Tips for Keeping Your Dog Safe at Thanksgiving

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Dogs are family, but they’re also vulnerable to the dangers of the holiday season.

Thanksgiving is a time for celebration and food, but if you have dogs in your home it can be difficult to keep them safe while enjoying your Thanksgiving meal.

Here are some Thanksgiving safety tips to keep your dog safe this holiday season.

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Food Dangers

There are many traditional Thanksgiving holiday foods that are dangerous for your dogs. Make sure to keep all human foods out of your dogs’ reach, especially the foods listed below.


Thanksgiving turkey on a platter surrounded by side dishes.

Turkey skin is high in fat and because of that should not be given to your dog. Too much fat can cause stomach upset in your dog, and that’s not something you want to deal with during Thanksgiving dinner.

Keep a close eye on the turkey once it is out of the oven or the roaster. I’ve heard multiple stories about dogs that have stolen a turkey that has been left on the counter to rest. 

A dog that gets a hold of a whole turkey could get sick from too much turkey, be injured by the bones (discussed more below), and also burn its mouth from the hot meat.

While you should never let your dog have a whole turkey, you can give them a small amount of cooked turkey meat as long as you didn’t season it with garlic or onions. 

Onions and garlic

Onions and garlic are bad for dogs and can be toxic if eaten in large quantities. All parts of onions and garlic are considered toxic and they remain toxic to dogs even after cooking.

Cooked turkey bones

Turkey is one of the most important parts of Thanksgiving meals, but the bones can be very bad for dogs! Turkey bones, once cooked, are very brittle and can splinter into sharp pieces causing potential punctures to your dog’s digestive tract.

Turkey brine

Turkey brine is a salty liquid that the raw turkey is put in to provide flavor and moistness to your turkey. It should not be given to dogs because the high salt content can cause your dog to become very thirsty and dehydrated if they drink much of it.

Gravy and stuffing

Gravy and stuffing are both delicious to us, but should not be given to dogs. Both of these may contain garlic or onions which are bad for dogs, as noted above.


Alcoholic beverages should be monitored at all times. Alcohol is toxic to dogs and even small amounts of it can cause them to get sick. Alcohol is also very enticing to dogs, so unattended drinks may be sampled quickly by your dog.


Chocolate is also toxic to dogs and should not be given to them. It contains caffeine and Theobromine, which are bad for dogs. Dogs need to consume a lot of chocolate in order to get sick, but it is still best to keep it out of reach just in case.

Raisins and grapes

Raisins and grapes should also be kept away from dogs, including any food, like salads or stuffing, that have these in them. Grapes and raisins are highly toxic to dogs and can lead to kidney failure if ingested.


Some nuts are safe for dogs in small quantities, but all nuts are high in fat.

Too much fat from nuts can cause stomach upset and potentially pancreatitis if given in too large of quantities. Also, some nuts can be difficult to chew and cause a blockage if swallowed without chewing.

Macadamia nuts should not be given to dogs in any quantity as they are one that is considered poisonous to dogs.

Pumpkin pie

A slice of pumpkin pie with whipped topping on it. Small pumpkins are in the background.

Pumpkin pie is not safe for dogs, but it’s not the pumpkin that is the problem. It’s the spices, specifically nutmeg. Nutmeg contains myristicin which is toxic to dogs in high quantities.

Thankfully lower quantities, like what is in pumpkin pie, are less likely to cause serious issues. But it’s still better to not risk it.


Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is found in many different kinds of candy, baked goods, and gum. It is toxic to dogs and even small amounts can lead to life-threatening hypoglycemia, seizures, and liver failure.

Give them a dog-safe treat instead

To, hopefully, help keep your dog out of the unsafe, to them, Thanksgiving dinner, try giving them a special treat of their own. Here are 25 homemade Thanksgiving dog treats you can make for your dog.

Make sure that you plan ahead so that you have the treat ready for them and don’t have to try to come up with something last minute.


The Kong is a rubber toy shaped that can be filled with your dog’s favorite treat. You can prepare it the night before and freeze it so that it will keep their interest longer.

Give it to your dog when you are about to eat to hopefully keep them distracted while you enjoy your Thanksgiving meal.

Have some dog treats on hand

It’s a good idea to have some dog treats available to give to your dog throughout the day. Either make some homemade dog-safe Thanksgiving treats or have some store-bought treats ready to go.

This way, you can give them a treat when they are behaving and encourage more good behavior from them.

Kitchen Safety

Normal kitchen safety should be observed like normal, but there are a few things you want to pay extra attention to at Thanksgiving time.

Watch the counters

A dog sniffing Thanksgiving food on a counter.

Whether you have a counter surfer or not, you will want to keep your dog away from the counter on Thanksgiving. All the different smells from the holiday food may entice even the best-behaved dog to try counter surfing when you aren’t looking.

Besides possibly ruining your meal, this could cause your dog to get sick if there is any unsafe-for-dogs food on the counter. 

