Written By Amie Chapman
The holiday season is fast approaching and pets can be affected by the chaos that goes along with Thanksgiving. Between cooking, decorating, traveling, and hosting guests there are a lot of ways dogs and puppies can get themselves into trouble while their owners are preoccupied. So for this blog I thought that I would give some tips on how to keep your dog safe during Thanksgiving. This isn’t necessarily service dog related, but every dog owner can hopefully benefit from these tips.
Probably the most common reason a dog or puppy might get into trouble is because of boredom. Let’s face it, most people are running around trying to run last minute errands, clean their homes, cook, pack for travel, entertaining guests, or many other things that cause them to not have time to exercise their pup. I know for me Thanksgiving is a very hectic time. Like most people I try to spend time with my family, but I also work at an emergency veterinary clinic that is open 24/7 365 days a year and working holidays is a requirement. This makes it very difficult to make sure my dogs get what they need to keep them from getting bored. But over the last 21 years of working in emergency medicine as a veterinary technician I have seen many dogs come in for many different holiday related things.
I see dogs at my work all the time for getting into things they are not supposed to. The usual story is the owner was out for Thanksgiving dinner or other event and they get home and find something has been eaten or chewed up. It can be hard with the stress of preparing for the holidays to remember to check the house before you leave to make sure everything is out of reach of the dog. Trust me… dogs will eat pretty much anything. I have seen dogs come in for eating everything from food items, medications, shoes, leashes, toys, towels, socks, underwear, furniture and garbage. I have even seen a box of unused condoms consumed by a dog.
If I need to leave my dogs alone at home, the first thing I do is make sure I set them up to be successful. If I don’t have time to clean everything up that my dogs might get into, I close the doors to the rooms and/or block them off. At times I crate them with a fun toy or treat to keep them busy. We also make sure they get some sort of exercise before we leave if possible. If I don’t have time for a long walk or play session I have found that a good 20 minutes of “hide-and-go seek” works wonders. It is mentally simulating when they are running from room to room looking for us. It seems to be a lot of fun for them. On days that we have a lot going on we really wear our dogs out. Granted our dogs cheat. Since we have four of them, they move as a pack and it just takes one dog to find who is missing and they all win. But it is a quick and fun way to wear them out and they love it.
Another major thing I see dogs come in for (usually the day or two after Thanksgiving) is vomiting and diarrhea. Thanksgiving is known for lots of delicious food, and oftentimes people want to share it with their dogs as a special treat. The problem is if dogs are not used to eating different things it can do a number on their gastrointestinal system. So as much as it is nice to share your Thanksgiving feast with you four legged best friend, make sure it isn’t too much for their system, And if you know they have a sensitive stomach, maybe skip the treat to be on the safe side. This goes for letting any house guests know about this rule. Often times it isn’t the owners who slip the dog a tasty treat under the table, but someone who is visiting. It may be something they do with their own dog and think it is totally ok to do.
Other things we may see at my work around Thanksgiving is trauma accidents. Sometimes it is a bite wound from a fight between a dog visiting and a resident dog. Or there is the situation where the front door or outside gate is left open and the family dog slips out and gets hit by a car. It is always best to have a secure place for your dog to go when guests arrive and when guests leave. Put reminder notes up on doors and gates to remind people to close things behind them to keep the dogs safe. People who don’t have dogs are not necessarily in the habit of closing doors immediately behind them.
For more traumatic accidents, you may want to consider pet insurance for your dog. While I don’t believe it is right for every household, I do suggest every pet owner research pet insurance to decide for yourselves if it’s the proper choice for you and your pup. ( https://www.consumersadvocate.org/pet-insurance)
Thanksgiving is all about remembering what you are thankful to have in your life. I am thankful that I have four wonderful dogs in my life and I will always try to do my best to keep them safe. I am thankful for the emergency vet tech job that I have enjoyed for the last 21 years, but as I walk into work on Thanksgiving this year and the weekend after, I really hope I don’t see too many patients come in because of getting sick or injured during Thanksgiving activities.