Thanksgiving Hazards for Pets

dr-bakerLauren Baker, DVM
MSPCA-Angell West, Waltham


Thanksgiving is one of the great American holidays. Over the Thanksgiving table, we come together with family and friends to share good food, hearty laughs and remember the blessings in our lives.  It is only natural to want to include your furry, four-legged family members.  However, there are hidden dangers lurking in your holiday kitchen. We have compiled a list of tips aimed at keeping your pet safe while sharing the bounty of the Thanksgiving table.

  1. Don’t break your pet’s diet if they eat special foods for medical conditions. If you aren’t certain if it is safe for your particular pet to have treats, please consult with your family veterinarian.
  2. dog-with-pumpkin-pie-webAll things in moderation! Don’t go overboard with Thanksgiving day treats. For a small dog, one piece of pumpkin pie may have an entire day’s worth of calories. For a small cat, one ounce of cheese is nearly the equivalent of you eating two Big Macs!
  3. Make sure any food you offer your pet is room temperature. Your eager pup is not going to wait for that juicy bite of turkey to cool before wolfing it down. Hot foods can cause oral or esophageal burns. Your pet will find cold or room temperature food just as delicious!
  4. Break foods into bite-sized pieces to avoid choking hazards for your pet. Fully cooked vegetables are softer and safer for your pet to swallow than raw veggies.
  5. Don’t feed your pets foods on toothpicks or skewers! Never assume your pet will nibble the food off a toothpick or skewer. Swallowed toothpicks and skewers can cause major, life-threatening issues such as sepsis, if the gastrointestinal tract is perforated by the skewer.
  6. Focus on healthy foods: Pets are not people and cannot enjoy all of the foods we can.  Here are some common Thanksgiving foods that are generally safe for pets:
  • Green beans
  • Sweet potato (avoid sugary preparations)
  • Broccoli
  • Turkey breast (boneless, skinless)
  • Carrots and peas
  • Celery
  1. Avoid dangerous foods:
    • Chocolate: Chocolate can cause vomiting, diarrhea and more serious cardiac arrhythmias. It can be fatal in large doses. Dark or unsweetened chocolate or cocoa powder are the most dangerous.
    • Raisins and grapes: even small amounts of raisins and grapes can cause kidney failure in dogs
    • Fatty Foods: Fatty foods such as butter, bacon, greasy meats, cream and other full-fat dairy products can be hazardous to pets in a variety of ways. Fatty foods may cause pancreatitis (painful and often serious inflammation of the pancreas which can be fatal in rare cases), gastroenteritis (general upset and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract), elevated blood triglyceride levels and obesity.
    • Raw meats: Raw meats, especially poultry, can be dangerous for pets and humans alike. A high percentage of raw poultry processed in the US is contaminated with bacteria such as Campylobacter, Listeria or Salmonella which can cause severe gastroenteritis (serious disturbance of the gastrointestinal tract). Additionally, certain highly pathogenic strains of E. coli have the potential to cause kidney failure.
    • Macadamia nuts: Ingestion of macadamia nuts can cause vomiting, ataxia (staggering gait), depression, tremors and elevated body temperature (hyperthermia).
    • Onions and garlic: You may have noticed that some pet foods will contain traces of garlic powder. Small quantities may be safe to feed, but large quantities may cause Heinz body anemia. It is best to avoid feeding any amount.
    • Bones, cooked and raw: Cooked bones may splinter and shatter when chewed and can perforate the esophagus, stomach or intestines. They are more difficult to digest than raw bones. Pets can crack teeth on raw bones and raw bones can also damage the GI tract. It is best to avoid feeding any bones.
    • Heavily spiced foods: Avoid heavily seasoned, spicy or salty foods. Excess salt can interact with certain medications (such as potassium bromide, an anti-seizure medication) and is not good for pets with certain medical conditions (heart disease, for example). Heavy spices can cause an upset stomach.
    • Raw bread dough: Raw bread dough is dangerous for two reasons.  One, when your pet ingests raw dough, it continues to expand and can result in gastric distension. In severe cases, this can affect breathing and the bloody supply returning to the heart. Also, raw bread dough contains live yeasts. When ingested, the yeast continue to multiply in the warm environment of the stomach. Natural alcohols produced by the yeast can cause alcohol intoxication which can result in central nervous system depression, metabolic acidosis and even death.

For more information on the MSPCA-Angell West Emergency Service, please visit or call 781-902-8400.

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