Are you looking forward to eating turkey and pumpkin pie? Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends, and feasting, but the holiday can be dangerous for your pet. Our Animal Emergency Hospital and Urgent Care team sees their share of holiday pet emergencies, and we want your to safely enjoy Thanksgiving. Read on about potential hazards for your pet on turkey day to help ensure your holiday doesn’t involve a trip to the veterinarian.

#1: The turkey can be hazardous to your pet

The turkey is the main star at the Thanksgiving table, but the big bird can cause problems for your pet. Issues include:

  • Turkey skin — Turkey skin is high in fat and extremely tasty, but fatty foods can trigger pancreatitis, a painful and potentially life-threatening condition in pets. When your pet ingests the fatty skin, a pancreatic enzyme, called lipase, is released. Lipase normally functions to help digest fat, but in excessive amounts, the enzyme can cause internal pancreatic damage and severe inflammation. In addition, toxins released from the tissue damage can cause a systemic inflammatory response and severe illness. Signs include fever, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
  • Turkey bones — Turkey bones become brittle when cooked, and can break easily. The pieces can injure your pet’s mouth or gastrointestinal tract.
  • Turkey brine — Pets find turkey brine appealing, but the solution contains high sodium levels. When ingested, the salt-saturated solution can result in salt toxicosis, which can lead to serious electrolyte imbalances and brain swelling. Signs include excessive thirst and urination, vomiting, and diarrhea.

#2: Thanksgiving side dishes can be hazardous to your pet

Most Thanksgiving sides are high in fat and can potentially trigger a pancreatitis episode. In addition, these dishes commonly contain pet-toxic ingredients, including:

  • Onions — Vegetables such as onions, garlic, chives, shallots, and leeks contain a toxin called N-propyl disulfide, which causes oxidative damage to a pet’s red blood cells, leading to anemia. Initial signs may include drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea, with signs progressing to weakness, increased respiratory effort, discolored urine, and collapse, as red blood cells are destroyed.
  • Raisins — Grapes, raisins, and currants are common ingredients in many Thanksgiving sides, but these seemingly healthy additions are toxic to pets, potentially causing kidney failure. 
  • Bread dough — When ingested, unbaked bread dough can expand in your pet’s stomach, causing bloating that may progress to stomach twisting, a condition known as gastric dilation volvulus (GDV). In addition, the fermentation process produces alcohol, which is readily absorbed in your pet’s bloodstream and can result in alcohol poisoning.

#3: The dessert table can be hazardous to your pet

Everyone looks forward to the sweet treats at the end of the Thanksgiving feast, but the delectable dishes can be dangerous for your pet. Concerns include:

  • Chocolate — Whether in the form of truffles, fudge, or cake, chocolate is dangerous for pets. Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, which act as central nervous system stimulants in pets, causing restlessness, excessive panting, and increased heart and respiration rate. In severe cases, seizures and heart failure may occur.
  • Xylitol — Commonly used in diabetic friendly desserts, this sugar substitute triggers insulin release in the pet’s body, causing a sudden drop in blood sugar (i.e., hypoglycemia), which can lead to signs including weakness, incoordination, seizures, and collapse.
  • Nuts — All nuts are high in fat and can trigger pancreatitis, but macadamia nuts, which can cause a syndrome characterized by central nervous system depression, muscle weakness, vomiting, and hyperthermia, are particularly dangerous.

#4: The Thanksgiving decorations can be hazardous to your pet

Decorating your home for the season helps get everyone in the holiday spirit, but the adornments can be dangerous for your pet. Concerns include:

  • Candles — Fragrant candles help make your home smell nice, but your pet’s inquisitive nose or paw can result in a fire hazard.
  • Corn — Corn is frequently used in the Thanksgiving cornucopia, but a swallowed corn cob could cause a gastrointestinal obstruction in your pet and require surgery.
  • Seasonal plants — Many seasonal plants commonly used to decorate around Thanksgiving are toxic to pets. Autumn crocuses, chrysanthemums, and acorns are some examples.

#5: The Thanksgiving gathering can be hazardous to your pet

Many pets become anxious or stressed around crowds, and your Thanksgiving gathering may distress your pet. Tips to help protect your pet include:

  • Properly identify your pet — Ensure your pet wears a well-fitted collar and identification tags with your current contact information. If your pet is microchipped, ensure your contact information is updated in the microchip registry.
  • Create a pet safe zone — Ensure your pet has an escape area from the Thanksgiving festivities. 
  • Consider anti-anxiety support — If your pet tends to suffer from anxiety, ask your veterinarian if they could benefit from an anti-anxiety medication or supplement.

Hopefully, knowing these potential Thanksgiving hazards will help protect your pet during the holiday. However, should your pet encounter a hazardous situation on turkey day, contact our Animal Emergency Hospital and Urgent Care team, so we can ensure they receive the care they need.