Thanksgiving isn’t just a treat for humans: with plenty of turkey to eat, guests to play with, and cooking smells to wallow in, the holiday season is as big a celebration for dogs as it is for us. Which isn’t to say it’s a free-for-all. Thanksgiving comes with a myriad of potential hazards for our pets- some of which are obvious, and some of which may come as something of a surprise. Make sure the big day goes with a bang with these top ten tips for keeping your dog safe and happy over the holiday season.
1. Don’t Overstuff Them
Thanksgiving may be just the excuse we need to fill our faces with delicious food, but while we can usually combat the effects with a couple of antacids, dogs aren’t quite so lucky. “Veterinarians experience an increased number of office calls due to digestive problems after the holidays because humans invite their animals to celebrate with high-fat meals (ham, gravy, turkey skin), chocolates, bones, etc.,” Casandria Smith, L.A. Animal Services Chief Veterinarian, warns PetFinder. Resist the temptation to treat thanksgiving as a free for all: while a few choice treats from your plate are unlikely to do much harm, avoid treating your dog as an alternative to the garbage disposal when it comes to clearing the leftovers.
2.Wear Them Out With Exercise
If you can’t resist those big puppy dog eyes at mealtimes, treat them to a long walk before you get started on the Thanksgiving feast. A tired dog is far more likely to want to sleep off their executions than beg for food, so get them good and pooped before you sit down.
3. Keep Bones Out Of Reach
Why dogs find carcasses quite so tempting, the lord only knows. But tempting they apparently are. Unfortunately, they can also be lethal. Cooked turkey bones can stay lodged in your dog’s digestive tract for days without you even releasing it, leading to what can sometimes be very costly surgery. If you can’t resist giving your pet something to knaw on while you tuck into the turkey, look for rawhide or something similar as a safe alternative.
4. Hide Away The Chocolate
Settling down in front of the TV with a box of chocolates may be your ideal way of winding down at the end of Thanksgiving, but don’t include your dog in your indulgence if you value their health. While dogs can happily graze on most human foods without too much gastric discomfort, even just a few squares of chocolate can have a devastating, and even lethal, effect. If you’ve opted for “healthy” chocolate made from xylitol rather than sugar, be even more careful: like chocolate, xylitol is extremely poisonous to dogs and should be avoided at all costs.
5. Educate Your Guests
If you’re expecting a horde of visitors for Thanksgiving, prep them in advance about what you’d rather they did or didn’t do around your dog. If children are on the guest list, be sure they know not to leave the door open if they sneak outside to play and make both adults and kids aware of the dangers of leaving plates (and drinks) unattended.
6. Create A Retreat
Thanksgiving can be a busy time for many households, with family and friends popping in and out on a seemingly never-ending basis. As even the most social dog can find all the comings and goings a little wearing, set up a little corner in a quiet spot of the house they can retreat to when the chaos gets too much. Pop a few pillows or their favorite blanket down with some toys and make your guests are aware that the area is off-limits to anyone without four legs and a tail.
7. Plan Before You Travel
If you’re planning on leaving town for Thanksgiving, don’t make the mistake of thinking you can leave your dog home alone with a few water bowls and plates of food. Water bowls can spill, food can be scoffed before you’ve even locked the door, and accidents can happen at any point. Mitigate disaster by finding a reliable pet sitter or boarding kennel before you leave. If you opt for a pet sitter, ask them to pop by a couple of times before you go so your dog can get used to them while you’re still around.
8. Keep Onions Stowed Away
Sage and onions may make a delectable stuffing, but they’re far better left to the turkey than your dog. Sage (and, indeed, most herbs) are toxic to dogs and can cause all kinds of unpleasant gastric problems that, trust us, you really don’t want to deal with in the middle of dinner. As PetMD notes, onions are equally bad news and can cause a dangerous (and hard to spot) form of anemia. Keep all herbs and onions safely stowed away, and make sure your guests know not to treat your pet to any potentially hazardous table scraps.
9. Keep Them Away From The Booze
While Thanksgiving is traditionally a time to make merry with a few glasses of wine, make sure you keep the alcohol away from your pet. Curious pups have a habit of slurping from any glass they see- if that glass contains alcohol, you could be in for a world of trouble. While your pooch is unlikely to start singing karaoke or drunkenly texting ex’s, they can still suffer the same kind of ill effects from alcohol as us – namely, disorientation, vomiting, and dizziness. In extreme cases, alcohol poisoning can lead to coma or even death. Keep your glasses safely away from curious paws, and make sure your guests know to do the same.
10. Supervise Kids
Even if your dog is usually of a placid disposition, don’t let kids play or pet them unsupervised. Even the gentlest of creatures can get stressed and act out of character with the noise and revelry of Thanksgiving- keep both them and kids safe by letting visitors know to respect your pet’s personal space, and to avoid interacting with them unless you’re around to supervise.