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Safety Tips for Dogs on Thanksgiving – Everything You Need to Know

Safety Tips for Dogs on Thanksgiving – Everything You Need to Know

Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends to get together, share a meal, and reflect on what they’re thankful for – and many families have furry family members joining the festivities!

While it can be fun and exciting to have your dog join in on the fun, it is also important to stay vigilant when it comes to this holiday. While Thanksgiving is a joyous occasion for us, it can present several hazards to our canine companions. 

In this guide, we’ll explore the best parts of having your pets join in on the fun, and some essential dog safety tips to ensure that you and your pets have a wonderful and incident-free holiday.

Pet Safe Thanksgiving Foods

While you always hear about the no-go Thanksgiving food you want to avoid giving your dog, there are actually several pet-safe treats you can set aside to let your pup enjoy! 

In general, it’s always best to stick to a dog’s diet without having them over-indulge in new foods that they’re not used to. But there are a few safe Thanksgiving foods dogs can enjoy in moderation. 

Remember, moderation is key! These foods should only be occasional treats, not a significant part of their diet. Always consult your vet if you’re unsure what’s safe for your pup to enjoy and if your dog would react well to it.

  • Sweet Potatoes. Plain, cooked sweet potatoes are a healthy treat for a dog. Avoid adding any butter, spices, or other seasonings! 
  • Plain Pumpkin. Canned, plain pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) can be a healthy addition to any dog’s diet. 
  • Green Beans. Plain, steamed, or boiled green beans are a low-calorie, healthy option for dogs. They’re a good source of vitamins and fiber.
  • Cranberries. A small amount of plain cranberries can be okay for dogs. Fresh or unsweetened dried cranberries are better. However, some dogs might find them too tart, so use them sparingly.
  • Carrots. Fresh, raw, or cooked carrots can make for a crunchy and healthy treat. 
  • Apples. Fresh, sliced apples (without seeds) are a great source of vitamins and fiber. They can be a tasty and healthy treat.
  • Rice. Plain, cooked white rice can be beneficial if your dog has an upset stomach.

Always exercise caution and restraint when offering these foods to your dog. Ensure that they are plain and free from any seasonings, sauces, butter, or added ingredients that could be harmful. 

Additionally, consider your dog’s individual dietary needs and any specific allergies or sensitivities they may have. If you’re uncertain about a particular food’s safety for your dog, consult with your veterinarian before offering it!

Safety Tips for Dogs on Thanksgiving

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The Hazards of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time of delicious indulgence and fun with your friends and family, but it’s crucial to be aware of the harmful aspects to dogs. To ensure your furry friend’s safety, stay on the lookout for the following potential dangers on Thanksgiving – or any other time for that matter.

Toxic Food 

While it can be tempting to feed your dog your leftovers and table scraps, there are tons of toxins included in the typical Thanksgiving spreads. While some options may be a tasty treat for your dog, be sure to be watchful of these unsafe options:

  • Bones. Avoid giving your dog turkey bones, as they can easily splinter and pose a choking hazard or cause internal injuries. 
  • Onion and Garlic. These common ingredients in Thanksgiving food, like stuffing and other dishes, are toxic to dogs and can lead to anemia. 
  • Chocolate. The theobromine and caffeine in chocolate can be harmful, causing heart problems, seizures, and other issues in dogs. 
  • Grapes and raisins. Even a small amount of these can lead to kidney failure in dogs.
  • Nuts. Almonds, walnuts, and pecans are common household nuts that can be harmful to pups. These can cause digestive problems and even pancreatitis in small amounts. 
  • Alcohol. This one seems like a given, but alcohol can be easy for dogs to get into when left unattended. Alcohol is very harmful to your dog when consumed. 
  • Xylitol. A common sugar substitute that you may see around during the holidays, and is commonly found in foods like sugar-free gum. Products with this ingredient can lead to severe drops in blood sugar, seizures, and liver failure in dogs. 
  • High-Fat Foods. Fatty, greasy foods like turkey skin or gravy can lead to pancreatitis, a painful and potentially life-threatening condition in dogs.
  • Dairy Products. Some dogs are lactose intolerant, and dairy products like cheese, milk, or butter can cause digestive issues.
  • Spicy Foods. Dishes containing spices like hot peppers can irritate a dog’s digestive system. Avoid feeding your dog spicy foods or anything that’s heavily seasoned.
  • Desserts. Sugary desserts, especially those containing xylitol, chocolate, or alcohol, should not be given to dogs. They can lead to various health issues.

In general, it’s best to stick to your dog’s regular diet and avoid sharing too much of your human food, especially if you are unsure if the food is safe or not. Always prioritize your dog’s health and safety when it comes to their diet, and consult with your veterinarian if you have any doubts or concerns about what’s safe for your specific dog.


