Family with their dog sitting down at the Thanksgiving dinner table.

Thanksgiving Do’s and Dont’s for Pet Parents

Keeping your Furry Family Members Safe and Happy

Make this the best holiday yet by keeping your pet safe, happy, and included.

Thanksgiving Day comes with a feast that a lot of us look forward to all year long–but for vets, it is another holiday where they continuously receive a sudden uptick in pet admissions. From accidents to food to stress-related issues, the holidays can be a really challenging time of year for pets. Pawrents wonder: is Halloween stressful for dogs? Is Thanksgiving or Christmas safe for my pets? If you know what to do and what to avoid, you can make sure that your dog enjoys Thanksgiving just as much as the rest of the family. Here’s what you need to know about dogs on Thanksgiving.

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Thanksgiving With Dogs: Do’s

Diverse family at home, hanging out in the kitchen cooking their Thanksgiving dinner.
Gathered together to give thanks 🍂🦃🍁

There are a lot of things that you can do as a pet parent to make sure that your pet is comfortable this holiday season. As much as we love the holidays, pets don’t always get the same experience–but as pet parents, we can change that. With the right moves, you can help your pup to feel supported, so they enjoy the holiday with everyone else.

Do: Find Fun Ways to Celebrate Thanksgiving with Your Dog

Helping your pup to have a great Thanksgiving is a lot easier with a little bit of planning. Before you just rush right in and see what happens, consider taking some time to ask yourself how you can celebrate the holiday with your dog–especially if you have a dog that might not be too thrilled about the holiday and any guests.

Celebrate Thanksgiving with These Fun Approaches:

  • Make a Paw Turkey–for years, humans have been using their hands to make misshapen and lumpy turkeys, so why not make one with your dog’s paw too? It won’t look any less like a turkey, and it is a ton of fun.
  • Share a Holiday Meal with Your Pet–most people love Thanksgiving for the food, and you can absolutely bring your pet in on the feast with the right snacks. They’ll start looking forward to it every year.
  • Dress Up Like Turkeys–dogs that love costumes will be all too happy to dress up like a turkey with you. This is a great way to share a memorable and hilarious moment with your pet.

Do: Find Safe Thanksgiving Foods to Share with Your Dog

Eating a huge Thanksgiving feast and filling the house with delicious smells is one surefire way to get your pet’s attention. It only makes sense for you to include them in the celebration with a delicious Thanksgiving meal of their own. Of course, you will want to know what foods you can safely share with your dog–and these ones come with a vet stamp of approval.

Safe Thanksgiving Foods Include:

  • Turkey Meat (meat only, unseasoned)
  • Pumpkin (pure pumpkin only, no pumpkin pie filling)
  • Carrots (unseasoned, no butter)
  • Green Beans (unseasoned, no butter)
  • Potatoes (unseasoned, no butter)

Do: Know Foods to Avoid Giving to Your Dog on Thanksgiving

It is true that dogs can join in on a good Thanksgiving meal, but that doesn’t mean that everything on your table is going to be safe for them. Before you share a plate with your favorite dog, it is very important to know what to avoid. Some Thanksgiving foods can give your dog an upset tummy–and others can land them in the doggy emergency room.

Thanksgiving Foods to Avoid:

  • Bones
  • Turkey Skin
  • Ham
  • Buns or Rolls
  • Raisins
  • Whipped Cream
  • Onions
  • Gravy
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Chocolate or Sugary Foods
  • Complex Meals (stuffing, mashed potatoes, pasta salads, fruit salads, etc.)

Do: Allow Them to Join in the Holiday

As a pet owner, you might love having your dog by your side–but do dogs really have a place at Thanksgiving? Absolutely! If you are holding a Thanksgiving celebration at your home and believe that your pup will be a happy little camper along for the ride, you should absolutely allow them to join in the celebration–even if it is only in small doses. Finding good ways to engage your dog on this holiday can help them to feel like they are celebrating too.

Do: Continuously Check on Their Comfort

When our dogs are happy, we tend to kind of check a box that says oh, this is a good situation for my dog–but it is important to remember that, just like humans, our dogs can change how they feel about a situation. Dogs can get overstimulated, frustrated, bored, and stressed, just like we humans can. For this reason, one of the best things that you can do as a dog parent is continuously check in with our pets throughout the holiday.

Has your dog ever seemed totally fine and then just sort of freaked out suddenly? This is something that can happen when our pets are feeling on edge or overstimulated–even if they were previously enjoying themselves. We see this often with older dogs and their tolerance for puppies. They might play with the puppy for a while, but eventually, the older dog will be done with playing and get frustrated when the puppy isn’t. Keep an eye on your pet to make sure they are staying comfortable and happy.

Do: Consider Varying Temperatures

Any time that we celebrate a fall or winter holiday, it is always important to consider the temperatures involved. After a long day of cooking a Thanksgiving feast, chances are that your home will be warm. When people start piling into your home, there is a good chance that it will get even warmer too. Keep all of this in mind when you have dogs with thick coats or when you have your dog in cute outfits. What is uncomfortable for you might cause your dog to overheat.

