Thanksgiving is a special holiday that brings together family and friends, but also a time for possible distress for our animal companions. Pets won’t be so thankful if they are sick or lost. Follow these tips to keep your pets healthy and safe during the holiday.
Whether you take your pets with you or leave them behind, take these precautions to safeguard them when traveling over the Thanksgiving holiday or at any other time of the year.
Talk with your veterinarian if you’re traveling by air and considering bringing your pet with you. Your veterinarian is the best person to advise you regarding your own pet’s ability to travel.
If you’re going to travel together, your pet needs a health certificate if you’re traveling across state lines or international borders, whether by air or car. Learn the requirements for any states you will visit or pass through and schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to get the needed certificate within the timeframes required by those states. In addition to your pet’s food and medications, don’t forget to bring medical records, information to help identify your pet if it becomes lost, first aid supplies, and other items. Never leave pets alone in vehicles, even for a short time, regardless of the weather. Pets should always be safely restrained in vehicles. This means using a secure harness or a carrier, placed in a location clear of airbags. This helps protect your pets if you brake or swerve suddenly or get in an accident. It also keeps them away from potentially poisonous food or other items you are transporting, prevents them from causing dangerous distractions for the driver, and can prevent small animals from getting trapped in small spaces. Never transport your pet in the bed of a truck.
Are you considering boarding your dog while you travel? Talk with your veterinarian to find out how best to protect your pet from Bordetella, Canine Influenza, and other contagious diseases, and to make sure your pet is up-to-date on vaccines.
If you decide to feed your pet a small bite of turkey, make sure it’s boneless and well-cooked. Don’t offer her raw or undercooked turkey, which may contain salmonella bacteria. Do not give your pet the leftover carcass–the bones can be problematic for the digestive tract. Who would have thought that the recently popular trend of brining your turkey prior to Thanksgiving would be a risk to your pets?! When you remove the turkey, this salt-saturated solution can be very attractive to dogs and cats, who will readily lap it up resulting in salt toxicosis.
Fatty or rich foods like beef fat, poultry skin and gravy can cause severe gastrointestinal issues in pets.
Although bones from our holiday birds look good to pets, they are dangerous and can cause intestinal upset and may even splinter once digested. These splinters can cause damage to the intestines that can lead to infection, intestinal blockage, or even the death of the dog or cat if not treated appropriately.
No Bread Dough
Don’t spoil your pet’s holiday by giving him access to raw yeast bread dough. When a dog or cat ingests raw bread dough, the yeast continues to convert the sugars in the dough to carbon dioxide gas and alcohol. This can result in bloated drunken pets, which could become a life-threatening emergency, requiring hospitalization.
Consider all the cookie and desserts offered during the holidays, many of which contain chocolate. Chocolate is dangerous for dogs because it contains theobromine, a caffeine-like ingredient that can be toxic to your pet. Dogs are not able to metabolize theobromine as quickly as humans. Complications can include digestive issues, dehydration, excitability and slow heart rate. Later stages of theobromine poisoning include epileptic-like seizures and pet death. Especially be sure to keep your pet away from dark, semi-sweet and baker’s chocolate because they contain higher levels of theobromine.
Candies, desserts or other foods that are sweetened with an artificial sweetener called xylitol are dangerous to pets. Xylitol can result in a rapid drop in blood sugar in dogs along with liver damage. In the past, we saw xylitol limited to the ingredient lists of sugar-free gums, mints, and dental products but xylitol is now very commonly used in sugar-free or low-sugar baked goods, vitamins, and even peanut butter! Even quantities that appear to be very small have the potential to quickly become life-threatening to dogs. Always check the label!
Raisins, currants, and grapes
Found in some of our favorite Thanksgiving foods, these are a very serious concern for dogs as they have the risk of resulting in acute renal failure with even small ingestions.
Nuts are high in fat and have the risk of pancreatitis. Macadamia nuts are more serious, and ingestions can result in vomiting, diarrhea, and the inability to rise or walk normally.
A few small boneless pieces of cooked turkey, a taste of mashed potato or even a lick of pumpkin pie shouldn’t pose a problem. However, don’t allow your pets to overindulge, as they could wind up with a case of stomach upset, diarrhea or even worse—an inflammatory condition of the pancreas known as pancreatitis. In fact, it’s best to keep pets on their regular diets during the holidays. Always keep the Pet Poison Helpline 24/7 Hotline number handy throughout your Holiday season to help you with those unexpected exposures. As much as we like prevention, accidents just happen sometimes, and we are here to help support you, your pet, and your veterinarian.
Precautions for Holiday Parties in your home
If you’re hosting a party or overnight visitor, plan ahead to keep your pets safe and make the experience less stressful for everyone.
Visitors can upset your pets. Some pets are shy or excitable around new people or in crowds, and Thanksgiving often means many visitors at once and higher-than-usual noise and activity levels. If you know your dog or cat is nervous when people visit your home, put him/her in another room or a crate with a favorite toy. This will reduce the emotional stress on your pet and protect your guests from possible injury. If your pet is particularly upset by houseguests, talk to your veterinarian about possible solutions to this common problem.
Watch the exits. Even if your pets are comfortable around guests, make sure you watch them closely, especially when people are entering or leaving your home. While you’re welcoming hungry guests and collecting coats, a four-legged family member may make a break for it out the door and become lost.
Identification tags and microchips reunite families. Make sure your pet has proper identification with your current contact information – particularly a microchip with up-to-date, registered information. That way, if they do sneak out, they’re more likely to be returned to you. If your pet isn’t already microchipped, talk to your veterinarian about the benefits of this simple procedure.
Holiday decorations are a concern for many reasons. The bouquet of lilies you received from your guests can result in acute renal failure in your cat. Bittersweet flowers are many times included in fall floral arrangements and can cause gastrointestinal upset. Candles can result in burns and flameless candles contain batteries that when ingested can result in gastrointestinal burns and corrosive injury. Be careful with decorative plants. Don’t forget that some flowers and festive plants can be toxic to pets. These include amaryllis, Baby’s Breath, Sweet William, some ferns, hydrangeas and more. The ASPCA offers lists of plants that are toxic to both dogs and cats, but the safest route is simply to keep your pets away from all plants and table decorations. If you believe your pet has been poisoned or eaten something it shouldn’t have, call your veterinarian or local veterinary emergency clinic immediately. You may also want to call the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline: 888-426-4435. Contact your veterinarian immediately.
Turkey day is right around the corner, so keep these tops handy to avoid a trip to the emergency veterinary clinic or spending the whole day searching for your missing pet.