Thanksgiving is almost here for Americans, and it can be an adorable but dangerous time for your pets. Here are some reminders of things to consider before considering your dog one of the guests. If you’re traveling somewhere else with your dog, these precautions should be made an even bigger priority because your dog is already off schedule and out of his element.
Don’t assume that your dog (or cat!) won’t door dash as people are arriving. Busy holiday schedules mean missed walks and potentially bored dogs. Set up a baby gate or keep your dog in a safe room when people will be in and out. Don’t assume he’ll be on his usual good behavior with strangers about.
If you’re traveling with your dog, make sure he doesn’t have an opportunity to get lost at a gas station along the way. There are numerous options for leashes or car seats that will buckle your dog up comfortably in the car. Crates are also a great option, but they may be skipped if you have lots of luggage. At minimum, use a carabiner to attach your dog’s leash to the car before you open the door.
Even if your dog likes people, too many for too long may be overwhelming. Triple this if there are children pestering him. Watch for signs that your dog has had enough and move him to a safe room for breaks if needed. If your dog isn’t a social butterfly to begin with, she should probably stay in a safe room for the whole event. Provide treats and chews and turn on the TV or music to cover some of the people noises. A social dog may just need an enforced “time out” to be ready for cuddles again, but don’t count on him to know that. Remember that if this is a long event, it’s probably cutting into your dog’s usual nap schedule significantly and he’s basically a cranky toddler.
Know your guests and supervise them. Sometimes kids don’t know any better and they’ll terrorize your dog into biting out of self defense. Sometimes adults do know better but are assholes. Keep an eye on things like beers or coffee you don’t want your dog sneaking, too. Guests without pets may be careless with them. Some guests are assholes and may think it’s funny to give your pet these things on purpose.
Your dog is not a baby sitter. Your dog did not volunteer to keep a hoard of children entertained, no matter how much she likes kids. If you leave your dog alone with a bunch of kids, you can’t prevent mistreatment or know what caused it when a bite happens.
It’s tempting to share Thanksgiving scraps with your dog, but a sudden big fatty meal for a dog who doesn’t usually get scraps can cause pancreatitis and possibly diabetes if the damage to the pancreas is permanent. It’s great to give your dog a treat, but try to keep it in line with what he normally gets. If he doesn’t normally get people food a small portion of plain lean meat and sweet potato should be fine. Toss fatty skin and bones in the trash to save yourself a trip to the emergency vet.
Even a dog who usually gets scraps might have some significant stomach upset if you go overboard. The holidays are exhausting enough without getting up 10 times to let your poor dog out at night. Remember to avoid the usual dangerous people foods, such as alcohol, onions, grapes, chocolate, and sage.
Most of these precautions come down to knowing your dog and having reasonable expectations for him. This is important all year long, but it’s easy to forget in the overwhelming bustle of the holidays. Don’t add to the stress and take steps to prevent any unfortunate pet accidents before they happen.