NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Between the journeys to see your loved ones, the festive gatherings, the mouthwatering feasts, and the beautiful décor, Thanksgiving serves as an annual source of joy and stress for many families.

However, you shouldn’t let the frenzy of the season distract you from potential holiday health and safety hazards for your pets.

News 2 turned to VCA Animal Hospitals and Veterinarians.org for tips on how to avoid a tumultuous Thanksgiving when it comes to your furry friends.

Travel turmoil

If you plan on taking your furry friend along during your grand holiday adventure, there are several items you need to add to your to-do list to make sure everyone enjoys their Thanksgiving:

  • Make sure the details on your pet’s microchip — which you are strongly encouraged to provide to your pet — are up to date and their identification tag and collar clearly display your contact information.
  • Don’t forget to pack medications, vaccine cards, microchip details, calming aids, toys, food, blankets, and anything else that will help make your pet’s journey pleasant.
  • Research any travel requirements for your animal in advance:
    • Health certificates may be required in other states or countries you plan on visiting.
    • Emotional support animals need an ESA Travel Letter — which can be issued by a licensed mental health professional — in order to sit with you on various airlines.
    • Service animals must have updated licenses and clear tags or vests to signal that they’re on duty.
    • Speak with your vet about updating your pet’s vaccines before traveling or checking them into a pet-friendly hotel.
    • Do your homework with the airline if you plan on flying with a cat or dog.
  • Take the time to crate-train your cat or counter-condition your dog before taking them on their first big holiday trip.
    • Once you start traveling, you can help your pet feel less anxious by lining their carrier with a blanket or shirt that smells like home, or letting them lay on their favorite bed; speaking calmly; keeping the car cool and quiet, maybe with some soft classical music; offering them special trip toys so they learn to associate travel with fun; or asking your vet about other remedies.
  • Keep your pet secured and comfortable during transit, whether that’s with a harness, a seatbelt, or a travel carrier. You should also keep them clear of any airbags in vehicles.
  • To reduce motion sickness for a cat or a dog, withhold food from them for 12 hours, but always offer access to fresh water. An empty stomach will not only reduce nausea, but also the need for unwelcome bathroom breaks.
  • Never leave your pet alone in a vehicle, even for short periods and/or with lowered windows. Instead, bring a human travel companion who can help with the pet care, or visit some pet-friendly spots throughout your road trip.

If your animal is staying home for the holiday, don’t forget to give them an ample water supply and use a slow feeder to space out their meals. You can also help them battle their boredom with some new toys or puzzle games.

You can even buy a pet camera to monitor them if you’re taking a day trip or staying elsewhere overnight.

However, you need to make sure your pet isn’t alone for extended periods. Even if they’re an independent cat, you should still ask someone to feed and check in on them.

“Accidents can happen, and it will be better for your peace of mind to know your animal is being taken care of by a trustworthy and professional pet sitter,” Veterinarians.org said. “They can walk your pet and provide company for animals with separation anxiety.”

Social anxiety

Will you be hosting a Thanksgiving bash this year? If so, don’t forget to consider your furry friend’s feelings, especially if they’re going to be in a crowded room, if they’re not used to noisy environments, or if there will be young guests who don’t know how to treat pets.

Since pet owners are responsible for protecting their animals from overstimulating and intimidating scenarios, here is some advice for helping a socially anxious pet: 

  • Take a break from the party preparations to spend some quality time with your furry friend. For instance, taking your dog for a walk or playing with your pet will wear them out before your guests arrive.
  • Provide a calm, quiet space for your pet to escape during the party, such as your bedroom or bathroom, with access to food and water, as well as their favorite toy to distract them. Also, if you plan on closing your pet in the space for the duration of your Thanksgiving dinner, don’t forget to give them a litter box or pee pad so you can avoid any carpet stains.
  • When facing overwhelming situations, distressed pets may run away or hide, so you should secure any exits and watch out for possible escape routes. After all, it’s better to play it safe rather than spend your Thanksgiving searching for a lost animal. 
  • Use calming aids to help your pet relax, such as a calm vest, rescue remedy, pheromone spray or collars, or whatever your veterinarian suggests. 
  • If you pet is regularly triggered and anxious by various situations, ask your vet for anti-anxiety medication if your pet is regularly triggered and anxious by various situations. 
  • Prepare your pet for social events when they’re young through socialization training, regular visits to parks or doggy daycares, and exposure to people in a number of settings.

Food safety

We spend the whole year looking forward to delicious Thanksgiving dishes, whether it’s turkey with all the fixings, cranberry sauce, or pumpkin pie. However, humans’ holiday feasts also cause the majority of Thanksgiving-related emergencies for pets.

