For many people, Thanksgiving is a time of celebration and joy, a time to gather together with family and friends and to reflect on all that they are thankful for. And we have so much to be thankful for–our families, our friends, our dogs, our homes, our freedoms, and our ability to enjoy the beauty that is all around us.
Dogs are a big part of our families. Thus, it is important that they, too, have a healthy, happy, and safe Thanksgiving. Some dogs are unaffected by the busyness of the holiday, while others may be stressed by all the goings-on. Below are some tips and suggestions to help make your dog’s Thanksgiving experience a safe and positive one.
1. Have a quiet place for your dog, one that is away from all of the commotion and noise. Even if your dog seems unaffected by all the festivities, spending some time in a quiet place can be beneficial for their stress levels and mental health. This could be a crate in your bedroom where your dog can relax and enjoy a bone or chew toy all to himself, or a laundry room or office where the dog feels comfortable.
2. Always feed your dog by himself in a quiet place away from company, especially if there are children and other dogs visiting. You want your dog to enjoy a stress-free meal, and to not feel like he has to gulp down his food as fast as he can to prevent interruption or competition. Feeding your dog away from your company also prevents a potentially dangerous situation; many young children do not understand that a dog should be left alone while eating, and many dogs–even well-behaved, well-trained ones–may protect their food bowl from strange children. Even a dog “used to kids” may be under enough stress during a busy holiday to consider guarding its food bowl; thus, it is always better to err on the side of caution than to be taking a trip to the emergency room for a dog bite.
3. Keep trash bins secure and out of reach of your dog (and kids). Immediately take out the trash containing all the cooked turkey bones, so that there is no risk of the dog getting into the trash bin and ingesting them. Some dogs are notorious “sneakers”, meaning they silently sneak off to steal bits of food from the trash can. If you have one of these, then keep a lid on your trash and place it an area inaccessible to the dog.
4. Do not feed your dog tidbits of skin, fat, stuffing, cooked bones, etc. Vets see more instances of pancreatitis, obstruction, and bowel perforations during the holidays than any other time of the year, often because well-meaning owners want their dogs to “have something special to eat, too” (or because the dog pulled things out of the trash, which highlights the importance of suggestion #3). Unfortunately, many of the foods used for the Thanksgiving meal can be dangerous to dogs–cooked and seasoned meat, cooked bones, stuffing containing raisins or onions (both of which are toxic to dogs!), chunks of cooked fat and skin, etc. If you want your dog to have something special to eat, then consider feeding him a special doggie treat like a raw beef knuckle bone (can break teeth, so exercise caution), raw chicken necks, a raw turkey neck, or maybe a little sampling of gizzard, heart, or liver (be careful–these are extremely rich, and if your dog isn’t accustomed to raw food, loose stools may result!). Always supervise your pet when they are chewing on a raw meaty bone.
5. Do not allow guests to feed your dog tidbits from their plates, or to give them a ‘lick’ of alcohol. There always seems to be that one family member who cannot resist slipping your dog some food from their plate; if there is any doubt at all that they won’t listen to your request to not feed the dog, then consider putting the dog away in his quiet place during mealtimes.
6. If you are traveling with your dog for Thanksgiving, then be sure to bring a crate, bedding from home (makes the dog feel more familiar/comfortable in a new place), lots of dog treats, a few durable chew toys (like a Kong, which you can stuff with the treats), and copies of your dog’s rabies certificate (I keep mine in the glove box, and leave it there for whenever we travel). Be sure to also have a collar with identification tags on your dog.