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6 tips for a dog-safe Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a festive time of family, food, and fun. But for dogs, the holiday festivities can pose some significant health risks. Here are 6 quick tips to help you and your pets have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving holiday!

Six Dog Tips For Thanksgiving

Keep these dog safety tips top of mind to create a safe Thanksgiving for your entire family:

  1. Skip the table scraps.
  2. Skip the sweets.
  3. Be cautious with alcoholic beverages.
  4. Tag or microchip your pet.
  5. Watch out for unwanted behaviors with guests.
  6. Have a pet sitter on hand or make boarding arrangements.

1. Skip the table scraps. While your dog may drool over the prospect of chowing down on some turkey and stuffing, it’s best to keep your pooch on an all-dog-food diet. Abrupt changes in diet can cause digestive problems such as vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. Also, turkey bones can be especially hazardous, causing broken teeth, cuts to the mouth or esophagus, and potentially serious punctures of the stomach or intestinal lining that may require costly surgical intervention and repair. You may also be surprised to find that grapes and raisins can be harmful, so it’s best just to skip the table scraps.

2. Skip the sweets too. Thanksgiving dinner is often followed by an equally sumptuous array of desserts, but many sweet treats can pose serious health hazards to dogs. For example, chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, a mild stimulant chemically similar to caffeine. Dogs don’t metabolize theobromine quickly like humans, and in sufficient quantities it can build up and cause vomiting, diarrhea, elevated heart rate, hypertension, and even seizures and coma. Other sweets that should be avoided include any products containing the chemical sweetener xylitol. Xylitol can cause serious and potentially dangerous dips in blood sugar, and in rare cases, liver failure. For safety’s sake, it’s best to restrict your pooch to dog treats.

3. Alcohol cautions. While an adult beverage may brighten your holiday, alcohol is hazardous to dogs, potentially causing digestive disturbances, loss of coordination, and rapid drops in blood pressure and body temperature. If you’re having a large gathering this Thanksgiving, don’t leave alcoholic drinks unattended where a curious pooch can reach them. Also, alcohol can be found in uncooked yeast dough as well. A belly full of raw bread dough can cause your dog to experience bloating and put your animal at risk for stomach torsion (or twist)—a potentially serious condition that may require surgical intervention.

4. Be sure your dog is tagged or microchipped. Thanksgiving is traditionally a high-travel holiday: If your dog runs off or becomes lost far from home, the chances of your pet being safely returned dramatically increase if your animal is wearing some form of identification. A tag can help a Good Samaritan contact you if your animal is found. Want to add another layer of security? Have your dog microchipped. If a lost animal arrives at a vet’s office or shelter, staff will likely scan your pet for a microchip. A microchip is easy to have implanted and, if regularly updated, will contain your dog’s name, your contact info, and any relevant details (such as special health needs, or dietary restrictions).

5. Caution guests. Some pet cautions are more about the actions of people. If your dog experiences stress or anxiety around large groups of people, it may be best to talk to your guests about dog etiquette before they arrive. If you have a skittish animal, make introductions slowly and be sure your pooch has a safe place to retreat to if the clamor of the holiday festivities becomes overwhelming. Also, if you don’t know how your animal will react to crowds or kids, be sure all encounters are supervised, especially those with young children.

6. Make boarding plans (if needed). If your travel plans for the Thanksgiving holiday won’t be including your dog, be sure to find a reliable boarding facility or pet-sitter in your area. Check online consumer reviews and locate a facility or sitter with verifiable references. If you’re planning to leave your dog with friends, be sure your hosts have all relevant contact info, including your vet’s phone number and location.

Editor’s Note: Holidays bring family and friends together to celebrate. Here are ideas and tips for including your pet in the Thanksgiving fun.


Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.

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