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For most people, Thanksgiving means family gatherings with an abundance of delicious food for everyone. And even though we want to include our dogs in the celebrations, some of our holiday food is not safe for them. At Pet Poison Helpline, we believe that prevention is the best option for keeping our pets healthy — not to mention, the best way for you to have a restful and happy turkey day. To help keep your pets safe, here is a list of the dangers that we frequently get called about this time of year.

  1. Fatty foods, such as butter, bacon, meat drippings or scraps, and gravies may seem harmless but can pose a genuine threat of pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas that can result in clinical signs of vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and abdominal pain. Some breeds, such as Miniature Schnauzers, are more prone to developing pancreatitis, but all dogs that ingest a large enough quantity of these foods are at risk. Symptoms may not be immediate and can occur up to four days after exposure.
  2. Discarded food items such as corn cobs, discarded turkey trussing’s, and bones can result in an obstructive risk or gastrointestinal injury that have the potential of requiring surgical removal or repair.
  3. Brine. Who would have thought that the popular trend of brining your turkey prior to Thanksgiving would be a risk to your pets? When you remove the turkey, this salt-saturated solution can be very attractive to dogs and cats, who will readily lap it up resulting in salt toxicosis. Clinical signs are excessive thirst and urination, vomiting, and diarrhea. This can potentially result in serious electrolyte changes and brain swelling.
  4. Xylitol. Candies, desserts, or other foods that are sweetened with an artificial sweetener called xylitol are dangerous to pets. Xylitol can result in a rapid drop in blood sugar in dogs along with liver damage. In the past, we saw xylitol limited to the ingredient lists of sugar-free gums, mints, and dental products but xylitol is now very commonly used in sugar-free or low-sugar baked goods, vitamins, and even some types of peanut butter. Even quantities that appear to be very small have the potential to quickly become life-threatening to dogs. Always check the label.
  5. Raisins, currents, and grapes found in some of our favorite Thanksgiving foods are a very serious concern for dogs as they have the risk of resulting in acute renal failure with even small ingestions.
  6. Chocolates in our desserts or treats are dangerous to our pets. Remember that the darker the chocolate, the more serious the ingestion, means the less they will need to ingest to develop clinical signs of vomiting, diarrhea, agitation, tremors, increased heart rate along with potential seizures.
  7. Nuts are high in fat and have the risk of pancreatitis. Macadamia nuts are more serious and can ingestions can result in vomiting, diarrhea, inability to rise or walk normally (they take on a drunken appearance and can even drag their rear limbs as if injured), along with hyperthermia.
  8. Holiday decorations are a concern for many reasons. Bittersweet flowers are many times included in fall floral arrangements and can cause gastrointestinal upset. Candles can result in burns and flameless candles contain batteries, that when ingested can result in gastrointestinal burns and corrosive injury.

If you think that your pet has ingested something poisonous or harmful, it is always easier, less expensive, and safer for your pet to be treated earlier, rather than waiting for severe clinical signs to occur. Pet Poison Helpline will be available 24/7 during the Thanksgiving Holiday to provide support to you, your pet, and your veterinarian.

Pet Poison Helpline is the most cost-effective animal poison control center in North America. It that provides treatment advice and recommendations relating to exposures to potential dangerous plants, products, medications, and substances, to veterinarians, veterinary staff, and pet owners 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through a helpline number 800-213-6680 and an iPhone application. Please be aware there is a $49.00/per case consultation fee. For further information regarding services, visit
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