Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends, and feasting, and often our furry family members are right there with us.
So how are Americans planning on celebrating Thanksgiving with their pets this year?
The Special Reports Team at Veterinarians.org surveyed 1,000 U.S. dog owners to learn more about their Thanksgiving plans for their dog and how they’ve dealt with Thanksgiving mishaps of the past.
Thanksgiving Dinners for the Family Dog
For many U.S. dog owners, including their pet in Thanksgiving traditions is a given. And the most well-known Thanksgiving tradition of all? The family dinner, of course.
In our survey of 1,000 U.S. dog owners, we delved deep into dinner plans for the family dog and learned some interesting insights.
- 68% of U.S. dog owners plan on making a special dinner for their dog this Thanksgiving.
- Single dog owners are more likely than married dog owners (75% vs. 67%) to put together a dish for their canine companion.
- The same goes for male dog owners in comparison to female dog owners (77% vs. 62%).
- When it comes to age, dog owners aged 18-24 are the most likely to whip up a culinary treat for their dog this Thanksgiving, with 80% planning on doing so this year. Those aged 25-34 come in second (78%).
- Which age group is most likely to pass on dinner preparations for the family dog? The majority of U.S. dog owners aged 54 and up (53%) aren’t planning on cooking up a special treat for their pet this year.
Thanksgiving Dangers for the Family Dog
While Thanksgiving is a festive time for family and friends, there are also dangers right in our own homes that can pose a risk to our canine companions, especially during meal preparations and during dinner time.
In our survey of 1,000 U.S. dog owners, we asked about our survey participants’ experiences with Thanksgiving dangers and the actions they needed to take to keep their dog safe.
- 55% of U.S. dog owners say their dog has eaten something they shouldn’t have during Thanksgiving.
- Dogs are more likely to engage in this behavior when living in households with children, than when living in child-free households (59% vs. 50%).
- Approximately 1 in 6 dog owners have had to take their dog to the vet as a result of their pet eating something they shouldn’t have during Thanksgiving, while 1 in 8 have had to call a poison control hotline for the same reason.
- For dogs, the average cost of a foreign body removal surgery in the U.S. (surgery to remove an object that was swallowed but which became stuck, usually in the stomach/intestines) is $2,000-$5,000. Thanksgiving foods such as turkey bones and corn-on-the-cob can easily cause blockages that would require this type of surgery. However, just over a quarter of U.S. dog owners (26%) say they would not be able to cover this amount should their dog encounter such an emergency during Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving Safety Tips to Keep Your Dog Safe
While it’s tempting to share our holiday meals with our canine companions, it’s important to know which traditional Thanksgiving foods are dangerous to dogs in order to keep our pets safe.
Toxic and Harmful Foods for Dogs
1. Turkey Skin and Bones
While lean turkey meat is safe in moderation, the skin is often seasoned and cooked with spices, making it too fatty and potentially leading to pancreatitis in dogs. Turkey bones can splinter and cause choking or blockages in the digestive system.
2. Rich, Fatty Foods
Thanksgiving is known for rich, fatty foods. Foods high in fat can cause upset stomachs in dogs and lead to more severe conditions like pancreatitis. Be cautious with gravies, butter-laden dishes, and creamy casseroles.
3. Dough and Batter
Raw dough and batter can be a hidden hazard. The yeast in dough can cause it to expand in a dog’s stomach, leading to bloating and severe discomfort. Similarly, raw eggs in batter pose a risk of salmonella.
4. Onions and Garlic
Found in many Thanksgiving dishes, onions and garlic can cause gastrointestinal irritation and could potentially lead to red blood cell damage in dogs. Even small amounts, whether raw, cooked, or in powder form, can be toxic.
5. Grapes and Raisins
Grapes and raisins, often ingredients in salads and desserts, are extremely toxic to dogs. Ingesting even a small quantity can cause sudden kidney failure. Be particularly cautious with fruit salads, stuffing, and sweet bread that might contain these fruits.
Chocolate is a well-known toxin for dogs. Theobromine, found in chocolate, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and even more severe reactions like seizures and heart problems in dogs. Be mindful of desserts or any baked goods containing chocolate. Xylitol is also an ingredient to be aware of. This artificial sweetener, found in sugar-free baked goods and gum, can cause insulin release and hypoglycemia in dogs, leading to liver failure.
