With Thanksgiving approaching, this is a good time to do some planning for pet safety.
Part of being thankful and appreciating our companions’ presence in our lives includes being mindful of their special dietary and social needs. Those considerations made now can keep pets healthy and save you an expensive trip to the veterinary emergency clinic.
During this season of visiting friends, family and holiday feasts, consider how to reduce possible distress for your animal companions and those of family you may be visiting.
Pets won’t be so thankful if Aunt Martha slips some extra fatty turkey skin under the table or the toddler twins from Topeka show up after eating a bag of Twizzlers, scaring your timid kitty into hiding for a week under the couch.
Worse, pets can die from getting into toxins like sugar-free gum left in an open purse pocket or from imbibing an unattended alcoholic drink.
When holidays are celebrated in your own home, check with guests to assure they are comfortable around your pets. If they are, let them know what foods or treats are safe to give your pet.
If they or your pets are nervous, consider keeping your pets in a kennel within your house or in an enclosed room away from noise, cooking food and opening doors. Play some music or keep a TV on in the enclosed room. Talk to your vet about natural calming herbs and pheromone collars that can help pets feel safe and calm amidst the noise and activity.
While the humans are eating and talking, give your cat and dog their own little feasts. Offer Busy Buddy Treat Dispensing Toys, Nylabones, raw meat bones or other chew toys. Or pack their usual dinner— with a few added tidbits of meat, vegetables (try carrots, sweet potato pieces or green beans) and dribbles of gravy — inside a Kong toy. They’ll stay occupied, working hard to extract their food from the toy.
If your pet can’t cope well with all the added visitors, or Uncle Carl gets hives when a cat enters the room, consider boarding your pet for the day or weekend. Some clients keep their pets in a kennel or veterinary clinic, until things settle down at home.
By planning now, you can do what many of my clients do prior to boarding at the clinic; place him or her in day care for a half day to give your pet a chance to get to know the staff and adjust to being away from home.
If you are the one traveling, you have several choices. Take your pet along and find a pet-friendly hotel or family member who welcomes your pet; take your pet along and board him for the holiday in a nearby boarding facility; leave your pet behind at home with a pet sitter or keep him in a boarding facility near your home. If you choose to board or travel with your pet, take time to update vaccines and pet documents two weeks before traveling.
Once all your arrangements have been made, consider the following food safety tips:
If you decide to feed your pet a bite of cooked turkey, make sure it’s boneless, with skin and fat removed. If you do decide to feed pets bones, be certain they are raw and rinsed well. If your pet has any food allergies or sensitivities, forgo feeding snacks from your plate. It’s just not worth taking the risk of creating an allergic reaction or digestive problem.
Sage can make your Thanksgiving stuffing taste great, but it contains resins that can cause gastrointestinal upset and central nervous system depression to pets if eaten in large quantities. Cats are especially sensitive to the effects of certain plant resins and oils.
Avoid bread dough
Raw bread dough contains yeast that will rise in the warm stomach. Pets who consume rising bread dough can die from asphyxiation once it rises and prevents inhalation of oxygen. Surgical removal of the rising dough becomes an emergency situation and is costly. Keep pets away from rising dough and pastries.
Save the sweets for yourself
If you’re making Thanksgiving pies and cakes, chocolate treats or other sugary items, keep pets away. Ingestion of large amounts can become fatal.
Avoid too much
of a good thing
A few small pieces of cooked turkey, potato or a lick of pumpkin filling shouldn’t cause a problem. However, don’t allow your pets to overindulge, as they could wind up with a case of stomach upset, diarrhea or a condition known as pancreatitis. It’s best keep pets on their regular diets during the holidays.
Enjoy your holidays, knowing your pets are happy, healthy and safe.
Dr. Cynthia Maro is a veterinarian at the Ellwood Animal Hospital in Ellwood City and the Chippewa Animal Hospital in Chippewa Township. She writes a biweekly column on pet care and health issues. If you have a topic you’d like addressed, please email