Dangerous Thanksgiving meals usually come in three flavors for animals: obstructive, fatty, or toxic. Common holiday food items that can harm your furry friends are listed below:

  • Raw bread dough containing yeast poses two problems when a pet digests it. First, the dough will expand in the belly, which can cause bowel obstruction or a bloated/distended stomach, leading to gastric dilatation volvulus. On top of that, the yeast and sugar in the raw dough will ferment in the stomach, producing alcohol that is quickly absorbed into your pet’s bloodstream, which is life-threatening for cats and dogs.
  • Fatty foods — such as turkey skin, dark turkey meat, butter, meat drippings, and gravy — are hard for pets to digest and can cause gastrointestinal issues, like diarrhea and vomiting. In addition, such food can lead to pancreatitis, a condition in which a pet’s pancreas becomes swollen and inflamed and may require hospitalization.
  • Pieces of turkey carcasses, bones, corncobs, or twine from trussing the turkey can get stuck in a pet’s digestive tract, cause gastrointestinal tears or more severe injuries, and potentially require surgical removal.
  • Ham and other sodium-rich meats can increase your pet’s blood pressure.
  • Allium vegetables, including garlic, onions, chives, and leeks, are commonly used in holiday dishes like stuffing, mashed potatoes, and green bean casserole, but they are toxic for cats and dogs.
    • Continuous or high doses of allium vegetables over time can lead to oxidative damage to the red blood cells, gastrointestinal distress, and anemia.
  • Not only should you keep any desserts off low counters and coffee tables, but you should restrict access to spices when you’re baking and store them immediately after use.
    • All forms of chocolate, especially dark chocolate, are toxic for pets because they contain theobromine and caffeine stimulants that cats and dogs cannot metabolize. The symptoms of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, changes in heart rate and rhythm, tremors, and seizures.
    • Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in many sugar-free candies and baked goods, such as gum and peanut butter desserts. It can cause an animal’s blood sugar to drop to dangerously low levels, leading to seizures and even liver damage.
    • The high sugar content and spice mix in pumpkin pie can upset your pet’s gastrointestinal system.
    • Nutmeg is toxic for pets, with high doses able to cause hallucinations, confusion, raised heart rate, high blood pressure, dry mouth, abdominal pain, and possibly seizures.
  • Grapes and raisins may be healthy for humans, but they’re poisonous for pets. In fact, raisins can even lead to failure for animals.
  • Not only can many nuts pose a choking hazard for small animals, but they have no nutritional value for a pet’s digestive system.
    • “Avoid giving your pets nuts like almonds, hickory nuts, walnuts, pistachios, macadamia nuts, or cashews, and you’ll also avoid gastrointestinal problems, possible kidney failure, and even neurological symptoms,” Veterinarians.org advised.

The following symptoms serve as the main indicators for a stressed digestive tract:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive drooling
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bleeding or bloody stools
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Shock
  • Dehydration

If your pet displays some of the symptoms listed above, or if you suspect they ate something toxic, don’t panic. Instead, try to figure out what they ate.

After that, contact your veterinarian, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435, or the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 so they can be treated as soon as possible.

If your pet stops breathing or no longer has a heartbeat, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) can save their life through chest compressions and artificial respirations.

Many people don’t want to spend their holiday worrying about accidentally poisoning a pet, but taking a few simple precautions will keep any eager animal stomachs out of harm’s way:

  • Move all food and drink items out of reach, making sure there aren’t any chairs or other furniture nearby that pets can use to jump up to higher surfaces.
  • Block off the kitchen when you’re not around to supervise. 
    “This is especially a good idea if your pet is a Houdini at finding ways to get at supposedly unreachable food,” VCA Animal Hospitals said.
  • Protect your pet from trash bin hazards by discarding plate scrapings properly. Also, secure any garbage cans to prevent your animal from knocking them over or knocking their lids off.
  • Remind your guests — especially children — not to give your pet any food. Instead, make sure you have some fun, pet-friendly treats available.

However, not every holiday dish is dangerous for pets. For example, you can share the following foods with your furry friend during while you’re preparing your Thanksgiving feast:

  • Boneless, lean cuts of turkey meat, beef, or chicken (low in sodium)
  • Plain, cooked vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, pumpkins, green beans, broccoli, carrots, celery, corn, and store-bought mushrooms
  • Peanut butter, but it must be free of salt, sugar, and artificial sweeteners

Dangerous decorations

While Thanksgiving decorations may look lovely on your dining table or your mantel, they could also be hazardous to your furry friend during the holidays.

For example, floral arrangements may feature flowers or plants that are poisonous to pets.

“Each plant can pose a different danger for different species,” VCA Animal Hospitals explained. “Some lilies may range from non-toxic to dangerous for dogs, most varieties can be deadly for cats — even the vase water and pollen can result in severe, acute kidney failure.”

For instance, the following plants are popular in the fall, but if your pet eats or even nibbles on them, it can lead to vomiting, hyper-salivation, diarrhea, incoordination, and dermatitis:

  • Amaryllis
  • Autumn crocus
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Acorns from oak trees
  • Sweet William
  • Lilies
  • Poinsettias
  • Schlumbergera (Christmas cactuses)

If you believe your pet has eaten a toxic plant, you should call your veterinarian, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435, or the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 right away.

Instead of fretting over which items need to be kept out of animals’ paws and jaws, opt for faux foliage or pet-safe fall plants — which you can grow in your garden — as your holiday home décor.

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Here are some other tips for pet-proofing your home against potential decoration disasters:

  • Keep candles out of your pet’s reach because if they knock those candles over, it can lead to a fire. Play it safe by choosing battery-operated candles can prevent this.
  • Even though cooked pumpkin is safe for animal consumption, eating too much pumpkin or a rotten pumpkin can lead to an upset stomach for your pet.
  • Move small decorations or anything with small parts that can pose a choking hazard, especially if your pet is teething or likes to gnaw on items when they’re stressed.
  • Since Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the winter holiday season, not only should you be aware of tree and light decorations, but you should use pine needles, pinecones, lights, and glass ornaments with caution.
    If your pet is the curious kind, supervise them while they explore and remove anything that seems to raise their interest.