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Roasted whole turkey on a table with apple, pumpkin and figs for family Thanksgiving Holiday.

This Thanksgiving holiday, many people will be gathering for smaller and safer celebrations amidst the pandemic. At these more intimate celebrations, pet owners may find that their animal receives more attention or is allowed more access to the feast than in years past.

Dr. Dalton Hindmarsh, a resident in emergency and critical care at the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH), says to prevent any pet-related issues commonly associated with holiday celebrations, owners should set clear guidelines from the beginning on how the pet should be treated by dinner guests, regardless of your gathering’s size or guest list.

“Owners should really avoid feeding their pet any Thanksgiving foods, as the sudden change in diet could cause GI upset (vomiting and/or diarrhea) and lead to pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas),” Hindmarsh said. “Foods that contain chocolate, artificial sweeteners (xylitol), large amounts of garlic or onions, grapes or raisins, certain nuts such as macadamia nuts, and bread dough can all lead to toxicity.”

If a pet does manage to chow down on the humans' feast, Hindmarsh recommends that owners call either their nearest emergency facility or a pet poison control center such as ASPCA Poison Control.

This doesn’t mean your pet can't indulge during the holidays; small treats may be given, provided they are safe. These can include store-bought treats marketed for pets or small amounts of vegetables, such as carrots or green beans. Cooked potatoes also can be a tasty low-calorie treat for pets, so long as they aren’t covered in toppings like butter, sour cream, or marshmallows, according to Hindmarsh.

Owners can also give thanks to their pet by spending extra quality time with them during Thanksgiving and the holiday week. This can be a relaxing activity for both pet and owner.

“The holidays can be very stressful times for pets, and it is important to spend a few minutes with your pet doing something they enjoy, like going for a walk or playing fetch,” Hindmarsh said.

Because pets, like their human owners, may get worked up in the holiday commotion, owners should keep an eye on their animal to determine what environment is best for them.

“Every pet is a little different; for some it may be more stressful to separate them from the party, while others may need a space where they can retreat to if they become overwhelmed with the holiday festivities,” Hindmarsh said.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be found on the Pet Talk website. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

By Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Staff