Alcohol is harmful to dogs and can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, and even death. Be cautious with alcoholic beverages and desserts that may contain alcohol, like certain puddings and cakes.
Used in pumpkin pie and other desserts, nutmeg contains a compound called myristicin, which is toxic to dogs in large quantities. When ingested, nutmeg can cause a range of unpleasant and dangerous symptoms in dogs, including disorientation, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, dry mouth, abdominal pain, and potentially seizures.
Certain nuts, like macadamia nuts, are particularly toxic to dogs, causing symptoms like weakness, vomiting, and hyperthermia. Even non-toxic nuts can be high in fats and oils, leading to stomach upset and pancreatitis.
10. Corn on the Cob
Corn on the cob poses a significant risk to dogs primarily due to the cob itself. While the corn kernels are generally safe for dogs to eat, the cob can be very dangerous. Dogs often find cobs tempting to chew on, but they cannot digest them. If ingested, the cob can cause a blockage in the dog’s intestines, which is a serious medical emergency.
Safety Precautions During Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is a time of joy, family, and plenty of good food. However, for dog owners, this festive season also brings the challenge of keeping their furry companions safe amidst the abundance of food and the hustle and bustle. Here are some key precautions to ensure your dog enjoys the holiday safely.
1. Create a Dog-Free Zone
During meal preparation and dining, it’s best to keep your dog away from the kitchen and dining area. This can be achieved using baby gates or by setting up a comfortable space in another part of your home. Make sure it’s a space where your dog feels secure and relaxed, complete with their bed, toys, and fresh water.
2. Educate Guests and Family
One of the biggest risks during Thanksgiving is guests unknowingly feeding your dog harmful foods. Before your guests arrive, have a conversation with them about your dog’s health and safety. Politely request that they do not feed your dog any scraps from the table. If you have children visiting, remind them as well, as they might be tempted to share their plate with your furry friend. Consider putting up friendly signs as reminders. A simple note saying, “Please don’t feed the dog” can work wonders.
3. Clear the Table Promptly
After your meal, clear the table promptly. Leftover food on plates can be too tempting for a dog to resist. Ensure that all dishes are either washed or stored away safely where your dog can’t reach them.
4. Dispose of Food Properly
Make sure all waste and leftovers are immediately disposed of in a secure trash can that your dog cannot access. Dogs can be particularly resourceful when it comes to getting into the garbage, so consider a trash can with a locking lid or store the trash can in a locked cabinet.
5. Provide Alternatives
While you’re enjoying your Thanksgiving feast, why not give your dog something special as well? Prepare a small dog-friendly feast or get some special dog treats. This can help keep them distracted and happy while you eat.
6. Supervise Your Dog
Even with all the precautions, it’s important to keep a watchful eye on your dog. Be aware of where your dog is and what they might be doing, especially when food is being served or cleared.
7. Know the Signs of Food Toxicity/Choking in Dogs
During Thanksgiving, it’s crucial to be vigilant for signs of food toxicity and choking in dogs. Symptoms of food toxicity can vary but often include vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drooling, lethargy, or more severe signs like seizures or collapse. Choking is usually more immediate and apparent, characterized by gagging, coughing, drooling, and distress. The dog may paw at its mouth or appear anxious. Quick identification of these signs is key to providing timely help to your pet. It’s also wise to educate yourself on the proper way to perform the Heimlich Maneuver or the external extraction technique on a choking dog.
8. Be Prepared for Emergencies
Always have your veterinarian’s number and the contact details of the nearest emergency veterinary clinic readily available. Additionally, keep the number for a pet poison helpline handy. If you suspect your dog has ingested something toxic, contact your veterinarian or an emergency vet immediately. Time is critical in these situations. Avoid inducing vomiting unless instructed by a professional, as this can sometimes worsen the situation depending on the substance ingested. Stay calm, and safely transport your dog to the veterinary clinic as quickly as possible.
*The survey included in this report was administered online via the survey platform Pollfish on November 13, 2023 and included no less than 1,000 respondents.