Tips to Protect Your Pet This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a special holiday that brings together family and friends, but it also brings about a greater risk for our pets. While food is an important part of this holiday for humans, it’s also the reason for an increase in animal emergencies this time of year. Most of the Thanksgiving-related injuries and illnesses treated at DoveLewis Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Hospital are caused by food and can be prevented with a few of our tips.

“Most of the problems pets face during Thanksgiving and the holiday season can be easily prevented if pet owners are informed," said Dr. Ladan Mohammad-Zadeh, a DoveLewis Critical Care Specialist. "The most common hazard is gastrointestinal upset caused by fatty foods, so avoid sharing what's on your Thanksgiving dinner plate, secure your garbage cans, and know which foods can pose the most serious problems for pets."

DoveLewis doctors have seen many cases during this season, including a dog eating a turkey leg whole, a dog who ate a whole pie (and part of the pie dish too) to a cat who ate the string from the turkey. 

Thankfully, each patient was treated and has recovered fully but we hope this can help stop any emergency before it happens this holiday weekend. But the hazards don’t stop there. Pets can also get disoriented, upset, and stressed by the new house guests celebrating with you and the change in their regular routine. This anxiety can even result in vomiting and gastrointestinal troubles. For Thanksgiving, we urge pet owners to be cautious and pay close attention to animals during the festivities.

Follow These Tips for Thanksgiving Pet Safety:

  • Don’t share human food with pets. It may seem cruel to withhold holiday treats, but feeding pets "people food" often results in problems ranging from mild gastrointestinal upset to severe pancreatitis and even potentially life-threatening obstructions. Also, some foods (like chocolate, grapes and onions) are toxic to animals. Fatty foods are hard for animals to digest. Poultry bones can damage your pet’s digestive tract. And holiday sweets can contain ingredients that are poisonous to pets.

    Can’t say no to your furry friend? Add a teaspoon of white turkey meat or broth to a pet’s food to safely share the Thanksgiving celebration with everyone!
  • Keep pets away from raw or undercooked turkey, or cooked turkey that has been sitting out. It could be infected with salmonella, a bacterial organism that may be present in the turkey’s intestinal tract. The cooking process usually destroys the organisms, making the turkey safe to eat. However, if the cooked meat sits at room temperature for too long, the salmonella organisms can return, multiply and cause contamination.
  • Do not allow a dog near turkey bones. These bones are hollow and splinter easily into sharp pieces. Splinters can lodge in a pet’s throat or intestine, or it can cause punctures to the intestinal tract and create blockages. They may stay lodged in a dog’s body for days before symptoms appear. Signs of serious problems may include loss of appetite, depression, vomiting or diarrhea. Sometimes the bone will pass by itself. Other times, surgical removal is necessary.
  • Secure garbage cans at all times, especially when they contain food scraps and bones. Otherwise, pets may try for a dumpster dive that could have dangerous consequences.


  • No pie or other desserts for your pawsome pals. Chocolate can be harmful to pets, especially since many dogs are tempted and will sniff it out. The artificial sweetener called xylitol – commonly used in gum and sugar-free baked goods – also can be deadly if consumed by dogs or cats. Yeast dough can cause problems like painful gas and bloating if your pets swoop in for a taste.


  • Don't forget about the festive decor. Holiday displays, decorations or candles are attractive to pets as well as people. Never leave a pet alone in an area with a lit candle and pine cones, needles and other decorations can cause intestinal blockages or possibly perforate an animal’s intestine if eaten.


  • Create a “safe zone” for pets dealing with house guests. Visiting friends and relatives, even of the canine variety, can upset pets. Cats may choose to hide; dogs may become fearful or aggressive (especially around other dogs in competition for food). The stress can manifest in a variety of ways, including vomiting and gastrointestinal issues. If a pet seems overwhelmed, find a quiet room or area of the house for them to relax until the new sounds, smells and activity of the holiday celebration are over.


  • Be sure pets are wearing ID tags and update their microchip information. With house guests coming and going, it’s common for unsupervised pets to get loose. Watch the exits and check on updating a pet’s microchip to ensure that a lost pet will be returned if they do get out.


Quick Action Can Save Lives.

If you believe your pet has eaten something it shouldn’t have or appears distressed, call your veterinarian immediately. If your veterinarian is unavailable during the holiday, DoveLewis is open 24/7 every day of the year. Call us at 503-228-7281 for help if you see any signs of pet distress including sudden changes in behavior, depression, pain, vomiting, or diarrhea. We are ready to help.




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