Of course, heat isn’t the only concern during the holidays. Since fall and winter are generally cold, it is important to keep that in mind when placing dogs outside. Many pet parents default by letting their dogs out into the yard if they start getting too excited–but it is important to make sure that you don’t leave your pet out in the cold for extended periods of time.

Do: Give Them a Safe Space to Relax

Whether your dog is stressed out about all the guests or just needs a quiet break for a little while, having a safe place for them to relax is helpful. Your dog needs a comfortable place to find their peace and recover. Ideally, this place will be away from all the commotion, secure, and offer a comfortable place for your furbaby to rest. Once you find the right spot, remember to include other important features like water, maybe a little food, and some of your dog’s favorite toys.

Thanksgiving with Dogs: Dont’s

Family at home celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday.
Share in the warmth of family, love and togetherness

We can do plenty of things that make Thanksgiving better for our dogs, but not all decisions are good ones. There are also quite a few actions that you will want to avoid this holiday season to ensure that your pup stays safe, healthy, and happy.

Don’t: Let Your Dog Beg

Begging is one habit that can be a little cute if it is your dog, but it can be stressful and even annoying if it isn’t. In general, most vets advise against openly allowing dogs to beg for food and indulging that behavior by giving them food at the table when they beg for it. However, begging becomes a much bigger problem when you are the host with the dog that is downright bullying your guests for food. The best thing you can do is curb this kind of behavior through training prior to the holidays, but if you have a pet that insists on begging, it might be best to put them in a safe place while everyone else eats.

Don’t: Leave Your Dog Unsupervised with Children or Pets

Accidents happen on Thanksgiving every year, and a good number of them involve pets. Bringing the whole family together is fun, but little kids can be a very real threat to your dog–and your dog might even be a threat to them. Even if your dog loves kiddos, it is important to avoid ever leaving your pup alone with children unsupervised. Your dog could get hurt and so could the child. This is also true for pets that come over with family and friends. They can be playing one second and fighting the next, so keep an eye on them.

Don’t: Overwhelm Them with New Smells and Guests

Some dogs simply do not share our love for having a house full of people and food–and during the holidays, it really shows. If you have the kind of pooch that is easily upset by being around a lot of noise or a bunch of people, it is important to create that safe space with them.

During the holidays, it is common to have relatives and friends ask to see your dog–let’s face it, they’re adorable. Unfortunately, our pets don’t always want to see people, and we shouldn’t make them. As a pet parent, you need to advocate for your pet and their comfort. Someone getting to pet your dog is not worth making your dog experience stress or panic.

Don’t: Leave Your Dog Unattended While Trying New Foods

Yes, you can absolutely give your dog their first Thanksgiving meal this year, but it is important to remember your pet parent etiquette. Most dogs get really excited about the opportunity to eat new, delicious foods. When dogs get excited, they can eat way too fast–which puts their stomachs at risk and adds the risk of choking. To avoid this, make sure to watch them while they gobble up their feast and chop their food into small parts. It’s adorable to watch too.

Don’t: Lock Your Dog Away

Some pet parents decide to lock their dogs away without even giving them a chance, and this isn’t always a good approach. While some dog parents know that their dogs will not be happy or might even be territorial around strangers, don’t just default to locking them away if they are just curious. It can be helpful to let your dog meet the guests and explore a little bit, so they don’t end up locked away hearing a bunch of unnerving sounds.

Don’t: Get Upset with Your Pet

Even though the holidays can bring cheer, they are also a time when tensions tend to run high. When it comes to your pets, it is important to keep that temper on a leash. It is true that some pets can have upsetting behavior, like barking, growling, or even destructive behaviors. This can be stressful to manage when you are making a Thanksgiving meal and juggling relatives, but always do your best to be patient and loving with your dog. Their actions just tell you they are stressed, nervous, and scared.

Don’t: Bring Your Pet to Thanksgiving at Their Expense

Some pets love traveling to new places and being around a lot of people, but not every pup does. Before you decide to drive your pet to another state to spend the holiday with family, ask yourself if it is really the best decision. It can be lovely to have them by your side, but with some pets, it really is less stressful for everyone if they spend time at a local doggy hotel instead.

The Takeaway

Diverse family sitting on the porch at home with their dog celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday.
Giving thanks for all the love, joy, and blessings that bring families together.

Pets are family, and that means that they have earned their place at the Thanksgiving table–more or less. This Thanksgiving, take time to ask yourself what you can do to help bring your pet into the holiday in a way that suits their needs and comfort levels. For some families, it might mean that Fido eats Thanksgiving dinner next to everyone else. For others, it might mean a little playtime before your pup heads over to their quiet Thanksgiving retreat with a favorite toy and their favorite tv show. If you keep your dog safe, happy, and included in the process, you can have a wonderful holiday together.

Until next time, thank you for reading!

About the author: Gabrielle is the loving pawrent to adorable pups Willow and Dilla. Growing up surrounded by dogs, she always dreamt of having her own. Willow and Dilla came into her life and changed everything. Now, she's crazy about pampered pooches, and her perfect day involves dancing with her husband, dressing up her furbabies, and cuddling them to sleep. For Gabrielle, life is all about spreading love and joy with her adorable canine companions by her side.