Thanksgiving is a holiday that’s centered around family and food. While it’s tempting to include the furry members of our family in the feast, many aspects of Thanksgiving can put pets in danger (so put down that turkey leg)! Here are some tips to keep your pet safe on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving with pets.

Thanksgiving Food Dangers for Dogs and Cats

It can be tempting for you and your guests to sneak the family pet a taste of the delicious meal, but common Thanksgiving dishes are full of ingredients that are toxic to dogs and cats or can cause digestive upset.

Keep your pet away from these dangerous festive foods:

  • Turkey. Avoid giving your pet turkey meat, especially fatty dark meat and skin (a small amount of unseasoned white meat is okay), and never give them any leftover bones. Not only are bones a choking hazard, but they can splinter inside your pet’s digestive tract and cause a trip to the emergency vet.
  • Garlic, onion, leeks, and chives. These seasonings are common in many Thanksgiving dishes and are toxic to dogs and cats – they can cause destruction of their red blood cells. Avoid giving your pet a bite of anything cooked with these ingredients, like green beans, potatoes, stuffing, or gravy.
  • Unbaked dough containing yeast. Unbaked yeast dough can cause a stomach blockage if eaten because the yeast in the dough makes it rise and expand. Plus, the natural fermentation of the yeast in your cat or dog’s stomach can cause alcohol poisoning. If you plan on baking some delicious dinner rolls for Thanksgiving, make sure to proof your dough somewhere that your pet can’t get to it, such as in a turned-off oven or microwave, not right on the counter where it’s often in your pet’s easy reach.
  • Desserts. Desserts like pies, fruitcakes, or cookies should be kept out of your pet’s reach as well. Many people know that chocolate is toxic for dogs and cats, but so are raisins, currants, and the popular sugar-substitute xylitol. Xylitol, even in small amounts, is toxic to dogs, so keep that slice of keto-friendly/diabetic-friendly/sugar-free pie to yourself.

Not only do you not want to give your pets any toxic foods, but you want to make sure they don’t decide to dive into the trash in search of yummy scraps. Ask family and guests to not feed the dog and make sure your trash can is secure.

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Feed Them Pet-Friendly Food Options Instead

While the list of foods to avoid might seem overwhelming, there are a few great options for some pet-friendly Thanksgiving treats. Raw fruits and vegetables like baby carrots, green beans, apples, chunks of sweet potato, or pumpkin puree (not the sweetened, spiced pie filling) are great options.

Secure Your Home

With family and friends coming and going over Thanksgiving weekend, make sure that your cat or dog doesn’t find their way out that open front door and get lost. Set up gates to help keep your dog away from the front door when guests come and go (as well as prevent the chaos of a jumping or barking dog at the door) or keep them on leash to prevent any door dashing. Keep your cat in a separate room with the door closed so they don’t escape into the great outdoors.

Keep Your Pets Away from Guest’s Bags

Along with houseguests comes everything they carry with them, and handbags, backpacks or suitcases can be possible hazards for your pets if they stick their noses where they don’t belong. Things like sugar-free xylitol gum, candy bars, and human medication can really put a damper on your holiday plans if ingested by your pet. Have guests hang their bags on hooks rather than leaving them on the floor and keep the guest room door closed to protect your pets.

By practicing these Thanksgiving pet safety tips, you and your pet can enjoy a safe and happy holiday.


Melody R. Conklin, VMD, MBA

Dr. Melody R. Conklin is originally from Youngsville in northwestern Pennsylvania and earned her BS at The Pennsylvania State University, University Park in 2003, where she majored in Animal BioScience and minored in Wildlife and Fisheries Science. She then attended the University of Pennsylvania, earning her VMD in 2007. Dr. Conklin worked in companion animal general practice until 2015 when she joined Zoetis’ Veterinary Medical Information and Product Support department while finishing her MBA at Penn State Great Valley in 2017. Dr. Conklin currently works full-time in a companion animal practice while working with Zoetis US Petcare Medical Affairs in a consultant role. She lives in Sinking Spring, PA with her 4 cats, Vegeta, Fluffzor, Poof, & Butter, and 3 guinea pigs, Pascha, Elena, & Caroline.