Keeping Your Pets Healthy on Thanksgiving

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development offers tips on keeping your four-legged friend’s tummy happy on Turkey Day.
Photograph by Karolina Grabowska via

THE food holiday is almost here, and you can probably already taste the turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberries, rolls, and other classic Thanksgiving dishes that will soon be adorning your family’s table — and when it comes time to cook the meal, your furry companions will start begging for their share of the treats, too.

But the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) says it’s best to keep your pets’ Thanksgiving participation to a minimum, and offer these tips on keeping your pet healthy and happy this holiday season.

1. Avoid feeding your pet table scraps  

MDARD notes that fatty foods such as turkey, turkey skin, and gravy are hard for pets to digest and can cause pancreatitis, even in small amounts. Chocolate, grapes, raisins, onions, and the artificial sweetener xylitol can also be poisonous to pets, and bones may cause injury.

2. Stash your trash

Discarded bones, bags, strings, and other packaging can be tempting for dogs or cats to get into but are a choking hazard and can cause injury. MDARD suggests keeping trash bags tightly secured and moving your garbage can behind a closed door.

3. Keep decorations out of their reach

Centerpieces, candles, lights, and other displays can cause intestinal blockages or other injuries if consumed by your pet, according to MDARD. Potpourris and some seasonal flowers and plants can also be toxic to pets if ingested.

4. Give your pets some space

If extended family or friends that your pet isn’t used come over, MDARD says it is important that you give your cats and dogs a quiet space to relax in. Too many people can cause your pet to become overwhelmed and stressed. Make sure the room has food, water, a litter pan or pee pad, and whatever else your pet needs, in case they want to be in there for long periods of time.

5. Visit the vet before you travel 

If you are planning to fly or drive a long distance with your pet, MDARD suggests talking with your vet to ensure you have the proper paperwork and meet any requirements airlines or destinations have about pets. It also gives you the chance to take any preventative measures your pet needs to be healthy, and ensure they are currently healthy enough to make the trip.

For more information, visit