7 Ways to Ensure Your Dog Has a Safe and Happy Thanksgiving

Parson Jack Russell Terrier at home
Shane Adams/Flickr

Guests may want to show your pup some love by slipping a bite or two beneath the table, but lots of festive fare is laced with ingredients that are toxic to dogs. Onions and garlic in your stuffing can damage your pup’s red blood cells. The raisins in that sweet potato casserole can cause kidney failure. And the chocolate in dessert can be deadly. A host of other foods can be detrimental to your dog’s health.

Related: 7 Deadly Sins: The People Food You Should Never Feed Your Dog

To ensure your dog has a save and happy Thanksgiving, follow these tips:

1. Avoid rich foods and overindulgence

Like their human counterparts, dogs tend to eat too much at the holidays. And fatty foods wreak havoc on the canine digestive system.

“Dogs do not deal well with any foods that have high fat content, like gravy, or that are very sweet, spicy, rich,” says veterinarian Dr. Holly Cheever of New York’s The Village Animal Clinic. “Desserts, sweet potato casseroles, and so forth” contribute to a host of ill effects, from gastrointestinal disease to pancreatitis.

The best thing to feed your dog if you must share your feast? A piece of white meat without stuffing or gravy. Small portions only!

And keep tempting items like pies or hors d’oeuvres well out of snout’s reach.

Related: Holiday Gift Guide: 10 Perfect Gifts for Dog Lovers

2. Keep tempting non-edibles far away

If you’ve already decked the halls in holiday finery, bear in mind that many dogs are adventurous eaters. From wrappers, twists and ties on foods to pretty baubles used in centerpieces, some dogs will try to chow on anything.

“Dogs are very curious of shiny things,” says veterinarian Dr. Linda Knox of Palomar Animal Hospital in Vista, Calif. “When they ingest those things, they can become obstructed,” requiring medical attention.

Keep décor out of reach when possible, and keep a close eye on Fido.

3. Keep your kitchen hazard free.

Dogs and crowded kitchens simply don’t mix. A pooch underfoot is a tripping hazard. Combined with heavy dishes and scalding liquids, it’s a recipe for disaster.

“Ideally, have one human in charge of the dog/cat who is in food prep area,” says Dr. Cheever. “Or better, exclude pets from this area!” Bonus: Keeping your pup out of the kitchen reduces the risk of fur in your food.

Related: 12 Puppies Giving Thanks

4. Be aware of socialization issues

For some dogs, a houseful of unfamiliar people causes great anxiety. If your dog is fearful of guests, give him a quiet place to hang out until the ruckus has ended, ideally with a Kong or other toy to gnaw at and some fun, engaging toys to keep him occupied.

If you’re worried about his coping skills, says Dr. Cheever, “speak to your veterinarian about mild anti-anxiety aids, like pheromone collars, mild natural tranquilizers or Thunder Shirts.”

5. Keep your dog out of the cold

If you’re celebrating in tight quarters, having a dog inside can become a nuisance, but in cold climates, leaving your pup in the yard is not a viable option. Just like people, dogs are susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite. For pooches who just seem to freak out in the flurry of activity, a safe space like a crate or gated area may be a good solution.

Related: From Poinsettias to Christmas Lights, Here’s How to Keep Your Dog Safe This Holiday Season

6. Try to relax

Dogs are great readers of mood. If you seem out of sorts and panicked as you’re coordinating the big day, your sensitive pooch may absorb your anxieties. The stress often begins well before the holiday itself. Take some mental health time each day to hang with your pup and relax. It’ll do you both good.

7. When to call a vet

Not every Thanksgiving pet foible will require emergency attention, but certain symptoms merit immediate intervention.

“If their abdomen is distended, their gum color is pale, they’re vomiting and looking uncomfortable, they must be seen immediately,” says Dr. Knox.

Additionally, any dog who hasn’t been able to eat in 12 hours or is vomiting and passing loose, bloody stools should be seen by a veterinary care provider. When in doubt, go to the vet.

Potential safety concerns abound during hectic large parties, but with a little preparation, you and your dog alike can enjoy a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

This post has been updated.

By Holly Zynda

Holly Zynda is a copy editor, proofreader, and writer with a lifelong passion for the written word. Over the course of her career, she has worked on an array of content for individuals and major companies, including GoPro, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Genentech, and She also maintains a thriving editing and publishing business, Owl Intermedia. When not working, Holly is an avid amateur photographer, serving as a contributor to Shutterstock and holding dozens of awards on ViewBug. Holly also contributes her free time to environmental protection, animal welfare and humanist causes.

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