The turkey is defrosting in the fridge, the pumpkin pies are baking, and your guest list is made. You seem prepared for Thanksgiving, but have you made plans to keep your pet safe during the festivities? Our team at Animal Internal Medicine and Specialty Services (AIMSS) answers some frequently asked questions, to help you keep your pet safe on turkey day.

Question: What typical Thanksgiving foods are dangerous for my pet?

AIMSS: The Thanksgiving table offers many delectable treats for humans, but the rich food can be problematic for your pet’s sensitive digestive system. Any sudden change in their diet can lead to gastrointestinal turmoil, with foods high in fat especially dangerous, because they can trigger pancreatitis, a painful and potentially emergency condition in pets. Particular foods that are a risk for your pet include:

  • Turkey — The star of the Thanksgiving show can unfortunately cause problems for your pet. The high-fat skin can trigger pancreatitis, and the bones can easily splinter, injuring your pet’s mouth or throat. 
  • Onions — What holiday meal is complete without adding onions or garlic? However, these vegetables contain thiosulphates, which can cause your pet’s red blood cells to self-destruct, resulting in anemia. Signs to watch for include vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy.
  • Grapes — Grapes, raisins, and currants are commonly used to spice up Thanksgiving sides, but these ingredients contain an unknown toxin that can cause kidney failure in pets. Signs can include lethargy, inappetence, and excessive thirst and urination.
  • Chocolate — This decadent ingredient, used in many delicious sweet treats, contains caffeine and theobromine, which cause central nervous system stimulation in pets. Signs to watch for include agitation, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Nutmeg — Pumpkin pie is a quintessential part of any Thanksgiving meal, but nutmeg, a common spice used to make this delectable dessert, contains myristicin, which causes disorientation, abdominal pain, and seizures in pets.
  • Xylitol — If you or a guest is diabetic, you may use xylitol, a common artificial sweetener, to sweeten your desserts. But, this ingredient causes your pet to release insulin, resulting in profound hypoglycemia. Signs include weakness, tremors, and seizures.

Q: What other hazards can my pet encounter in the kitchen?

AIMSS: Fatty and toxic foods aren’t the only kitchen hazards for your pet. Other factors include:

  • Garbage — Your pet may decide to raid the trash when their attempts to steal table scraps are thwarted. While scavenging, they may ingest an item, such as a corn cob or plastic wrap, that cannot be digested. Gastrointestinal blockages frequently require surgery for removal.
  • Turkey brine — Many pets are tempted by brining solutions, because of their extremely high salt content. However, if ingested, turkey brine can cause salt toxicity, resulting in vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, muscle tremors, and seizures.
  • Alcohol — Wine and other spirits commonly make an appearance on Thanksgiving, but pets are extremely sensitive to alcohol. Ingestion causes a decrease in their blood sugar, blood pressure, and body temperature. Seizures and respiratory failure can occur in severe cases.
  • Unbaked dough — If your pet ingests unbaked dough containing yeast, the fermentation process can cause alcohol delivery to their bloodstream, resulting in alcohol toxicity. In addition, as the dough swells inside their stomach, the mass can cause gastrointestinal blockage or bloat. 

Q: What Thanksgiving floral arrangements can be hazardous to my pet?

AIMSS: Several common plants used as decorations during Thanksgiving are toxic to pets.

  • Amaryllis — This beautiful red flower contains lycorine, which causes excessive salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and tremors in pets.
  • Lilies — Many lily types are toxic to pets, especially cats. All parts of the plant, including the water in the vase, can cause them problems. Depending on the lily type, issues can include kidney failure, abnormal heart beat, and gastrointestinal upset. 
  • Autumn crocus — These lovely lavender flowers are extremely toxic to your pet, causing drooling, vomiting, gastrointestinal bleeding, liver and kidney damage, respiratory failure, and seizures.
  • Hydrangeas — Hydrangeas contain a cyanogenic glycoside that causes depression, vomiting, and diarrhea in pets.

Q: How can my Thanksgiving gathering be hazardous for my pet?

AIMSS: Many pets become stressed when numerous strangers enter their home, and may become so upset that they find an escape route when you are distracted by your guests. To keep your pet safe during the mayhem:

  • Quiet room — Designate a quiet space for your pet in another room in your home. Ensure they have food, water, toys, and a litter box, if needed, and check on them frequently, to ensure they are not becoming stressed.
  • Posted signs — Inform your guests that your pet is not allowed outside, and post signs on your doors to remind yourself, and your guests, to watch for a pet escapee.
  • Microchip — Our veterinary professionals recommend microchipping your pet, to ensure they are returned safely should they manage to sneak past your defenses, escape, and become lost. Ensure you keep your contact information up to date in the microchip registry.
  • Identification tags — Your pet should also wear a collar and identification tags with your current contact information.

Following our advice will help your Thanksgiving celebration remain mishap-free. However, should your pet encounter a problematic issue on turkey day, contact our team at Animal Internal Medicine and Specialty Services, so we can provide them with world class care.