Delicious food, great company, and beautiful fall foliage come to mind when most people think of Thanksgiving. But it’s important to keep in mind that when we have pets, it isn’t all about fun and food – there are a lot of potential dangers that come along with the holidays.
Before we get into the potential dangers that come along with having tons of delicious-smelling, tempting food in the house, it is important to think about your pet’s stress level through the holidays – which I’m sure a lot of us can relate to as well! Many of our pets are not used to having a lot of people at the house, and the noise and activity level that holiday guests bring can really upset our pets’ routines. It is important to do your best to keep your routines consistent – make sure your dog gets his normal walks and exercise during the holidays, and make sure your cat still has her quiet place to go and hide if she needs a place to be alone and feel safe. Increased stress does more than just make your pet feel anxious; stress can have significant effects on your pet’s metabolism and affect his or her physical health as well. Stressed cats can be more prone to developing urinary tract inflammation or upper respiratory infections, and stressed dogs are prone to colitis, which causes an upset stomach and diarrhea.
It is equally important, if not more so, to keep a close eye on what your pet ingests during the holidays. We may think we are doing our dog a favor by giving her the turkey skin, leftover creamy mashed potatoes, and whatever else we couldn’t finish off of our own plates, but we run the risk of causing some serious problems if we aren’t careful. High fat meals, especially in a dog that is used to eating a controlled diet of dog food for most of the year, have the potential to cause severe pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is an organ in the abdomen that is responsible for producing a number of enzymes important in digestion, and pancreatitis can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and in severe cases failure of surrounding organs and death. So if you want to be able to treat your pets with tasty food the same way we treat ourselves on Thanksgiving, stick to small amounts of cooked, low-fat turkey meat and maybe some potatoes (if yours aren’t loaded with fat and dairy products), and only if your dog has no food allergies or other dietary restrictions.
Here are some specific foods that tend to be in abundance on Thanksgiving but should never be fed to your pets:
Onions – Whether they’re in your favorite stuffing recipe or a side dish on their own, onions (and even onion powder used as a seasoning) can be very toxic to dogs and cats. Some of the chemical components of onions cause damage to dog and cat red blood cells, potentially resulting in severe, life-threatening anemia.
Bones – Bones from your Thanksgiving turkey are a great starter for the turkey soup you’re going to make with your leftovers, but should never be given to your dog to chew on. Bones are hard enough to potentially lead to broken teeth, which result in pain for your pet and a risk of infection in the mouth. In addition to that, bones have the potential to get stuck in the intestines causing an obstruction, or even to puncture through the intestines causing life-threatening infection in the abdomen.
Raw meat – Salmonella that is often found on raw poultry poses a health risk to our dogs and cats the same way it does for us. If you want to treat your pet with a small amount of lean turkey meat on Thanksgiving, make sure that it is fully cooked (and boneless!).
Chocolate – Most of us are aware that chocolate is toxic to dogs and cats; depending on how much is ingested, toxic effects can range from gastrointestinal upset, to cardiac arrhythmias, to neurologic signs such as seizures, and even death.
If you have any questions about what is safe for your pet to eat, or think that your pet might have eaten something he or she shouldn’t have, please do not hesitate to call our office. If you’re especially worried about your pet’s anxiety level as the holidays approach, call and ask to set up a consultation with Dr. Laxen’s behavior service to formulate a plan for keeping your pet safe and calm through this sometimes stressful season.