Tips for a Happy, Healthy and Humane Thanksgiving

November 24, 2020

a woman on a couch with a dog

Our mouths are already watering thinking of all the delicious Thanksgiving food this holiday brings! Of course, no holiday comes without its fair share of pet risks – and let’s not forget about the hectic trips to the grocery store. With people down every aisle, it may be hard to identify holiday-meal ingredients produced with higher animal-welfare standards. 

But we have you covered! Whether you’re dining with family over Zoom or celebrating with a small group, we want to make it easy for you to have a happy, animal-friendly Thanksgiving. Check out our tips below to keep everyone happy and your pets safe and healthy this year!

Dinner time tricks and treats

While we recommend sticking to your pet’s normal diet on Thanksgiving, we understand that even our furry friends can’t resist the smell of a delicious turkey or other festive dish. If you do give your pets a bite, be sure it’s boneless and fully cooked. Raw or undercooked turkey may contain salmonella bacteria and poultry bones can be major choking hazards. If you want to treat your pet this Thanksgiving Day, try mixing some pieces of turkey, sweet potatoes and green beans into their usual dinner. You can even top it off with a drizzle of gravy. You may even opt to stuff their Thanksgiving treats into a puzzle toy to keep them occupied during your meal. 

Make sure you are mindful of the ingredients and spices in your food as well. Onions and garlic are both prevalent in a lot of Thanksgiving dishes and can be toxic to pets. Bouillon cubes are used for making stocks and gravy but contain high amounts of sodium which can lead to gastrointestinal problems and even seizures. Raw yeast bread dough can also be toxic to pets. The raw dough can expand in the stomach, causing them to become bloated, and the ethanol (alcohol) will be absorbed by the body, leading to drunkenness and other serious side effects. You can find more information about potential food toxins with the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center's (APCC) full list

Let the humans eat cake

There is nothing like indulging in a slice (or two) or pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, but let’s leave the sweet treats to the humans. Desserts containing artificial sweeteners, like xylitol, can cause low blood sugar, liver damage or worse. Chocolate is also a major hazard to our furry friends and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death.

Watch out for guests and holiday decor

If you’re having anyone over this year, just remember that more people in the home may be overwhelming for our four-legged friends. Try leaving a few blankets on the floor or a bedroom door open so they have a quiet place to curl up and relax. Additionally, keep in mind that your guests may have personal items, like medication, on them. Pets ingesting medication is all too common and can be very dangerous. Remind your guests to keep their personal items up and out of paws’ reach. 

You will also want to pay attention to the holiday decorations, like floral arrangements and plants. Use the APCC toxic plants list to know what to look out for. 

Be kind to all animals this Thanksgiving

It can be hard to navigate grocery stores during the busy holiday season, which means it’s certainly hard to understand the confusing labels on animal products. Not all companies are humane toward animals, so if you plan to purchase meat, eggs or dairy this Thanksgiving, look for the ASPCA-recommended labels and try to Shop with Your Heart. We have a handy list of brands available at most supermarkets across the country that have earned one or more of these welfare certifications: Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane and Global Animal Partnership. 

Don’t forget to take out the trash

This may be the last thing on your mind while trying to keep up in the kitchen, but your garbage can fill up with bones, chocolate, onions and other holiday hazards we mentioned above. Try to remember to empty your trash throughout the day. 

Last year alone, the APCC helped over 3,000 animals over the Thanksgiving holiday, so please be mindful of the tips above to keep your furry friends safe and to keep animal welfare top-of-mind this year! 

If you suspect your pet has been exposed to any hazardous substances, please contact your veterinarian or call the Animal Poison Control Center at 1-(888)-426-4435.