Keep your dog out of the kitchen

While you may normally allow your dog in the kitchen when you cook you will want to keep them out of the kitchen on Thanksgiving. All the additional food to prepare makes it more likely you may drop something on the floor for your dog to gobble up faster than you can pick it up.

Also, with the additional food cooking, you may have more hot pans on the stove that could fall or a roaster cooking a turkey or ham that could get knocked over and potentially burn your dog.

Take the trash outside

Finally, for kitchen safety, after the meal is done make sure to take the trash bag outside. You don’t want to leave all those tempting scents, especially the turkey bones, within reach of your dog.

Put your dog in another room while everyone is eating.

If you have a dog that begs, you may want to put them in another room while everyone is eating. While you may be able to ignore those puppy dog eyes, your guests may not be able to.

This would be a good time to give them a Kong or other favorite toy. They can work at that away from the dining room table while you enjoy the meal.

Decoration Dangers

Thanksgiving decorations can have some things that are dangerous to dogs. Be sure to keep your dog away from any holiday decorations that could be harmful to them. Of particular concern are poinsettias and candles, but other decorations can be harmful as well.


A red poinsettia on a white background.

Poinsettias are very beautiful and festive for the holidays, but they’re also toxic to dogs. They can cause vomiting and diarrhea in some cases and even heart arrhythmia or cardiac failure in serious cases.


Similarly, candles could be dangerous for your dog if they are lit. They could try to chew on the flame which would burn their mouth and potentially cause serious injury. They could also knock the candle over and start a fire that could endanger you, your dogs, and your guests.

Guests and your dog

Having guests at your home brings special considerations. If you know your dog does not do well with guests you will want to keep your dog separated from the guests while they are there.

If you think your dog will be fine with your guests, here are a few things to do to set yourself up for a successful Thanksgiving dinner with your dog and guests.

Talk to guests about your dog

If you have guests who are nervous about dogs, or even if they aren’t, talk to them about your dog before everyone comes over. You want to nip any problems in the bud before the company arrives. For people that are not used to dogs, it can be a little nerve-racking when they meet for the first time.

You should also discuss your expectations of your guests in regard to your dog. It’s best to tell them upfront, before the party, that you don’t want them giving your dog table scraps. If there is anything else you don’t want your guests doing in regards to your dog, it’s best to tell them before they arrive.

Keep your pets away from guest’s bags

If you are having overnight guests or any with a purse or diaper bag, you will want to keep your dog away from their belongings when they leave them unattended.

You never know what sorts of items you could find in someone’s purse, diaper bag, or luggage. And since your dog will no doubt want to sniff anything that’s “new” it’s best to prevent them from having access to the bags.

For overnight guests, just have them shut the door to the room they are staying in. Your dog won’t be able to get to anything that is behind a closed door. This means they can’t dig around in your guests’ bags and get into stuff they shouldn’t.

For guests that aren’t staying the night have a safe space to put the bags. This could be a closet, a room with the door shut, or on a raised shelf.

Supervise kids

If any of your guests are bringing children, you need to be extra cautious. You don’t want your dog getting overexcited and knocking over small children, jumping on them, or worse biting them. 

Your dog should always be supervised when kids are around, regardless of how well they usually get along with them. And if you see that either the dog or the child is not handling it well you should remove the dog to a quiet room where the child can’t get to them.

It’s better to separate them than to risk injury because your dog is pushed past what they can handle.

In case your dog gets loose

No matter how cautious you are, there is a chance your dog will get out when you have guests coming and going from your house. If your dog is well trained they may come back in with just calling for them.

But just in case you should do the following prior to your Thanksgiving party.

Check tags

Make sure your dog’s id tag is up to date and has your current contact information on it. They should wear their id at all times while guests are in the house. That way if they get loose you will be able to get them back more quickly.

Update your dog’s microchip

If your dog has a microchip, make sure your information is up to date. This way if they do end up at the local pound or a vet clinic, they can be easily reunited with you.

Know the symptoms of poisoning

Depending on what your dog ingests, the signs of poisoning may vary, but the main signs are drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, panting or labored breathing, sluggishness, and lethargy. If you notice any of these symptoms you need to call your vet or the e-vet. They will be able to tell you if you need to make an emergency trip to the vet or if you can monitor symptoms at home.

You can also call the ASPCA animal poison control center or the pet poison helpline if you can’t get ahold of your vet. The only downside to these lines is there may be a charge for calling them.

Final thoughts

This time of year is a time for food and fun, but also a time when our furry friends might not be so happy.

By following these simple tips, you can ensure that your furry family members will be safe and happy this Thanksgiving. And who knows, with a little luck, you might even get to enjoy some turkey yourself!

From my family to yours, we hope you have a happy Thanksgiving!

An image for pinterest with a German Shepherd lyaing next to a pumpkin and fall leaves. The words 24 simple tips to keep your dog safe this thanksgiving are above the dog.

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