If pets could choose their favorite holiday, the Pioneer Animal Hospital team suspects that Thanksgiving would rank number one. Between the array of food and the carousel of guests and activities, turkey day is a dream come true for most hungry hounds and foodie felines.

Unfortunately, without thoughtful planning, Thanksgiving festivities can also be a recipe for pet-related disasters. As our Thanksgiving gift to you, please accept the following extra helpings of holiday-themed veterinary wisdom and advice.

#1: Plan ahead if your pet needs medication, refills, or food

Ensuring your pet’s health and happiness during the holiday season begins with maintaining their normal routine (e.g., diet, medications, exercise) as much as possible. If your pet needs prescription refills—including medications for anxiety or travel-related stress—contact Pioneer Animal Hospital at least 7 to 10 days before you’ll need them, and well in advance of the holiday break. Check our website and Facebook page for detailed information regarding our holiday hours. 

Anticipating your pet’s prescription needs ensures everyone has an enjoyable holiday and your pet doesn’t experience any gaps in care.

#2: Say “No” to spoiling your pet with Thanksgiving table scraps

We know denying your pet’s pleading eyes is nearly impossible, but those Thanksgiving delights they beg for can lead to deep-fried distress. Many holiday favorites are too rich for pets, while others contain harmful or toxic ingredients. 

Foods to avoid feeding your pet include:

  • Turkey skin, fat, or grease
  • Cured ham
  • Meat bones (e.g., turkey legs or neck, ham bones)
  • Onions, chives, shallots, leeks, and garlic
  • Grapes or raisins
  • Chocolate
  • Xylitol, a sweetener often found in sugar-free foods
  • Alcohol and caffeine
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Bread dough
  • Corn cobs

Prevent nosy pets from stealing these sinister snacks by keeping trash secure and out of reach and instructing guests not to leave food or drinks unattended. Check out our previous post for additional pet-proofing tips that will minimize pet hazards around the home.

If your pet ingests food with a harmful ingredient, or food wrappers, bones, or other trash, contact Pioneer Animal Hospital for guidance during normal business hours, or the nearest veterinary emergency center. Do not wait for your pet to show clinical signs.  

#3: Coach friends and family on safe pet interactions

Whether you and your pet are entertaining guests this Thanksgiving or you are someone’s guest, ensure everyone understands how to safely interact with your pet. Despite their good intentions, many adults and children do not know how to politely greet pets or do not recognize body language cues that the pet is uncomfortable. Unfortunately, added to general holiday stress, these circumstances can cause pets to bite or scratch.

Help friends and family understand how to behave around your pet by demonstrating or explaining proper greetings, instructing children not to chase, grab, or hug your pet, and advising everyone to let your pet seek their attention rather than the other way around. If your pet has specific triggers (e.g., hats, bicycles, loud noises), let your guests or hosts know so that they can help prevent unnecessary traumatic experiences.

#4: Give your pet a safe space to escape the celebration

If you’ve ever found yourself hiding in the garage or basement to escape your friends or family during the holidays, you will understand that your pet needs a quiet retreat.

All pets, including social people-loving dogs and cats, need and deserve a space in a low-traffic area that is off-limits to visitors and guests, where they can rest undisturbed and uninterrupted. Depending on your holiday housing arrangement, you can use a small room in your home, or a portable pen or crate if you’re traveling.

Ensure this space has all your pet’s essentials, including food and water, a litter box, toys, and a cozy bed. Play soft music or white noise to drown out external noises and install a pet pheromone diffuser (e.g., Adaptil for dogs or Feliway for cats) to promote a calm and relaxing atmosphere.

#5: Reduce pet travel stress with plans, practice, and puzzles

two dogs lounging in a car

Successful and stress-free holiday travel with pets begins with planning. This should include ensuring your pet is up-to-date on routine health services (e.g., vaccines, parasite preventives) and paper and digital copies of your pet’s records. Pack these in your pet’s travel bag, as well as essentials such as food, medications, bottled water, an extra leash and collar, and comforting, familiar toys or bedding. Always confirm your transportation and lodging arrangements are pet-friendly. 

Practicing your travel routine can help ensure your pet stays calm and relaxed on the big day. This should include introducing your pet to their crate, seat belt, or carrier, short car rides, and rehearsing calm separation (i.e., alone time) when your pet is securely confined to a crate or small pen. This exercise sets your pet up for success during the Thanksgiving meal or when your pet needs a break from the holiday hubbub. Help your pet stay calm in your absence by providing them with a long-lasting treat or toy, such as a Kong stuffed with pet-safe foods, a snuffle mat, or a food-dispensing puzzle toy.

Thanksgiving should be a peaceful and reflective time to feel gratitude for family, friends, and, of course, pets. Ensure you are thankful for your pet’s health and safety when the holiday is over by adhering to these “extra helpings,” and contacting Pioneer Animal Hospital for all your pre-Thanksgiving veterinary care needs.