Thanksgiving is a great holiday for families to come together, put aside their drama, and enjoy delicious food. Whether you are hosting the Thanksgiving get-together or will be attending it elsewhere, you probably want to include your furry family member(s) in the festivities as well. With all of the traveling, people, and food around, it could potentially be a chaotic environment that may stress out your pet(s). To ensure that no accidents or mishaps occur due to the hectic nature of the holiday, just follow these simple guidelines:
- Travel Safely – Thanksgiving is already a very stressful time to travel, whether you are flying into a packed airport, taking a long bus/train ride, or dealing with awful traffic in your own car. If you are taking a plane, train, or bus – make sure that you have chosen a company that allows pets, and that you have the proper pet carrier that they require. Although more travel companies are allowing pets than ever before, most of them only allow small to medium-sized dogs on board if they are in a travel crate. Although you may miss them terribly for the days you’re gone, perhaps it’s better if you hire a pet-sitter to care for your beloved while you are gone. If you are driving your own car to the Thanksgiving gathering, try to plan your trip using highways and/or straight roads, with minimal stops and turns that will help prevent carsick dogs. Keep the car temperature cool, and open the windows to make sure fresh air is circulated. Dogs should be confined with doggie seatbelts or crates, and cats, ferrets and house bunnies should all be in crates. Pets that get anxious in the car may benefit from natural remedies for anxiety such as Travel Anxiety Drops for dogs and cats.
- Prepare Your Pet – Be sure to pack everything you need for your pet, including its food, medication, treats, chews, and even water from home. A few familiar toys and a crate or gate for confinement in the home you’re visiting are good ideas as well. Talk to the person who will be hosting you and make sure that your pet is not only welcome, but that there is a quiet area for them to hang out while everyone is eating. It may be a good idea to give your pet a bath or have it groomed before you take it anywhere, especially if their nails are getting a bit long! If you are hosting the Thanksgiving function, then you are obviously free to let your pet go wherever it wants, but be aware that it may be a bit “on edge” due to all of the people coming over. Some pets become excited for all of the attention, but others can get stressed out and paranoid because of the unusual amount of people. Especially if your dog barks every time someone rings the doorbell or knocks, then you may just want to simply put a sign on the door that says, “Please let yourself in!” If your dog (or cat) gets too excited and jumps on the guests, then perhaps you may want to sequester them into the backyard or their own room until everyone is all settled. If your pet has a problem with slipping out of the door when you aren’t looking (cats love to do this), you should keep them somewhere safe just in case!
- Prepare Your Guests – Even if you stay home and celebrate Thanksgiving in your own home, there are precautions to take if you have guests coming over. Remember that not all people enjoy having pets around, and not all people are on high-alert for possible pet-related accidents! Be sure to tell everyone any quirks or behaviors your pet has; for instance, if they enjoy chewing shoes, tell everyone to put their shoes in a designated area where they will be safe from destruction. If your pet enjoys begging at the table but you don’t want them to be rewarded for it, tell everyone not to give any table scraps to them during dinner. If your pet enjoys bolting out of the house whenever someone opens the door, make it very clear to everyone which doors to leave closed at all times, and which doors to be extra careful about opening. Especially if you have anyone over who is a smoker, they will be going in and out a bunch of times which could give your pet(s) several opportunities to become a runaway. Also make sure that no one leaves out any medication or small items that could cause your pet to choke or become poisoned. Last but not least, try to keep loud noises minimal, and let your guests know your pets’ fears and traumas so they don’t accidentally trigger them and cause a panic episode.
- Ensure Food Safety – Thanksgiving is synonymous with food of course, but you don’t have to feel bad that your pet is missing out on the feast. Your pet truly does not need to sample Aunt Margaret’s sweet potato and marshmallow pie. Your pet will do best if you stick to his or her regular diet, with a few small pieces of turkey breast or other pet-safe food as a special treat. While your family may be trained not to feed your dog or cat from the table, your company may not be so well trained, so let them know not to give your pet food unless they ask for permission first! Confine your pets away from the dinner table if possible, and tell your guests not to leave any food laying around where your pets can reach them. Remember that turkey bones are NOT safe for dogs to chew on because they can splinter easily and cause choking; but ham bones are fine and dandy. After dinner it’s common for everyone to retreat to the living room and watch football, talk, or nap. Be sure all leftovers are carefully cleaned up and put away before you leave the kitchen area. More than one clever dog has ended up at the veterinary emergency clinic with a partial turkey carcass in his stomach!
- In Case of a Slip-Up – Don’t panic; your guests are not as hyper-vigilant about pet safety as you are, especially the children. Whether your toddler nephew decides to start riding your dog like a horse, or your baby niece thinks it’s funny to grab your cat’s tail, you need to expect the unexpected. Your guests (again, the children) may not listen to your “don’t feed the pets” rule; so assuming your pets will probably get some extra treats, you may want to ask your veterinarian ahead of time for a prescription to have on hand for stomach upsets. Many nonprescription products like K-Pectin anti-diarrheal will also handle minor upsets. If your pet gets into some of the food she should not have, call your veterinarian for advice. He may simply recommend cutting back on your pet’s normal food for a day and giving one of the mild remedies. Hopefully you won’t spend Thanksgiving evening at the veterinary clinic with an overstuffed pet. But, if your pet is behaving erratically and/or becoming lethargic and vomiting, you may want to find them medical attention just in case. If one of your family members absent-mindedly leaves the door open and your pet escapes, don’t freak out! You have plenty of people around that will gladly help you search for your runaway pet, so hopefully they didn’t get very far.
The day after Thanksgiving be sure to give your pets plenty of exercise to burn off any extra calories from treats they managed to sneak! Also let them relax and calm down from the craziness and embrace their usual routine again. Our furry family members are very comfortable with their set ways, and holiday celebrations really throw them off. You have plenty of time until Christmas, so make sure you reflect on what worked and what didn’t, so you can iron out any kinks in your preparation for the next family gathering!