Don’t Let the Thanksgiving Meal Go to the Dogs

While food is an important part of Thanksgiving for humans, it’s also the reason for an increase in animal emergencies this time of year. Most of the Thanksgiving-related injuries and illnesses treated at DoveLewis Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Hospital are caused by food and are completely preventable. Doctors urge pet owners to be cautious and pay close attention to animals during the festivities.

“Most of the problems pets face during Thanksgiving and the holiday season can be easily prevented if pet owners are informed," said Dr. Ladan Mohammad-Zadeh, a DoveLewis critical care specialist. "The most common hazard is gastrointestinal upset caused by fatty foods, so avoid sharing what's on your Thanksgiving dinner plate, secure your garbage cans, and know which foods can pose the most serious problems for pets."

DoveLewis doctors have seen cases that run the gamut, including:

  • A dog who swallowed a turkey leg whole.
  • A cat who ate half of a chocolate cake.
  • A dog who ate raw cookie dough and the rubber baking mat.
  • A dog who got a kabob skewer stuck in his nose.
  • A cat who ate the string from a turkey.
  • A dog who ate pie and part of the glass dish that fell from the counter.

Thankfully, each of these patients were treated and recovered fully. But the hazards don’t stop there. Pets can also get disoriented, upset and stressed from house guests and a change in routine, and that anxiety can result in vomiting and gastrointestinal troubles.

Follow these tips for a pet-friendly Thanksgiving:
  • Don’t share human food with pets. It may seem cruel to withhold holiday treats, but feeding pets "people food" often results in problems ranging from mild gastrointestinal upset to severe pancreatitis and even potentially life-threatening obstructions. Also, some foods (like chocolate, grapes and onions) are toxic to animals.

    Can’t say no to those furry friend? Add a teaspoon of white turkey meat or broth to a pet’s food to safely share the Thanksgiving celebration with a furry friend.

  • Keep pets away from raw or undercooked turkey, or cooked turkey that has been sitting out. It could be infected with salmonella, a bacterial organism that may be present in the turkey’s intestinal tract. The cooking process usually destroys the organisms, making the turkey safe to eat. However, if the cooked meat sits at room temperature for too long, the salmonella organisms can return, multiply and cause contamination.
  • Do not allow a dog near turkey bones. These bones are hollow and splinter easily into sharp pieces. Splinters can lodge in a pet’s throat or intestine, or it can cause punctures to the intestinal tract and create blockages. They may stay lodged in a dog’s body for days before symptoms appear. Signs of serious problems may include loss of appetite, depression, vomiting or diarrhea. Sometimes the bone will pass by itself. Other times, surgical removal is necessary.
  • Secure garbage cans at all times, especially when they contain food scraps and bones. Otherwise, pets may opt for a dumpster dive that could have dangerous consequences.
  • Create a “safe zone” for pets dealing with house guests. Visiting friends and relatives, even of the canine variety, can upset pets. Cats may choose to hide; dogs may become fearful or aggressive (especially around other dogs in competition for food). The stress can manifest in a variety of ways, including vomiting and gastrointestinal issues. If a pet seems overwhelmed, find a quiet room or area of the house for them to relax until the new sounds, smells and activity of the holiday celebration are over.
  • Be sure pets are wearing ID tags, and update their microchip information. With house guests coming and going, it’s common for unsupervised pets to get loose. Updating a pet’s microchip is the best way to ensure that a lost pet will be returned.

Alaina Buller

Communications Specialist

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