Be thankful for pets -- but celebrate wisely

Nov 13, 2012, 15:49 ET from American Veterinary Medical Association

AVMA's Thanksgiving tips for pet owners

SCHAUMBURG, Ill., Nov. 13, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Thanksgiving is a holiday for feasts, family and friends. But put the family pet into the middle of that mix, and you may just be asking for trouble. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) offers the following tips to pet owners to keep this American holiday safe for four-legged guests:

● Your Thanksgiving feast is for people – not pets.  Table scraps may seem like a fun way to include your pet in the holiday, but many foods are poisonous to pets, including onions, garlic, raisins and grapes. AVMA's brochure and video offer a complete list of foods and household items that are dangerous or poisonous to pets. If you believe your pet has been poisoned, call your veterinarian or local veterinary emergency clinic immediately.

● Just because it's dead, doesn't mean it's not deadly.  A turkey carcass left in an open trash container or one that's easily opened could prove deadly if the family pet finds it.  A pet that "discovers" the carcass can quickly eat so much that it causes a condition called pancreatitis, which is extremely dangerous and can cause death fairly quickly.  If you suspect this has happened, contact your veterinarian immediately.  Dispose of turkey carcasses in a covered, tightly secured container along with anything used to wrap or tie the meat and any bones left on plates. These are also hazards and can be very tempting for your pets

● Deserts and pets don't mix.  Most people understand that chocolate is poisonous to pets, and that the darker it is the more deadly it is, but an artificial sweetener called Xylitol has also been shown to be just as deadly to dogs.  Xylitol is a common sweetener used in baked goods.   So play it safe and don't share your dessert with Fido or Fluffy.

● Want to treat your pet on Thanksgiving?  Buy a treat that is made just for them.  You can purchase something from your veterinarian or a local pet food store. Make sure the pet treat is not a part of any recall and/or doesn't contain ingredients of questionable origin. Your pet will enjoy the treat just as much, and chances are you won't spend the holiday at the emergency clinic.

● For some pets, houseguests can be scary.  Some pets are shy or excitable around new people, and Thanksgiving often means new people will be visiting. If you know your dog or cat can be overwhelmed when people come over, put them in another room or a crate so they're out of the frenzy and feel safe. You might even want to consider boarding them to remove them completely from this upsetting situation.  If your pet is particularly upset by houseguests, talk to your veterinarian about possible solutions to this common problem.

If they are comfortable around guests, make sure you watch them closely -- especially when your guests are entering or leaving your home. In the confusion, a four-legged family member may make a break for it out the door and become lost.  If you'd rather be watching the football game as opposed to walking the neighborhood, keep an eye on possible escape routes.

● Decorations can be dangerous. As you dress your Thanksgiving table with a centerpiece and flowers, remember to keep them up and away from your pets.  Some decorations look good enough to eat, and pets may decide to have a taste.  Depending on the flower or decoration, this can result in stomach upset or worse. Lilies, in particular, are deadly to cats.  Pine cones and needles, if consumed by a pet, can cause an intestinal blockage or even perforate the animal's intestine.

● Fire, kids and pets make a bad combination.  Dinner by candlelight can provide an elegant atmosphere for a holiday meal.  And what isn't cozy about having a fire in the fireplace when guests arrive? But where there's a flame, there's the opportunity for disaster.  Make sure you're careful to keep children and pets away from any open flame or fire. And if you're not sure you can ensure their safety in the holiday commotion, use battery operated candles and forget the fire in the fireplace.  No amount of elegance or cozy will make up for an injured loved one or a house that's burnt to the ground.

The AVMA has a video of useful tips on how to keep pets healthy and safe during the holidays.  For more information about pet health and safety, visit

The AVMA, founded in 1863, is one of the oldest and largest veterinary medical organizations in the world, with more than 82,500 member veterinarians worldwide engaged in a wide variety of professional activities.

SOURCE American Veterinary Medical Association