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Keep your pets safe this Thanksgiving. November 21, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in pets, wit and wisdom.
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Holidays like Thanksgiving, with huge feasts and memorable get-togethers, are great for people. But they can be dangerous for pets. And since our friend Ben and Silence Dogood have managed to cram practically every kind of pet on earth into our tiny cottage home, Hawk’s Haven, this is of particular concern to us. (Well, we don’t have a tarantula, but I saw a remote-controlled version in a catalog yesterday, and Silence had to physically restrain me from rushing online and spending $30 to acquire it. Fun for the whole family, not to mention unsuspecting visitors! But I digress.)

Silence pointed out two articles on pet safety over the holidays, one, “People food that you shouldn’t feed to pets,” on Yahoo, and the other, “Tips for keeping pets safe for the holidays,” in Karen Steinrock’s pet column in our local paper, the Allentown, PA Morning Call. (Check them out at www.yahoo.com and www.themorningcall.com.)

From our friend Ben’s perspective, you only really need to do one thing to keep any pet safe during your Thanksgiving celebration: If they’re loose in the house, don’t leave them unsupervised. Not for an instant. Because the minute your back is turned, you’re inviting disaster. Even if your pets normally have free run of the house, I’d strongly advise keeping them confined for the duration of your holiday get-together. And if you prefer to let, say, your dog mingle with family and friends, designate one family member to watch him or her at all times. That would be at all times. 

Why? Let’s explore some scenarios. Your parrot or other bird, who normally sits calmly on its freestanding perch and participates in all family activities, could become frightened or overly excited by all the comings and goings, or spooked by someone’s holiday outfit, and either fly the coop, literally disappearing into the frigid night and becoming owl bait when one too many people opens the front door, or launch itself onto someone whose outfit or hairstyle it finds offensive or attractive.

Or try this: Someone who doesn’t realize you have a pet iguana or house rabbit (or someone who’s had a bit too much holiday cheer and isn’t paying close attention) steps or rocks on your beloved pet, with tragic consequences. Or, in all the excitement, nobody’s watching the bunny and it chews through an electrical wire (a favorite bunny pastime for some reason). Needless to say, fried hare wasn’t on your Thanksgiving menu.

Or this: Your normally well-behaved dog or cat (er, is there such a thing as a well-behaved cat?) is a perfect lady or gentleman when that uncooked Butterball is sitting on the counter. But the second the fragrant bird comes out of the oven and is carved, and the remains are set down on the kitchen counter while everyone’s eating their Thanksgiving feast in the dining room, Caesar and Lola get down to business in the kitchen. They feel entitled to a feast, too! Before you know it, your precious pet has punctured its esophagus, stomach or intestines with a brittle turkey bone, you’re in the veterinary emergency room rather than sitting pretty in front of the game, and your poor pet is facing hugely expensive surgery and a long, painful recovery; ditto your bank account.

Keeping your pets in lockdown or closely watched will prevent these tragedies, and the long list of others. Our friend Ben knew that chicken and turkey bones were very dangerous for cats and dogs, but I was stunned to learn that turkey fat, gravy, and fatty parts like skin were also hazardous. Karen Steinrock wisely pointed out that the kitchen string many people use to bind the turkey’s legs can also be ingested by your dog (I can’t see a cat doing this) and cause a blockage (or worse) requiring surgery. Please, people, stash the leftover turkey back in the oven where pets can’t get at it until your guests are gone and you can attend to it properly! Mind you, a piece of turkey meat will doubtless make your dog’s or cat’s day. But an unsupervised dog eating his fill of turkey is a recipe for one very sick dog, even if he doesn’t eat the bones or lap the gravy. Not to mention, there go your leftovers!

I hope that most of you know that the theobromine and caffeine in chocolate that makes us feel so good can be fatal to pets; their hearts apparently just can’t take the stimulation. If you have a candy dish set out for your guests, either put it on the sideboard rather than the coffee table or pass it around, then put it out of reach. Explain that you’re not doing this to deprive your guests of chocolate, but to save your pet’s life, and invite guests to help themselves at the candy dish’s new location.

Other seemingly harmless foods that made the “danger” list: onions, garlic and sage, by themselves or in stuffing (hmmm, I guess that “feed garlic to repel fleas” thing was a bad idea); grapes and raisins; and macadamia nuts. Our friend Ben understands that onions and garlic can cause anemia in dogs (again, I can’t see a cat eating them), but I have no clue what harm sage, grapes, raisins, and macadamia nuts could possibly do. (Though admittedly, I loathe the mealy texture of macadamia nuts, which, like even mealier chestnuts, we avoid like the plague.)

Karen Steinrock offers a final safety tip that makes a ton of sense to us: secure your trash can lids. Be you never so careful about keeping your pets out of the food, if they can stick their heads in the trash can and feast to their heart’s content, you’ve ultimately done them no favors.

By this point, you may be feeling like the holidays aren’t going to be much fun for your pets. But that’s not true. Just like planning the Thanksgiving feast itself, all you need is a little foresight. Our black German shepherd, Shiloh, loves green beans, cooked potatoes, and raw eggs. All these will play roles in Silence’s Thanksgiving cooking, and Shiloh will get her share. Our parrot Plutarch loves both green beans and raw cranberries, and he’ll get plenty. The cats have an inexplicable fondness for pumpkin bread, and a perfectly explicable fondness for cheese, so they’ll get some of both. (Shiloh, too, of course.) Our parakeets and fish may not get any exotic treats, but they’ll certainly get their favorites. And everybody will get plenty of attention. Our pets will be happy, and so will we.

Please make the effort to ensure a safe and happy Thanksgiving for your pets!



1. Keep your pets safe this Thanksgiving. « Poor Richard's Almanac « Pets Answer - November 22, 2011

[…] more: Keep your pets safe this Thanksgiving. « Poor Richard's Almanac Comments […]

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