Thanksgiving 2021: Tips for a safe holiday for your pet

Thanksgiving is a special holiday that brings together family and friends, but it can carry some hazards for pets. 

From holiday food that must be kept away from animals to pet owners who travel and need to transport their pet safely, the American Veterinary Medical Association revealed tips to keep your furry friends happy and safe during Thanksgiving and the holiday season.

What can I feed my pet on Thanksgiving?

Overindulging in the family feast can be unhealthy for humans, but AVMA says it can be even worse for pets.

"If you want to give your pet something fun for Thanksgiving, go and pick them up a special treat or something from the store that’s made specifically for them," Dr. Douglas Kratt, the past president of AVMA, told FOX Television Stations. "I know the holidays are here and we want to get our pets involved in it, but we have to be careful." 

Frequently, Kratt said lean turkey and vegetables such as green beans, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes and peas should be safe for your pets to eat, assuming they are not in sauces. 


NOVEMBER 28: Cute Border terrier puppy 10 weeks old eating from dog bowl (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)

However, Kratt noted pet owners should be very careful about giving pets human foods. 

Many foods that are healthy for people are poisonous to pets – including onions, raisins and grapes. 

And many spices can be harmful, as well, including onion powder and garlic powder — which could cause blood disorders. 

Too much fat, which could include turkey or turkey skin, may be hard for your pet to digest and can even cause a condition known as pancreatitis in some animals.

In addition, poultry bones could cause choking, along with damage to a pet’s digestive tract.

Lastly, holiday sweets can contain ingredients that are poisonous to pets. For example, chocolate can be harmful for pets, and the artificial sweetener called xylitol – commonly used in gum and sugar-free baked goods – also can be deadly if consumed by dogs or cats.

Symptoms to look out for

According to AVMA, signs of pet distress include: sudden changes in behavior, depression, pain, vomiting, or diarrhea.

"If they’re more withdrawn from us and that’s not typical, or do they have some vomiting issues, do they have an upset stomach, those are things to be looking for," Kratt continued. "If they continue to pace and that’s not normal or they have abnormal posture, that could be issues." 

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The first thing to do is to pick up your phone because AVMA said quick action can save lives.

If you believe your pet has been poisoned or eaten something it shouldn’t have, call your veterinarian or local veterinary emergency clinic immediately. 

You may also want to call the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline. 

Other pet safety precautions

During the holidays, guests are coming in and out, and some visitors can upset your furry friend.

Some pets can become shy or excitable around new people or crowds, so if you know your pet is nervous, arrange to put them in another room with a favorite toy. This may help reduce the animal’s stress. 

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In addition, make sure to put your trash away where your pets cannot locate it. Dispose of any turkey carcasses and bones — which can be deadly to your pet — and place them in a covered, tightly secured trash bag in a trash container outdoors.

Traveling with pet during holiday

Whether you take your pets with you or leave them behind, it's important to take precautions to safeguard them when traveling over the holidays. 

You’ll want to pack for your pet the same way you pack for yourself while going on a trip. Remember to take your pet’s foods, medications, medical records, information to help identify your pet if it becomes lost and first aid supplies.

If you are traveling across state lines or international borders, your pet will need a health certificate from your veterinarian. 

Learn the requirements for any states you will visit or pass through, and schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to get the needed certificate within the timeframes required by those states.

If you’re traveling by air, AVMA said you should talk with your veterinarian first. Air travel can put some pets at risk, especially dogs with short noses. 

If you’re traveling by vehicle, secure your pet in a harness or carrier, clear of any airbags. This will help protect your pet from an accident and keep them away from any toxic food items. Also, never leave your pets alone in vehicles, even for a short time. 

If you’re boarding your dog, talk with your veterinarian to find out how best to protect your pet from canine flu

 and other contagious diseases, and make sure your pet is up-to-date on vaccines. Also, plan ahead. Many kennels are booking up, so make sure you have a plan in place.