Thanksgiving and Healthy Pets

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How To Keep Your Pets Healthy During the Holidays

With Thanksgiving just a few days away it’s time to think of family, friends, great food and, of course, pet safety! It’s our natural tendency to want to share some of the holiday feast with our pets, but here are a few things to keep in mind before you do.

The Food

While it’s ok to feed your pet a little turkey, don’t feed any skin because of its high fat content. And when I say “Little”, I mean just one or two small strips. It’s important to make sure the turkey is well-cooked, otherwise there’s the ever present danger that it can contain salmonella bacteria which can be deadly. It’s also important to never give cooked bones of any kind to your pet as they will splinter when chewed and cause choking, esophageal tears and/or obstructions in your pet’s digestive tract.


It’s important to remember that some of the foods that are commonplace at our Thanksgiving dinners are also potentially very dangerous to our pets. For example, the common herbs sage and nutmeg contain essential oils and resins that can cause not only gastrointestinal problems but they can even effect the central nervous system if ingested in sufficient quantities. Not that your pet has a burning desire to grab a mouthful of sage or nutmeg, but as pet sitters we have seen dogs eat paper towels, socks, and even underwear! So make sure your pet can’t get their paws on even a little of these herbs! It’s important to note that cats are even more sensitive than dogs in this regard. If you make your own homemade bread, be sure not to feed your pet any raw dough. When raw bread dough is ingested, an animals body heat causes the dough to rise in its stomach just like an oven. As it expands, the pet may experience vomiting, severe abdominal pain and bloating, which could become a life-threatening emergency requiring surgery. Desserts and other dishes that also contain raw batters or ingredients, especially the ones containing eggs, also have the risk of carrying salmonella bacteria. So its better to be safe than sorry and just avoid letting your pet have any raw items. Don’t forget to avoid the always dangerous ingredients too: onions, raisins, grapes, chocolate, garlic, etc.


Be sure to properly dispose of used aluminum foil, turkey pop-ups, skewers, string, oven bags, plastic wrap, wax paper, and all other disposable supplies that have been enticingly flavored with turkey juice and all the fixings. Like the proverbial moth to the flame, your pet will be tempted to lick, chew and swallow these items, which can lead to choking, obstructions or at least gastrointestinal upset. If your dog is prone to explore the trash can (which we see on occasion often with unfortunate results) one trick to keep in mind is to wrap all the used cooking supplies in a fresh sheet of foil and then place that in a bag and then in the trash can, and preferably one with a lid they can’t open. Better still, just take it all outside right after you clean up to avoid all problems from the outset.

Guests and Anxiety

You may also consider feeding your pets before everyone sits for dinner to reduce the temptation for begging and stealing. One way to avoid any mishaps is to make sure each guest knows the rules from the beginning so that no one feeds scraps from the table. A little bit here and there from each person can add up to an enormous amount of calories and fats for a pet as well as certain gastrointestinal issues. It may be best to use a gate or simply put your pet in another room until after dinner for their safety, and to eliminate begging and all the potential problems listed above. Once the table is clear, it’s yet another opportunity for your pet to jump up and snatch any scraps left on the table or countertops, so take precautions if you have a larger dog prone to counter-surfing or an inquisitive cat. And, it’s always a good idea to make sure your pet has an ID tag or microchip in case they escape. There will be many opportunities to slip out with the door constantly opening and closing for all the guests to come and go. If you have an already anxious pet you can use the same techniques suggested in our Halloween post: keep them gated in another part of the house or crated in a quiet room with the radio, television or white noise generator on to ease their anxiety. Holiday gatherings can be very stressful and the frenetic energy only exacerbates anxiety in some pets.

Overall, it’s perfectly normal and ok for your pet to have a small amount of turkey, a taste of mashed potatoes, and little dribble of gravy over their kibble for dinner, but DON’T allow your pets to overindulge. Many pets we care for have sensitive stomachs and too much of anything out of the ordinary will cause at least a case of stomach upset, diarrhea and, as I know from personal experience, my dogs can clear a room after having just a few bites of turkey or chicken. All kidding aside, one very serious condition of overindulgence is an inflammatory condition of the pancreas known as pancreatitis which can be caused and exacerbated by fatty foods. Pancreatitis is a very serious condition and we have seen pets die from complications caused by it. So please, share the holiday with your pets, that is why they are part of our families after all, but realize that too much of a good thing can indeed be dangerous. As the old saying goes, everything in moderation. We at Sentinel hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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