Raise your glasses and ready your forks—it’s time for Thanksgiving dinner. But, before you toast your family and friends with your gratitude, do you know where your pets are? Or what they’re doing? Turkey day may be bountiful with food and drink for people, but it’s a harvest of hazards for dogs and cats. Haskell Valley Veterinary Clinic presents these pet dangers in a three-course-meal format.

First course: Hors d’oeuvres are more than appetizers for your pet

Your house is warmed by candlelight and a roaring fire. Corn husks, gourds, and small pumpkins provide the appropriate decor. The cat rests above the couch, eyes half-lidded. Drinks are dispersed, and casual chatter fills the air already scented with light cinnamon oil and citrus. Hors d’oeuvres platters are circulated, and then left on the coffee table—which your dog does not fail to notice.

The scene seems straight from a television movie about coming home for the holidays. But, a closer look reveals hidden pet dangers, including:

  • The fireplace — Unsupervised pets may wander or play too close to the flames, and become burned by ash, sparks, or debris. Always use a screen, keep a fire extinguisher nearby, and never leave pets unattended.
  • The decor — Your pet may munch on harvest corn, acorns, decorative squash, gourds, and figurines. Inedible objects can cause an intestinal blockage, and require surgical removal. Twinkling lights your cat cannot resist chewing can cause electric shock or battery burns.
  • Alcohol — Some pets find the sweet smell appealing, and may lap up alcohol from an open glass, leading to alcohol poisoning.
  • Essential oils — Many oils, which can be inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or ingested while grooming, are toxic to cats, and can cause respiratory distress or liver failure.
  • Hors d’oeuvres — The fried or bacon-wrapped bites that make your dog’s mouth water can also overwhelm their pancreas, causing dangerous pancreatitis that will require hospitalization. 

Main course: Thanksgiving dinner feeds danger to your pet

Your family and friends seated around the dinner table all are aglow with candlelight. The floral centerpiece has been moved to make room for the beautifully carved turkey. Plates heavy with generous helpings from all the major food groups are passed around. Suddenly, a guest gasps. Next, you hear a loud clatter in the kitchen.

  • The turkey — The fall-off-the-bone turkey is on the kitchen floor, after a little help from your dog. Pets commonly steal turkey carcasses, trimmings, and bones from the kitchen counter, dining table, or trash can while owners are distracted. Never feed your pet bones of any kind, especially cooked bones, which may splinter, and lead to internal bleeding and intestinal blockage.
  • The trimmings —  Turkey skin, fat, and grease commonly cause pancreatitis, and should never be given to pets. Keep trash cans closed and behind a pet-safe barrier.
  • The sides — Thanksgiving stuffing and casseroles get their flavor from pet-toxic onions, garlic, and leeks. Only a small amount of these ingredients is needed to cause red blood cell destruction and anemia in dogs and cats.
  • The centerpiece — The guest had gasped because two feline eyes had suddenly peeked out from behind the floral display on the table. Fall arrangements may contain toxic plants, including chrysanthemums and lilies, so keep these out of reach of pets—especially cats.

Third course: Sweet desserts may be deadly for pets

Of course, this meal has a sweet ending—the dessert course is finally arriving. The table has been reset with towers of cookies and chocolates, layered cakes, filled rolls, and rustic pies. Several desserts signify their sugar-free status with an orange turkey toothpick. Uncle Al prepares for his heartburn, shaking several pills from a plastic bottle, and setting them beside his plate. 

Everything may appear saccharine, but this spread is anything but sweet for pets, with hazards that include:

  • Chocolate Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, which stimulate the heart and central nervous system, and can be life-threatening. 
  • Pie — These American classics may contain raisins and currants, which can cause acute kidney failure.
  • Xylitol Sugar-free sweets (e.g., candy, gum, baked goods) are commonly made with this artificial sweetener. When eaten by dogs, xylitol causes severe hypoglycemia, and possible liver failure.
  • Medication Guests may not know that stray pills and capsules can entice pets. Remind them to keep their medication out of pets’ reach, in childproof containers, and off night stands, tables, and counters. 

Leftovers: Takeaways to protect your pet

While it’s impossible and improbable to remove every holiday hazard from your home, you can protect your pet and enjoy your Thanksgiving with these general precautions:

  • Keep pets out of the kitchen during meal preparation. 
  • Store trash cans behind a closed door or barrier.
  • Familiarize yourself with human foods that are toxic to pets.
  • Supervise your pet at all times, or confine them during the festivities.
  • Ensure your pet wears a collar and current identification at all times.
  • Avoid feeding your pet table scraps, and instead offer them small, unseasoned, boneless and skinless white turkey pieces, plain pumpkin, green beans, or sweet potato.

We want you and your pet to enjoy a safe Thanksgiving. However, if your pet does ingest a toxic food, contact Haskell Valley Veterinary Clinic, or call ASPCA Pet Poison Control Center.