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How to Make Thanksgiving Dog Friendly

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Don’t look now, but the holiday season is in full swing. And, don’t think your pets don’t know it! Even if they appear to be unaware of the hustle and bustle around them, they know that something is up. Delicious smells emanating from the kitchen, an extra level of excitement from the kids and a general air of anticipation are all the cues they need. But, along with the joyous side of the holidays, this is also a time when we need to make sure our pets are safe and secure.

dog friendly thanksgiving

Veterinary Tips on How to Keep Your Dog Safe at Thanksgiving

First,  Dr. Jeff Werber points out some basic pet precautions to help you enjoy a dog-friendly Thanksgiving:

We all eat too much at Thanksgiving. It’s almost part of the holiday itself.

And in addition to how much we eat, think about what we eat.  Many of our favorite Thanksgiving foods are fatty or greasy—the turkey (dark meat and the skin), the ham, the casseroles, the gravies, and the snacks (chips, nuts, candy, etc.).

Other inherent food dangers are the wrappers and bones, which can lodge in the throat and cause choking, and toxins like chocolate, walnuts, and avocados. 

Even when the food itself isn’t dangerous, the volume certainly can be. 

As with us, obesity is a major concern with our family pets with over 40% of our dogs and 25% of our cats overweight.  And yes, it is a lot easier to put the weight on than it is to take it off!!!

Whatever you can do at home to keep their feeding routines unchanged and to keep them away from your food or leftovers will make things much easier for you and for them later on. 

When to feed your dog on Thanksgiving

To keep Felix off the table or to prevent Scruffy from drooling all over your or your guest’s laps, I recommend feeding them at the same time that you are eating

If necessary, you can keep them out of the dining room altogether, but I don’t like having them feel left out if you can help it. 

If they are permitted to “hang” with you, please make sure your guests (or your kids) don’t give in to those sad eyes and feed them scraps from the table. 

Trust me, you do not want to deal with a vomiting dog or cat, or a bout of pancreatitis during this otherwise festive time of year.  Preventing a problem is much easier (and cheaper) than treating it!

What to do if company’s coming over

Another cautionary note: When company comes over—-make sure dogs or cats don’t have access to the front door, especially if they like to bolt out the door, and keep nervous dogs outside or in a separate room if they freak when people come over.

With strangers, it’s best to keep your pets away from the table since they may behave differently around newcomers, not to mention having company over who may not appreciate pets hanging out near the dinner table as much as we do. Go figure!

More Tips for Keeping Your Dog Safe at Thanksgiving

We’ve received some great Thanksgiving safety tips from Wag’N Enterprises, a company that provides pet emergency management services to everyone from first responders to pet parents.

Safety Tips in the Kitchen
  • Pets and children can cause you to trip while holding heavy hot food. Pets may also be tempted to jump on counters which may lead to burns as they may plunge paws on hot stove tops/burners and in some cases may singe fur and lead to burns on other body parts. And at the risk of sounding repetitive, keep kids and pets away from candles!!
  • By keeping your pet’s routine unchallenged you will be able to mitigate the most common Thanksgiving emergency veterinarian visits. Feed your pet before the big family meal and away from guests to reduce stress and disturbance. Holidays are no time to make sudden dietary changes.
  • Avoid feeding your pet rich, fatty foods (turkey skins, gravy, etc,) as they can contribute to pancreatitis. This inflammation of the digestive gland is painful and can be serious-requiring emergency veterinary assistance.
  • Never feed your dog cooked bones – no exception for wish bones – as they can splinter and cause tears or obstruction in your pet’s digestive tract leading to internal bleeding.
  • Additional pet hazards include:
    • Baking/meat strings
    • onions found in your stuffing (may lead to anemia if consumed by dogs)
    • grapes and raisins (can lead to kidney failure)
    • sage and essential oils
    • tin foil
    • cellophane candy wrappers
    • toothpicks
    • coffee grinds
    • alcohol,
    • Xylitol sweetener (see below),
    • sweets and of course,
    • chocolate (see below)
  • Children and adults in your household should be reminded of how dangerous candy and chocolate can be to pets.
  • Candies containing the artificial sweetener Xylitol can be poisonous to dogs. Even small amounts of Xylitol sweetener can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar, leading to lack of coordination, seizures, low blood sugar and liver failure within hours. Xylitol is found in candy and gum.
  • Raw bread dough may lead to Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV) which is the second leading killer of dogs after cancer. When heated by the pet’s body temperature, the raw dough will rise and swell, leading to its rotation then twisting at the esophagus and upper intestine. The twisting traps air and food obstructing veins in the abdomen leading to low blood pressure, shock and death within a few hours. As a general rule, avoid all exercise an hour after feeding anything to your pet. Raw dough is a No-No year round!
Safety Tips Around the House
  • Wag’N cautions that open doors will provide for escape routes. Wag’N recommends pets are kept in an enclosed room away from the racket, crated, or in a dog pen hindering access to the home’s main entrance. All pets should wear up-to-date pet tags and be micro chipped before guests start showing up. If for any reason the pet escapes and gets lost, a collar and tags and/or a microchip can increase the chances the pet will be swiftly reunited with its family.
  • Set Aside a Doggy Room. It is important that your pet has a quiet place to get a time out or take a nap away from holiday guest, friends & family. Perhaps, your dog has a crate or you place your dog or cat bed in his own personal suite with a sign that says “Do Not Disturb.” Train your guests to your household rules.
  • Leaving unsupervised pets with chew toys is not recommended as pets may choke on them and the lack of supervision may be deadly to the pet.
  • Wag’N highly recommends pet parents keep important life saving phone numbers both in their cell phone registry and displayed on paper copy in a prominent well traveled area of the residence. Important numbers include your emergency veterinarian’s phone number, the ASPCA Poison Control Center Number (888) 426-4435 and the Regular Poison Control Number (800) 222-1222.

Image credit: chalabala / 123RF Stock Photo

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