7 Things to Remember for a Dog-Safe Thanksgiving

Don't let the distractions of love, food, family, and football take your mind off your pup's safety this year.


Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends, football, food — and many potential dangers for our furry friends. It’s difficult to say no to a furry face begging for a piece of turkey, but you should. It’s a matter of health and safety.

I don’t know about your house, but mine is pretty hectic. We have four dogs running around trying to pretend they aren’t asking for food. I have two kids not fighting over — anything. My husband is in the middle of the chaos, trying to calm everything down. Usually, more chaos ensues. This is what the holidays are all about, love and fun.

A few things to think about to keep your dogs safe as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday:

1. Turkey bones

Poultry bones are an age-old enemy. They can splinter in the esophagus, intestines and stomach of our furry friends. Be prepared with a more suitable offering from the pet store or butcher for your wet-nosed companion to save everyone from moments of panic. I’m not the sucker that gives in to the pups — my husband is. He gets them little plates, makes sure they don’t feel left out. They’re part of the family too.

2. Chocolate

We’ve all heard the stories about toxins in chocolate, so let’s keep the pie out of reach. Satisfy them with a carob-flavored treat. I prefer to bake my own treats for the four-legged crew here. They seem to really enjoy pumpkin peanut butter treats that I make. We have varying allergies and health issues, and healthier options work best. The favorites seem to be pumpkin — it’s the season — and blueberries.

Pumpkin-peanut butter treats (makes 25 treats): In a bowl, whisk together two and a half cups of wholewheat flour, two eggs, half a cup of canned pumpkin, three tablespoons of peanut butter, and half a teaspoon of salt, adding water as needed to make the dough workable. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and then roll out the dough and cut it into shapes or spoon it in blobs onto a cookie sheet. Bake until hard, around 40 minutes (but start checking around 20 minutes, because ovens vary drastically).

3. The door

Family and friends may not be as aware that Frank wants some fun, and seeing Rosie across the street is really fun. When you send out the evite, you can issue a stern warning that will (hopefully) hold up after that pre-dinner wine: watch your feet for fleeing four-legger when you arrive. You may want to keep them gated in the laundry room (all chemicals out of reach, of course), mud room, bedroom, or close to you.

We have a small family, just the four of us here. When we have people coming in and out, we put the big dogs on the landing to the basement and the small ones sit on the couch supervising all activities. If they start to get curious and want to greet visitors, we have one of the kids sit with them until the activity at the door dies down.

The thought of a walk is wonderful, unless you know our dogs. They’re sure they’re meant to entertain the world. Unless our neighbors want the visits from the crew as their own families are visiting (from experience, they usually don’t), for us, staying put is best on a busy day.

4. The hot plate

I don’t know about you, but I tend to trip over my own feet. Can I blame it on the fact I’m five foot two and wear size 9 shoes? It never fails that when I’m carrying a hot plate, one of the furkids gets right underfoot. On a day when you’ll be back and forth, carrying several hot dishes, stressed, everyone anxious, yelling and hungry, I recommend you keep the lesser-trained canine away from temptation.

(On a side note: I’m not naming names, but Joe Pugga would take full advantage of this situation by taking a seat at the table.)

5. The family

Sneaking a bite of potatoes here, another bite of stuffing there, some pie crust on the floor over here — the snacks add up to a lot if everyone at the table contributes nibbles to the dogs underfoot, especially if the spices are alliums (i.e., onions, garlic, leeks, scallions). Large portions of alliums can cause toxic anemia in dogs. It is possible that “small well-cooked portions” may be okay, but I don’t take chances. As tasty as they are to us, imagine how they must smell to them!

I keep it simple if I’m passing down table treats: lean proteins if they get any Thanksgiving dinner at all. To treat your pups without any hassle, buy a single boneless, turkey breast and dice it up for their holiday plate. They’re still part of dinner without the risk of any spices causing gastrointestinal distress. Like humans, what may not bother one of us may bug another.

6. The counter

It’s time to clean up and we’re all tired, so we just pile up the plates and dishes and pans in the kitchen for later. It sounds like an easy solution, if you have paws that can’t get up on the counter. For those of us that have fearless four-legged shoppers, we have to put stuff away, NOW. There’s so much temptation for the food-driven dog, and with the perfect storm of so many Thanksgiving edibles on the no-no list, things could end badly if you leave that door open.

Last, but certainly not least…

7. The mess

After the leftovers are put away, our garbage cans are full. Foil, plastic wrap, napkins, disposable utensils, pie tins, wine corks, disposable cups, bottle tops, cans, plastic bags — the list is endless, and all of these can cause choking and obstruction hazards leading to distress and a possible visit to the vet. It’s a tremendous scare for a loving dog owner, and it’s worse for the dog. Take the garbage out, again. NOW.

This is my favorite fight of the day though: who actually takes the garbage out, and who does it correctly? My youngest daughter likes to tell us how to do it, but not do it herself. My oldest just likes to do it and get it done. You can’t take this lightly though; you want to get everything out of harm’s way. I want the mess gone and the dogs to be safe, so usually my husband just takes it out. Does it cut down on the fighting over the chore? Maybe, but we still get directions on how to do it correctly.

We make sure the turkey bones are securely packed away in a bag for disposal. If you have a recycling bin, empty it often throughout the day. Many are not only at eye-level for most pets, but at nose level as well. That’s danger you don’t want.

Those are just a few things to help keep on your Thanksgiving radar for a safe day free from a visit to the vet!

About the author: Heather lives in Colorado with her husband, two daughters, and a number of four-leggers depending on how many fosters are residing in the house. She’s primarily a full-time volunteer where her services are needed the most.

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