat turkey is a fantastic pet-safe protein source, that’s rarely the cut they select. Instead, pets gorge on greasy skin and pan drippings, which contain pancreatitis-causing fat levels, and may include pet-toxic ingredients, such as garlic, onions, or leeks. Cooked turkey bones can splinter and lacerate the mouth, trachea, or digestive tract. Bones can also lodge in the intestines, creating a dangerous blockage that requires surgical repair.

Guard your bird, and your pet by:

  • Burying the bones — Take any remnants to the garage or place them in your freezer.
  • Stealing away the opportunity to steal — Keep all serving trays and plates far away from the counter’s edge, to prevent counter-surfing.
  • Teaming up — Instruct guests not to feed your pet from their plate.
  • Taking out the trash — Keep lids on trash cans, and store them behind closed doors or a baby gate, to deter dumpster-diving pets. Plastic wrap, foil, and cooking twine are also common causes for intestinal obstruction. 

Deadly sweets—Thanksgiving desserts and pets

Not again. For the fifth year in a row, your Aunt Sally brought her mysterious pink gelatin “fluff” dessert. To make matters worse, your dog couldn’t resist sampling the wobbly mound, and bit off a large chunk. You spin the plate to hide the gap, but not before Aunt Sally notices. She proudly informs you that there’s no need to worry—she’s “gone keto,” and this year’s dessert is sugar-free.

Holiday desserts seduce pets with their sweet smell, but wreak havoc on their health. Sugar-free desserts and some store-bought baked goods are made with xylitol, a dangerous sugar substitute that triggers a rapid drop in blood glucose, and potential permanent liver damage in pets. Keep your pet away from the desert table, especially from any treat containing the following pet-toxic ingredients:

  • Xylitol
  • Chocolate
  • Raisins or currants
  • Grapes
  • Yeast dough
  • Macadamia nuts

Dangerously good taste—decorations and pets

The house is picture perfect. Your carefully curated fall decor has the right balance of rustic charm and autumn warmth—maybe too warm. You turn away from your well-appointed mantle to see your cat fleeing the scene, where a single displaced candle has set the lace table runner ablaze.

Fall decor invites us to settle in, but inspires pets to play and taste. The new and unusual objects and attractions can easily result in mishaps and mayhem. Common dangers include:

  • Candles — Avoid pet burns and accidental fires by replacing them with flameless candles.
  • Fireplace — Use a fireplace guard, and keep away curious pets when the fire is being tended.
  • String lights — Cats may chew these, or become tangled in the wires.
  • Gourds and pumpkins — These are non-toxic, but large pieces can cause choking or intestinal blockage.
  • Acorns — Commonly in centerpieces and floral arrangements, these are toxic to dogs and cats.
  • Toxic flowers — Chrysanthemums and autumn crocus are fall favorites that are hazardous to pets. 
  • Corn cobs — Multicolored ears of corn conjure up thoughts of harvest and canine intestinal blockage.

If your pet is likely to chew or play with decorative items, select your pieces carefully, and display them out of reach, or install temporary baby gates, to restrict your pet’s access to decorated areas.

Crowded house—holiday visitors and your pet

“He’s fine. Pets love me. Right, buddy?” Uncle Bob is steadily moving in on your elderly beagle, who is resting on the couch, and—by the looks of his wide eyes and lip-licking—asking to be left alone. Bob ignores your dog’s averted gaze and stiff posture. When he reaches out to pat your dog’s head, he’s met with a flash of teeth that air-snap only millimeters from his outstretched hand. 

Hosting family or friends is stressful, but at least we can rationalize their temporary stay. Pets see only a potential threat and abrupt changes in their daily routine. All pets—including those who enjoy visitors—can easily become overwhelmed, and need an escape. Give your pet a quiet space, such as a crate or small room, where they can go during busy times, or where they can retreat at will.

Check your pet’s microchip registration, and ensure they wear updated identification (i.e., collar and tags) at all times, in case they slip out an open door or gate. If your pet becomes anxious around strangers or noise, speak to your veterinarian about anti-anxiety medication that will put their mind at ease. 

Thanksgiving is meant to be a time rich with gratitude. Rather than being thankful that your pet’s emergency was only a close call, avoid the risk entirely by designing a pet-safe holiday experience. To schedule a pre-holiday examination, or to ask your veterinarian about anti-anxiety medication for your pet, contact Palmer Veterinary Clinic.