I love my poodle, Poirot, so I was very happy to find these safety tips to protect your pets on Thanksgiving.

Has this ever happened to you? As you relax with your guests, patting yourself on the back for another wonderful Thanksgiving, you hear the unmistakable sound of very bad news.  (Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen in my house only on Thanksgiving!)

When you rush into the kitchen, you see your dog chewing over something as yet unidentifiable.  Nearby, remnants of the meal spill from a torn trash bag. Putting two and two together, you get “yuck.”  Yet the accident could have been easily avoided.  (No, this is not the finger pointing and blame allocation exercise.)  You just need to follow these safety tips to protect your pets on Thanksgiving!

Preventing holiday pet disasters

There are several things you can do to ensure that the holiday season passes with no trips to the vet or nasty carpet stains.  Apparently, most canine-based problems start at the end of the meal (although mine generally start at dusk when we are out for a while and my poodle finds the chocolate hidden away on a top shelf.)

As dishes are taken from the table and piled in the kitchen, the leftovers are at their most vulnerable, sitting within easy reach on the counter tops. The rich scent of roasted turkey, stuffing and trimmings calls out to the ancient part of the dog’s brain tasked with one thing: Foraging.


While the high-fat foods common to the holiday can cause upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea and worse in dogs, turkey bones can do serious damage and are potentially fatal, the American Veterinary Medical Association warns.

Be sure to secure the turkey carcass, never assuming it is out of reach simply because it appears to be out of reach. Dogs are both imaginative and determined. (Just search for “counter surfing dogs” on YouTube.) Place the carcass in a plastic bag and drop it into a sealed trash bin, preferably outside.

If you find your dog gnawing on a bit of skeletal turkey, the safest move is to take her to the emergency vet. Those narrow bones can cause severe internal injuries.

A bite or two of plain turkey is fine, but place it in the dog bowl so as not to encourage begging. And be sure the meat is free of seasonings whose unfamiliarity can upset a dog’s digestive system.

Mishaps may also occur before and during the meal. Resist the urge to slip food to your dog because you’re in a festive mood.

But turkey skin is off limits for canines, the AVMA says. The high fat content could trigger pancreatitis, brought on when the pancreas struggles to produce the enzymes necessary to break down food.

That means all fatty foods should be kept far from dogs.   You don’t want to go through an attack of pancreatitis – I promise!  It can kill your dog and to save him or her is very expensive.

If you want your dog to have a treat, prepare a small helping of the giblets, including the gizzard, liver and heart. The neck is off limits due to the bones.


We love Thanksgiving food because it is delicious and rich in calories.  For that reason, you need to be really careful that the rest of the feast is put away after the meal is finished.  Those platters of stuffing, sweet potatoes and other foods are unhealthy for your pet because of the rich calorie content. Place leftovers in the fridge right away and put the trash outside before returning to your guests.


Sweets are off limits as well, particularly chocolate, which can be poisonous. While a large dog (50 pounds or heavier) will be fine sneaking a couple of bites, smaller dogs (10 pounds) could be harmed by an ounce or two.

The darker the chocolate, the worse it is for dogs. Bakers’ and dark chocolate are far more toxic than milk chocolate. White chocolate is relatively harmless, as your pooch would have to eat nearly 5 pounds for every pound she weighs to hit dangerous levels. If she does that, chocolate toxins will be the least of your problems.  My dog loves eating chocolate, even Hershey’s kisses.  While there isn’t enough chocolate to hurt him since he is 70 pounds, the silver foil was not easy to digest!  We had a few nights of moaning and groaning, and the lawn was certainly shiny for the next few days!


Most owners know that chocolate is bad for dogs, but they may not know that other potentially dangerous foods may be on the Thanksgiving table.

• Grapes and raisins contain something (it has yet to be pinpointed) that may cause kidney damage.

• Nuts have a high fat content that can cause vomiting, diarrhea and pancreatitis.

• Salty snacks may cause excessive thirst and urination. A dog that eats too many could suffer from sodium ion poisoning.

• Garlic, onions and chives irritate canine stomachs.


Cats also may suffer ill effects from eating people food, and many of the things that irritate canine digestive tracts can do the same to felines. Cats also are more prone to munching on decorative plants, many of which can be poisonous. Check out the ASPCA’s list of potentially harmful plants.

In most cases, vomiting and diarrhea are early signs of trouble. Call the ASPCA  Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435. It’s answered 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A $65 consultation fee may apply.

If your dog is lethargic or in pain, a trip to the vet is highly recommended. Keep the name and phone number of the nearest emergency vet on hand.  In the DC area, I heartily recommend Friendship Animal Hospital on Brandywine in NW DC.  We have been there for pancreatitis and chocolate overdoses!