The Johnsons are having a small Thanksgiving dinner this year, with their son Noah, his friend Austin, and Austin’s parents, as well as the Johnson fur family, which includes their terrier mixes, Mack and Buddy, and their two fluffy house cats, Sasha and Sheba. This is the Johnson family’s cautionary tale about the importance of keeping your pets safe during the holidays.
Mack the dog: “The Great Escape”
When their guests arrive, the Johnsons are running late and distracted with meal preparations. Noah answers the front door, and Mack the dog sees his opportunity to scoot outside and run. The Johnsons and their guests scour the streets and look under bushes, calling for Mack, but with no luck. An hour later, they receive a call from the pet emergency hospital. Fortunately, Mack was not hit by a car, but brought in by a Good Samaritan, and scanned for a microchip. The Johnsons, thankful that they recently updated their microchip contact information, make a mental note to also put a new tag on Mack’s collar.
Sasha the cat: “Flowers and Felines”
On their return, the Johnsons put the dogs in the back room to avoid further problems, and then check the turkey. Their guests had brought a flower arrangement, including a few lilies, but in the hurry to find Mack, they were left on a side table. They find Sasha the cat sitting next to the flowers, drooling, and trying to vomit. They know lilies are highly toxic to cats, and can cause kidney failure, so they call the Pet Poison Hotline. Sasha needs immediate treatment, so the Johnsons trek back to the emergency hospital, where they leave her for lab work and an overnight hospital stay with intravenous fluids.
Sheba the cat: “Oils are not essential”
Frazzled, the Johnsons arrive back home, only to find Sheba, their other cat, walking unsteadily and smelling strongly of cinnamon. Sheba tipped over a new essential oil diffuser while Sasha was taken to the hospital. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Hotline informed them that cinnamon oil is one of many essential oils poisonous to cats, so the Johnsons make their third trip to the pet emergency hospital, where Sheba joins Sasha for an overnight stay.
Buddy the dog: “Decoration Dangers”
The kids are playing in the back room when the Johnsons return home, and Buddy the dog is loose in the living room, chewing on the remains of a corn cob decoration. They hope he chewed the cob well, because cobs can become an intestinal obstruction, and they don’t feel up to another pet emergency trip. The Johnsons take a good look around for other potentially dangerous decorations, put them out of paws’ reach, and return the dogs to their back room.
Mack—again—and Buddy the dogs: “Mealtime (and the Aftermath)”
The Johnsons and their guests finally settle down for the delicious feast. The turkey is moist and tasty, and the stuffing, with savory sage, garlic, onions, and raisins, is melt-in-your-mouth good. The table conversation includes all the pet problems, and the three trips to the pet emergency hospital on a holiday. Everyone breathes a collective sigh of relief, because the outcomes could have been much worse.
No one notices that Mack the dog has somehow sneaked into the dining room, and is looking up at Austin from under the table with his sweet brown eyes. Mack knows his own family won’t give him table scraps, but thinks perhaps a guest will. Unfortunately, he is rewarded with some stuffing, because Austin doesn’t like raisins.
After dinner, the Johnsons check on their dogs, and find Buddy vomiting bile and Mack vomiting stuffing. They say a hurried goodbye to their guests, apologize for a crazy Thanksgiving celebration, and head to the emergency hospital—again—with Mack and Buddy.
X-rays show Buddy has a corn cob in his stomach, and needs emergency surgery and an overnight stay. The stuffing with onions, raisins, sage, and garlic that Mack consumed contained four foods toxic to dogs, so he’ll join Buddy for an overnight stay. Mack is also at risk for pancreatitis because of the stuffing’s high fat content.
A Plan for the Future
A few days later, with all their pets recovered and safely at home, the Johnsons compile a pet-safety checklist for their next holiday:
- Clearly identify all pets with a current nametag and microchip.
- Contain all pets securely in a safe place away from the action.
- Provide pets with a distraction, such as a new toy or treat puzzle.
- Keep Thanksgiving decorations out of paws’ reach.
- Avoid dangerous decorations, such as essential oils or toxic plants.
- Instruct everyone that absolutely no table scraps or leftovers are allowed for the four-legged family members.
- Ensure the pet emergency hospital and poison control hotline numbers are handy.
Hopefully, your Thanksgiving won’t be like the Johnsons’, but don’t hesitate to contact the Helping Every Animal With Love (HEAL) team if you need more tips on keeping your pets safe during the holidays.