How to avoid Thanksgiving Day Pet Dangers

The Pet Dangers That May Be Lurking On Your Thanksgiving Day Table

Autumn is here, and the feeling of fall is in the air. Pumpkin spice is on every menu, the air is cool, the leaves are extraordinary colors, and Thanksgiving planning has begun! I don’t know about you, but Thanksgiving is one of my all-time favorite holidays. The holidays are all about enjoying and feasting on all the amazing foods the season brings.  We get so much pleasure from cooking and indulging, and so should our fur babies.  There is no reason for our pets to be left out during this time of year.  Giving your pets “human foods” can actually be extremely beneficial and provide great health benefits. However, it is important to know which “human foods” are toxic for your pets.  It is also important to know how to prepare whole food nutrition so that your pet does not end up with a belly ache.  So today, I would like to take a moment to discuss the typical autumn and Thanksgiving foods that are toxic for our pets, and which ones can provide great health benefits for your pet when prepare correctly.  A little knowledge of the Thanksgiving Day pet dangers will help keep your family pet safe. Lets gets started:


Onions, Garlic, Chives

I know…who knew?  These food items are commonly used in preparing Thanksgiving dinner. Cats are more susceptible to the toxic effects of onions, garlic, and chives; however, dogs are also at risk.  The toxicity causes a condition called hemolytic anemia, which is characterized by the bursting of red blood cells circulating through your pet’s body.  Ingestion can also cause less critical side effects such as gastrointestinal irritation.  Toxicity is normally diagnosed through history, clinical signs and microscopic evaluation of red blood cells.

Grapes and Raisins

Some fruits are more common for consumption during autumn months. Although the toxic substance within grapes and raisins is unknown, these fruits can cause kidney failure in dogs. It is best to avoid feeding grapes and raisins to dogs altogether.

Macadamia Nuts

Although not as common, many people bake cookies and desserts with macadamia nuts. Weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia are common clinical signs associated with macadamia nut ingestion in dogs. Signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and can last approximately 12 to 48 hours.


Nuts, including almonds, pecans, and walnuts, contain high amounts of oils and fats. Foods that are high in oils and fats can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and potentially pancreatitis in pets.

Milk and Dairy

Milk and cream are common ingredients in Thanksgiving foods.   Please be cautious with dairy. Despite what many people believe, pets do not digest dairy products well. Dogs and cats do not have significant amounts of lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk.  Milk and other dairy-based products cause your pet to suffer from diarrhea or other stomach upset.

Salt and Salty Snack Foods

Pretzels and potato chips are in abundance during the football season.   Large amounts of salt can produce excessive thirst and urination, or even sodium-ion poisoning in pets. Salt toxicity clinical signs include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures and even death. Please avoid giving your pets foods that are high in salts such as potato chips or pretzels.


I know, I know, this seems obvious, right?  Well you would be surprised how many times I have seen alcohol intoxication on emergency. Most cases are accidents.  Clinical signs include vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death. If your pet has ingested alcohol, see or contact your veterinarian immediately.

Chocolate, Coffee and Caffeine

Chocolate, ice-cream, and desserts are a big part of the Thanksgiving meal, especially if you have children. Chocolate contains two ingredients that are toxic in large quantities: theobromine and caffeine. Different types of chocolate contain different amounts of theobromine and caffeine; therefore, the amount and the type of chocolate your pet eats plays a role in its toxic effects.  Darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate. White chocolate has the lowest level of theobromine, while baking chocolate contains the highest.  Clinical signs of chocolate toxicity include diarrhea or vomiting from the high-fat content in the chocolate, restlessness, hyperactivity, muscle twitching, tremors, increased drinking and urination, excessive panting, irritability, increased heart rate and abnormal heart rhythm.

Raw or Undercooked Meat, Eggs and Bones

Raw meat and raw eggs can contain bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli that can be harmful to pets and humans. Pets can choke on bones, or sustain injury should the bone splinter become lodged in or puncture their digestive tract.

Yeast Dough

I have seen this emergency a few times.  When pets digest raw yeast dough, the dough can expand and rise in the GI tract, causing gas to accumulate. This can be painful and cause the stomach to bloat, and potentially twist, becoming a life-threatening emergency. In addition, the yeast produces ethanol as a bi-product and a dog ingesting raw dough may become drunk (see the section on alcohol above).

Not all Thanksgiving Day treats are bad for your pets!

Now that we discussed all the “human foods”  we should avoid during the holidays, we should discuss what we can let our pets indulge in.  Whole foods are foods based on whole ingredients, with minimal processing, preservatives and additives. These include fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products, grains, seeds, nuts and meats.


