Over the Thanksgiving table, we come together with family and friends to share good food, hearty laughs and count the blessings in our lives. It’s only natural to want to include our furry, four-legged family members in the joy.

But did you know that hidden dangers lurk in your holiday kitchen? The experts at Newtown Veterinary Specialists have compiled a list of tips to help keep pets safe while sharing the bounty of Thanksgiving.

1.  Don’t break your pets’ diets if they eat special foods for medical conditions. If you aren’t certain if it’s safe for a particular pet to have treats, consult your family veterinarian first.

2. All things in moderation! Don’t go overboard with Thanksgiving meal treats. For a small dog, one piece of pumpkin pie may have an entire day’s worth of calories. For a small cat, one ounce of cheese is nearly the equivalent of a person eating two Big Macs!

3. Make sure any food you offer your pet is room temperature. Your eager pup isn’t going to wait for that juicy bite of turkey to cool before wolfing it down. Hot foods can cause oral or esophageal burns.

4. Break foods into bite-sized pieces to avoid choking hazards. Fully cooked vegetables are softer and safer for your pet to swallow than raw veggies.

5. Don’t feed your pets foods on toothpicks or skewers! Never assume your pet will nibble the food off and leave the toothpick or skewer behind.

6. Pets can’t enjoy all the foods we can. Here are some common Thanksgiving foods that are generally safe for pets:

–Green beans

–Sweet potato (avoid sugary preparations)


–Turkey breast (boneless, skinless)

–Carrots and peas


7. Avoid dangerous foods:

–See our Halloween dangers post on why you shouldn’t feed raisins, xylitol or chocolate!

–Fatty foods such as butter, bacon, greasy meats, cream and other full-fat dairy products can be hazardous to pets in a variety of ways. Fatty foods may cause pancreatitis (painful and often serious inflammation of the pancreas), gastroenteritis (general upset and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract), elevated blood triglyceride levels and obesity.

–Raw meats, especially poultry, can be dangerous for pets and humans alike.  A high percentage of raw poultry processed in the U.S. is contaminated with bacteria such as Campylobacter, Listeria or Salmonella, all of which can cause severe gastroenteritis (serious disturbance of the gastrointestinal tract).  Additionally, certain highly pathogenic strains of E. coli have the potential to cause kidney failure.

–Ingestion of macadamia nuts can cause vomiting, ataxia (staggering gait), depression, tremors and elevated body temperature (hyperthermia).

–You may have noticed that some pet foods will contain traces of garlic powder. Small quantities may be safe to feed, but large quantities may cause Heinz Body Anemia, a condition that causes damage to red blood cells.  It’s best to avoid feeding any amount of garlic or onions.

–Cooked bones may splinter and shatter when chewed and can perforate the esophagus, stomach or intestines. Cooked bones are more difficult to digest than raw bones. But pets can crack teeth on raw bones. And raw bones can also damage the GI tract. It’s best to avoid feeding any bones.

–Avoid heavily seasoned, spicy or salty foods. Excess salt can interact with certain medications (such as potassium bromide, an anti-seizure medication) and it’s not good for pets with certain medical conditions, such as heart disease, for example. Heavy spices can cause an upset stomach.

–Raw bread dough is dangerous for two reasons: One, when your pet ingests raw dough, it continues to expand and can result in gastric distension.  In severe cases, this can affect breathing and the blood supply returning to the heart. Also, raw bread dough contains live yeasts. When ingested, the yeasts continue to multiply in the warm environment of the stomach. Natural alcohols produced by the yeast can cause alcohol intoxication, which can result in central nervous system depression, metabolic acidosis and even death.

By avoiding these dangers and following our tips for healthier eating, you and your pet should be able to enjoy the festive day to its fullest. The dedicated staff at Newtown Veterinary Specialists wishes you, your family and furry friends a hearty, happy Thanksgiving holiday!