Thanksgiving feels extra special this year. Because of the coronavirus, many of us had to skip (or scale down) the traditional family and friends get together last year.
But the combination of the vaccines and lower infection rates are allowing more of us to do the day up right this time, surrounded by all of our loved ones. And that, of course, includes our furry family members too.
It’s those fuzzy companions I want to focus on today. Because although the holidays are an exciting time for them too, they can also present some dangers.
So it’s a good idea to plan ahead and keep a close eye on your pets on the big day.
Celebrate safely with your pets
One of the things I’m always most thankful for is my pets. I bet you feel the same way about yours. Pets bring so much joy to our lives with their playful exuberance, silly antics, and unconditional love.
And science proves we’re both onto something. Research has found pets do indeed improve both our physical and mental health. So let’s return that favor this Thursday by keeping our furry friends safe and happy during the celebration.
Limit people food
It’s tempting to include our dogs and cats in the festivities by feeding them some of the feast. After all, it’s hard to resist when your pooch gives you the puppy dog eyes or your kitty switches into purr mode.
But, keep in mind, some “people foods” could be harmful to your pet. Plus, rich fatty foods or an abrupt shift in your dog or cat’s diet could lead to a bellyache or worse.
If you think the star of the Thanksgiving show seems like a natural fit for your pet, your instincts are spot on. Turkey is one of the better choices from the big meal to share with Fido or Fluffy. (Plain sweet potatoes and green beans are good choices too.) But it’s essential to do it the right way.
Keep the portion size small. Stick to a few small pieces of the bird tops. And make sure it’s unseasoned, skinless, lean, white meat. High-fat foods are harder to digest and can be tough on your pet’s tummy.
Avoid giving your pet turkey skin. It can cause vomiting or diarrhea in both dogs and cats. Even worse, high-fat foods could cause a case of painful and damaging acute pancreatitis in your dog.
Under no circumstances should you give turkey bones to your furry family members. Bones can easily splinter and get caught in your pet’s throat, causing damage and choking. Plus, sharp bones could literally poke a hole in your pet’s digestive tract or lead to obstructions that need surgery to clear them.
Whether it’s called stuffing or dressing in your home, this bread-based side dish might seem like a harmless food to give to your dog or cat. But the truth is stuffing can be full of dangerous landmines.
Most dressings contain turkey drippings and other fats, which can cause digestive upset and potentially pancreatitis. But depending on your recipe, you might be using some other ingredients that can be toxic to your pet.
Many stuffing recipes call for onions, chives, or garlic. All three can potentially cause anemia in cats and dogs. If your dressing has walnuts or macadamias, it could trigger tremors and vomiting. And raisins or grapes can potentially lead to kidney problems.
The dessert table is loaded with hidden dangers for your pet. Most desserts contain the trifecta of tummy-ache triggers: sugars, fats, and dairy. But those aren’t the only ingredients that can cause trouble.
Chocolate contains theobromine which can be toxic for your pet. Nutmeg, which is always in pumpkin pie (and some sweet potato recipes, too), can cause seizures. And steer VERY clear of sugar-free, no-sugar, and desserts labeled “low carb.” They can contain xylitol which can be deadly for dogs and cats.
If you want to make sure your pet gets some holiday dessert on the big day, you’re in luck. When you’re fixing your pumpkin pies, scoop out a couple tablespoons of the plain canned pumpkin and set it aside. It’s perfectly safe for your pet, and they will enjoy their “pie” just as much as the sweetened baked version.
Limit the stress
Maybe you’re among the 23 million American’s who adopted a new pet during the pandemic. Or perhaps your dog or cat is a long-time companion. Either way, just like you, your pet may be a bit rusty when it comes to being around a house full of people and decorations. And that can lead to some stress on the big day.
Planning ahead can help you BOTH relax and enjoy the day.
Friends and family may be tempted to slip your dog or cat treats under the table. To avoid this, feed your pet before guests arrive to head off begging. And make a quick announcement when everyone is around the table to not feed your furball during the meal.
With all the arrivals and departures, your cat or dog could easily slip out an open door unnoticed. As people are arriving and leaving, it’s a good idea to keep your pet crated or in another room with a closed door. If your pet is stressed out by the guests and festivities, plan for them to stay in this safe spot for longer.
From floral centerpieces to Christmas tree ornaments when your house is decked out for the holidays, there are tons of temptations for your furry friend to sink his jaws into. So keep your pets in mind when you decorate.
Some flowers can be highly toxic. All lilies are potentially deadly for your cat, and certain lilies are dangerous for dogs too. Chrysanthemums, holly, amaryllis, and bergamot orange can be toxic for your pets as well. And the oils and plants in some potpourris can be trouble too. For a complete list of toxic plants, check the ASPCA’s database of poisonous plants.
Place decorations up and out of your pet’s reach. Never leave them alone in a room with lit candles or a fireplace. And if your tree is up, keep in mind pine needles, pine cones, and decorations could cause intestinal blockages or bowel perforations if swallowed. Consider giving your pet a new toy or a treat to distract them and keep them entertained. Food puzzle toys are perfect for this.
Keep your eyes open for any changes in your pet’s behavior, vomiting, or diarrhea. All of these can be signs that it’s eaten something toxic or dangerous. Don’t hesitate to call the ASPCA poison control hotline at 888-426-4435, or your local emergency vet, if you suspect your pet has gotten into something dangerous.