Transition with Bland Foods  

Pets who have been fed the same diet consistently over a period of time, need to transition into whole food nutrition slowly.  Start with blander foods slowly.  Do not cook food in fats such as oils or butters.  I recommend boiling boneless, skinless chicken breast in water or low sodium chicken broth when starting with meats.  High fats, too early, can lead to gastrointestinal upset and in severe cases pancreatitis. 

Do Not Cook with Intense Spices  

Avoid certain seasonings, such as onion powder, garlic powder, and pepper based spices.  Fresh herbs that are great to cook with are fresh parsley, oregano, or thyme.

Avoid Bones in Meats

Bones can be a hazard for intestinal obstruction.  When using bones with meats, ensure they are fully ground.

Avoid Foods that Are Toxic for Our Pets

Be aware of all the foods that are toxic for pets such as onions and garlic and make sure not to incorporate them into your pets’ diet. 

Pure Original Form

Try and feed your pets the pure original form of the food such as carrots or green beans.

Avoid Rice with Seasoning Packets

Feed rice and grains in their original form without seasoning. 

Ensure Home Cooked Diets are Complete and Balanced

If you elect to home cook for your pet, it is important to make sure the diet is balanced and complete.  Many pet parents do not realize that preparing a whole food nutrition diet every day for their pet can be wonderful, but there are many nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that must be included in the diet in a balanced way.  Pets can become deficient in certain nutrients if a proper home cooked diet is not complete.  If you are home cooking your pets meals, I recommend referring to the website This is a website created by a veterinary nutritionist that will ensure the meals you cook for your pet are balanced and complete.  

Side By Side Pet Food!

If whole nutrition and home cooking is your preference, I recommend Side by Side Pet Food.  Side By Side Pet Food is a whole food based diet that sources the highest quality ingredients.  The food is cooked at the lowest temperature and for the shortest amount of time so that it does not lose the inherent nutrients from the ingredients.  This is unique from traditional kibble based diets are placed through an extrusion process for four hours at very high temperatures to create the kibble.  Kibble based foods lose their inherent vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in the cooking process.  The kibble is typically sprayed with synthetic nutrients to replace the nutrients lost in the cooking process.  Side By Side Pet Food does not use any artificial additives, preservatives, colorings, or nutrients added onto the diet.  All the nutrients are derived from the inherent ingredients.  It meets all of the requirements required by AAFCO for complete and balanced recipes. AAFCO is the Association of American Feed Control Officials and is responsible for regulating the manufacturing, labeling, distribution and sale of animal feeds – resulting in safe, effective and useful feeds by promoting uniformity amongst member agencies.  Diets that have been AAFCO approved have been tested to assure they provide a healthy and balanced diet with all the proper minerals, nutrients, and vitamins needed for your pet.

Whole food nutrition that provides inherent nutrients from the ingredient, rather than from unnatural sources, is amazing for our pets with countless health benefits. Side by Side Pet Food bases all their diets on this very concept.  Whole food nutrition, in their unadulterated forms, provides the most balanced, and high quality nutrition. Side by Side Pet Food uses the entire ingredient (ie. whole ground rabbit/salmon/ duck) which would be how our pet’s anatomy was built to eat. This honors the animal harvested for this recipe, creating less environmental waste, a smaller footprint, and we get a nice yieldThey provide a natural, nutritional energy boost that hasn’t been processed with additives or preservatives.


My featured ingredient of the month is CRANBERRY.  Cranberries provide the following benefits for our pets:

  • Better antioxidant then Vitamin E;
  • Strengthens blood vessels;
  • Improves oxygen delivery;
  • Contains fiber which has many health benefits;
  • Improves bladder health by not letting bacteria adhere to bladder walls;
  • Reduces the occurrence of Struvite crystals (found in cat urine which can cause infection or obstruction);
  • Helps with bad breath; and
  • It is cooling and delish!

I hope this helps all my pet parents out there be more aware of the dangers that lurk on the Thanksgiving Day table. There is no need for your pets to feel left out. Let them indulge on Thanksgiving!  I hope this article is helpful in knowing what we can give our pets, some of the amazing health benefits from whole nutrition, and how to properly prepare the food so that our pets do not become ill.  My goal is to always keep our pets safe and healthy. As much as I love seeing them walk through my animal hospital doors, I prefer to help avoid sick trips to the veterinarian, especially during Thanksgiving when you should be spending time being grateful with your closest friends, family, and of course your pets. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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