Thanksgiving Pet Safety: A ManyPets Guide

November 17, 2022 - 3 min read
Dog in front of turkey at table

For most Americans, Thanksgiving isn’t exactly synonymous with danger. Feeding a horde of guests or humoring some eccentric relatives may cause emotional stress, but you're unlikely to land in the hospital.

Yet Thanksgiving festivities — especially the food — can pose some very serious risks to your furriest family members. Thankfully, some vigilance, preparation, and knowledge can go a long way toward keeping your pet safe during the holiday.

Are Thanksgiving Scraps and Leftovers Safe for My Pet?

Yes, you can give your pet scraps and leftovers on Thanksgiving — but only if you give them safe foods in moderate or small portions. A sizable number of foods are toxic or unsafe for cats and dogs. And even the foods that are safe might make your pet sick if you give them too much.

Which Thanksgiving Foods are Unsafe for Cats and Dogs? 

A sprawling Thanksgiving feast laid out on a dining room table always looks safe to human eyes. But there’s a good chance some of it will be dangerous for your pet. Here are some common Thanksgiving foods you should always keep away from your dog or cat:

  • Stuffing: Many common stuffing ingredients are unsafe for dogs and cats. So if you don’t know what’s in the stuffing on your plate — or if you know it contains some of the ingredients listed below — keep it out of paw’s reach.

  • Onions, shallots, garlic, chives, and leeks: These foods from the “Allium” family of plants — often used in stuffing and other foods — are toxic for both cats and dogs. They can make your pet extremely ill, and even cause life-threatening reactions if your pet eats them in large enough quantities.

  • Grapes and raisins: Also common ingredients in stuffing, grapes and raisins are extremely toxic for dogs and cats. These foods — along with related fruits like currants and sultanas —  can cause kidney damage, and even kidney failure.

  • Bones: Cooked bones of any kind can be unsafe for dogs and cats. Turkey bones (and other poultry bones) are especially dangerous: The shards can cause damage or blockage to your pet’s digestive tract.

  • Anything containing chocolate: Chocolate is toxic to dogs and cats — the darker the more dangerous. 

  • Desserts containing xylitol: Sugar isn’t healthy for your pet, but the artificial sweetener xylitol is even worse. This sugar substitute can cause abdominal illness and even liver failure. 

  • Nutmeg: Nutmeg is unsafe for pets, causing health problems like diarrhea and seizures.

  • Caffeine: Caffeine is toxic to both dogs and cats, so keep your furry friend away from tea and coffee.

  • Alcohol: Alcohol can cause heart arrhythmia and alcohol poisoning in pets; it’s not meant for your four-legged family members.

  • Certain nuts: Walnuts and macadamia nuts are toxic to pets.

  • Raw bread dough: Yeast dough can continue rising in your pet’s stomach after it's eaten, causing bloat and abdominal pain. Yeast dough can also cause alcohol toxicosis.

  • Ham, bacon, fat trimmings, and poultry skin: Fatty foods can cause indigestion and other stomach issues, and even — in extreme cases — pancreatitis.

  • Dairy: Many dogs and cats are lactose intolerant. Milk, butter, and other dairy products can cause digestive issues like vomiting, pain, and diarrhea.

(Just FYI, this list isn't meant to be 100% exhaustive. Many foods can be harmful to dogs and cats. If you remain uncertain about any ingredients or food items, be sure to consult your vet first.)

A number of other Thanksgiving staples, like turkey meat, cooked potatoes (though not mashed potatoes that contain butter and/or milk), cooked yams, and corn are perfectly safe in reasonable portions.

But keep in mind: Your pet’s overall caloric intake should be roughly the same each day. So if you feed your furry friend lots of scraps from the Thanksgiving table, you’ll need to reduce the sizes of their other meals by an appropriate amount. 

Also, don't forget that small dogs fill up especially quickly. Giving them heaping portions of Thanksgiving goodies is likely to get them sick even if the foods aren’t toxic.  

Talk to Your Houseguests

It might be a good idea to ask your guests to refrain from feeding your pet leftovers. You might need to make this especially clear to children (or at least ask their parents to tell them).

One other option is to gate your pet off from the dining area — but let’s be honest, some dogs and cats simply won’t tolerate this state of affairs. 

Make Your Home a Safe Space

Food safety is your biggest concern this Thanksgiving, but there are a few other things to consider as well. 

Watch Your Door

With people streaming in and out of your home, your pet could slip out. You might consider gating your pet off from the front door. At the very least, keep a close eye on them whenever the door opens.  

Beware of Other People’s Stuff

Your guests’ handbags or coats might contain dangerous items like medications or xylitol gum. Make sure these items are hung up, or left in an area of your home that your pet can't access.

Be Careful with Decorations

Decorations can be dangerous. Ribbons and other hanging items can be choking hazards. Floral centerpieces can contain poisonous plants like chrysanthemum. Pets can knock candles over and start house fires. 

So just keep hazardous decorations in a high place your pet can’t reach, or in an area of your home they can’t access.

Keep an Eye On Your Pet

Monitor your pet throughout the celebration. It’ll help ensure that no one’s feeding your furry friend anything unsafe, and that they’re safe and sound in your home. Then you'll have a lot to be thankful for.

Accidents can happen, even when you're careful. Protect your pet: Get an insurance quote today.

This content is not to be taken as a substitute for advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a licensed veterinarian. Always seek the advice of a veterinarian if you have questions about food safety, a condition, diagnosis, or options for treatment.

David Teich
Lead Content Editor

David Teich is Lead Content Editor at ManyPets. He loves pets, Scrabble, Oxford commas, and typing loudly.