Content reviewed by Nell Ostermeier, D.V.M., CVA, FAAVA
As the holidays near, it's time to start planning for one of the most beloved traditions of the year - Thanksgiving. This day is all about gratitude, togetherness, and, of course, sharing a delicious meal. When it comes to including our pets, though, we must be careful that their experience is as safe as it is fun.
Let’s gather our ingredients and explore the perfect recipe for a pet-friendly Thanksgiving. We’ll address common questions and give you some practical tips to make this holiday safe and memorable.
Can I share Thanksgiving leftovers with my pet?
The aroma of Thanksgiving dishes can be tempting for our pets, but not all human foods are safe for them. While sharing some leftovers can be okay, stick to pet-safe foods like:
Plain turkey (without bones or skin)
Sweet potatoes (without added sugars or spices)
Plain green beans
You must also avoid foods seasoned with garlic, onions, or spices and stuffing, which is basically all of that combined.
What human foods are dangerous for pets on Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving is a feast for humans but can become a health hazard for our pets if we're not careful. Common Thanksgiving foods that are dangerous for pets include:
Anything sweetened with xylitol
High-fat foods or foods mixed with butter*
*Vet’s note: “We see a lot of pancreatitis cases due to this!”
These items can lead to serious health issues in pets, so be extra cautious.
Are turkey bones safe for dogs or cats to eat?
It may seem obvious, but it’s worth reviewing how turkey bones can be hazardous for pets. They can cause choking or intestinal blockages, so they are not an equal substitute for chewing. Instead of offering turkey bones, consider giving them pet-friendly alternatives like turkey-flavored pet treats or a new chew toy.
How do I keep my pet from begging at the Thanksgiving table?
Even the most well-behaved pups on a normal day might turn into a master beggar during Thanksgiving dinner. To prevent this behavior:
Set boundaries ahead of time.
Reserve a comfortable space for your pet to hang out during mealtime.
Practice by training and reinforcing positive behaviors leading up to the big day.
Give your pet a special treat or chew toy to enjoy while the humans chow down.
Check in with guests so they know not to sneak your pets any table scraps, no matter how convincing those begging eyes can be.
How do I deal with a pet who gets into Thanksgiving leftovers?
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, our pets manage to sneak a bite of Thanksgiving leftovers. Stay vigilant for signs of distress and discomfort, including vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, pacing, panting, and lethargy. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you notice any concerning symptoms. When in doubt, it's always better to be cautious and seek professional advice.
Creating a safe and comfortable space for your pet
Designate a pet-friendly area in your home to ensure your pet feels safe and relaxed during Thanksgiving gatherings. Set up their bed or crate, provide familiar toys, and play soothing music to drown out loud noises from the festivities. This will help your pet enjoy a stress-free environment that the humans may even try to escape to.
Harmful Thanksgiving decorations and items
Thanksgiving decorations, while beautiful, can pose risks to curious pets. Keep an eye out for items like candles, tablecloths, or decorative plants that can be knocked over or ingested.
Managing stress during Thanksgiving gatherings
The noise and commotion of Thanksgiving gatherings can be overwhelming for pets. Consider calming treats, aromatherapy, ThunderShirts, or other natural remedies to help your pet relax. Make sure they have a quiet space to retreat to if needed. And keep up their routines around eating and exercising. They’ll feel more relaxed if they know they can count on some semblance of normalcy through all the excitement.
Incorporating your pet into Thanksgiving festivities
Looking for ways to include your soulful sidekick in the Thanksgiving festivities? Here are a few quick ideas they’ll appreciate:
Make a special pet-friendly meal or snack, like our mini pup-kin bites.
Take them for a mindfulness walk (or two).
Keep them entertained by exploring the wild world of Dog TV.
Where weather permits, take some time to play outdoors.
The rest is just gravy.
A pet-friendly Thanksgiving is about enjoying the festivities while prioritizing our cats' and dogs' safety and well-being. Review these tips as you prepare for the big day to ensure that Thanksgiving is a great experience for everyone in your household.
Happy Thanksgiving from your Figo fam!
Dylan M. Austin is Independence Pet Group’s highly caffeinated Sr. Content Writer, supporting Figo Pet Insurance, Pets Plus Us, and PetPartners. Based in Seattle, he's usually hanging out with his Chihuahua Terrier mix, Will, and tending to an increasingly excessive houseplant collection.