While your dog might be a happy-go-lucky pup, having so much interaction with guests who come over can, at times, pose some risks. With many unfamiliar faces and a change of routine, staying prepared for anything to happen is key. 

When dogs are put under stress and stimulation, they may be at risk of showing strange behaviors, like aggression, due to overstimulation. So, to keep everyone safe, ensuring your dog is comfortable with the guests and gets plenty of breaks can be crucial. 

If your dog tends to get stressed when they are over-socialized, keeping them on a leash at all times while people are over can be a good preventative plan. 

Front Doors 

Thanksgiving gatherings may include guests who are not familiar with your dog’s tendencies or weaknesses. Therefore, with so many guests coming in and out through the front door, the risk of someone leaving the front door cracked can be higher than usual. 

If you have a dog who is known to bolt out the front door, consider leaving him on a leash while people are over, leaving him in a safe, confined space, or leaving signs and notes around the door reminding others to keep it closed. But remember, if young children are present at your get-together, they might not be able to follow instructions well! 

Even if your pup isn’t much of a runner when it comes to the front door, it only takes one stressful situation to put your dog into flight mode. So always make sure to keep them safe and secure. 


Thanksgiving decorations, such as candles, table centerpieces, and even decorative gourds, can pose a hazard to dogs. A curious pup might knock over candles, ingest decorations, or chew on items that could lead to choking or blockages.

Ways to Prepare Your Dog for Thanksgiving

Assess Your Dog’s Personality 

Not all dogs enjoy large gatherings or noisy environments. Consider your dog’s temperament and whether they are comfortable around new people or in crowded spaces. Some dogs may prefer a quiet, safe place to relax. And that’s okay!

Keep Your Dog Entertained 

Before the festivities, take your dog for a long walk or engage them in a stimulating play session. A tired dog is less likely to get into mischief and more likely to relax during the celebration. Mental stimulation, such as puzzle toys filled with treats, can also keep your dog occupied and mentally engaged

Additionally, devise a plan for your dog to get some individual time DURING the festivities, too! A quick 10-minute play session every few hours can go a long way in preventing boredom or anxiety. 

Create a Comfortable Space 

In the event that your pup needs a quiet place to decompress, ensure you have a designated space prepared and ready! 

If your dog is crate trained, keep their crate in a quiet space where they can retreat when necessary and decompress. If your dog is not crate trained, a small room or bathroom could serve as a safe space for your dog! Consider playing some calm, relaxing music in their safe space. Music helps enhance the feeling of comfort and tranquility! 

Secure the Trash

After the feast, the trash can be a goldmine for curious dogs. Dispose of leftovers and packaging securely in a trash can with a tight-fitting lid. Bones, scraps, and discarded food containers can pose a significant risk to your dog, potentially leading to digestive issues or choking hazards. It’s always better to be safe than sorry! 

Avoid Decorative Hazards 

Thanksgiving can often involve decorative items. While decorations add to the ambiance, they can be dangerous for your dog. Candles can be knocked over, posing a fire risk. Potpourri and certain plants, like poinsettias, can be toxic if ingested. Keep these items out of your pet’s reach to ensure their safety.

ID Tags and Microchips 

With the doors opening and closing frequently due to the guests, there’s a higher chance of your dog slipping out unnoticed. Ensure your dog has a collar with an updated ID tag containing your up-to-date contact information. Additionally, having your pet microchipped can significantly increase the chances of a safe return if they get lost.

Additional Tips for a Happy Thanksgiving With Your Dog

Consider Professional Help

Dog professionals can be your best friends during the stressful holiday seasons! Vet’s, trainers, behaviorists, dog walkers, and pet sitters can all provide relief and assistance to a dog experiencing stress or fear revolving around the festivities. 

If your dog is highly anxious or fearful, consider consulting a professional dog trainer or behaviorist for advice and support. Additionally, if your holiday schedule is packed to the brim, consider hiring someone to take care of the exercise and stimulation your dog may need to stay comfortable! 

Prepare for Emergencies

Despite all precautions, accidents can still happen. Familiarize yourself with the location and contact details of the nearest emergency veterinary clinic. Having this information readily available can be crucial in case of an unexpected mishap.

In Conclusion

Thanksgiving can be a wonderful time for both you and your pets. By following these Thanksgiving tips, you can ensure that your dog has a safe, worry-free holiday.

About the Author: Shannen Standiford is a trainer and applied animal behavior consultant in San Diego, California. She specializes in service animal training, behavioral issues such as separation anxiety, reactivity, aggression, and more. She is a supporting member of the IAABC and opened her own 1:1 training business under the name Pups on the Coast to help others understand their dog on a deeper level and create a bond with their pet that they’ve always dreamed about.

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