Thanksgiving: What to Know, and How to Keep your Pets Safe

Thanksgiving: What to Know, and How to Keep your Pets Safe

The Holiday Season is upon us, and while this year will likely be far from traditional for many households due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing will likely remain the same– many of us will be sitting down around a table prepared with a traditional Thanksgiving feast. Since our pets are members of the family, we all want them to share in the festivities, and table scraps are often offered to puppy-eyed dogs and hungry cats hoping for their share of the meal. 

It is best to avoid table scraps and stick with your veterinarian recommended pet food, however, the truth is that many dogs and cats will be receiving some morsel from the thanksgiving table from well intentioned owners. So, if table scraps are bound to happen, it’s good to know which foods to completely avoid to protect your pets, and which foods you can more safely share in small amounts. 

Here is a list of tips recommended by HomeVets veterinarian Dr. Budge to keep your pet safe, and foods that should be avoided under all circumstances:

  1. Fatty foods:  Fatty foods pose the risk of pancreatitis in both dogs and cats. Pancreatitis is a painful and potentially deadly inflammation of the pancreas, caused by excessive fat intake and sudden changes in diet.
  2. Onions: Onions and anything in the onion family (such as garlic or leeks) are poisonous to dogs and cats. These vegetables cause hemolytic anemia– a condition in which the red blood cells are destroyed and make it impossible for the blood to carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. 
  3. Grapes and raisins: Grapes are toxic to both dogs and cats and can cause damage to the kidneys and can lead to kidney failure. As little as one grape or raisin has the potential to be life-threatening. 
  4. Chocolate: Perhaps the most infamous of banned dog treats, dogs cannot metabolize this food and react in a way that is comparable to an overdose of caffeine. Chocolate can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, heart arrhythmia, seizures, and possibly even death. 
  5. Artificial sweetener Xylitol: This sugar replacement may cause insulin to be released and causes blood sugar to plummet rapidly (a condition known as hypoglycemia) , and can lead to seizures, liver failure, or death.
  6. Turkey bones: It may be tempting to “give a dog a bone”, but cooked turkey bones are not safe for dogs or cats, as they splinter and can cause serious internal injury.
  7. Yeast dough: While this might be a food ingredient that many people would not consider when feeding table scraps, it can cause bloating and painful gas in pets. While it may seem unlikely that your dog or cat will be given raw dough containing yeast, it is important to be mindful when baking or leaving dough out to rise. Make sure these foods are well out of reach of eager pets, ready to take advantage of busy and distracted owners. 
  8. Alcohol: This may seem like an obvious one, but some owners will give pets alcoholic beverages, or will lap it up if they are able to get access to an unwatched mug of beer or glass of wine. It is important to know that dogs and cats cannot metabolize alcohol and it can be life threatening for your pet. 
  9. The trashcan and countertops: While many people are already aware of the importance of limiting table scraps and avoiding the most dangerous human foods, Dr. Budge often sees pets who consumed potentially hazardous foods by taking advantage of opportunities their owners overlooked. Dogs are notorious for sticking their noses into trash cans, and cats can easily access countertops with an unwatched plate of food. Make sure foods are put away out of reach of opportunistic pets, and make sure trash can lids are securely closed to protect your pets. 

So, now that the most prevalent potential Thanksgiving dinner hazards have been covered, what does Dr. Budge suggest if you are determined to allow your dog or cat to share in the Thanksgiving meal? The best option, for both dogs and cats, he says, is a small amount of lean white-meat turkey. This food is low in fat, high in protein, and is likely a food that your pet can tolerate. 

Dr. Budge stresses the importance of keeping portions small. He also recommends adding raw green beans as a treat for pets. Setting some aside while making green bean casserole will allow you to have a stash of pet-safe snacks to feed pets during the meal. While this may seem like an unlikely dog treat, many dogs will readily eat and enjoy green beans. In fact, using green beans mixed with dog food is a trick that Dr. Budge recommends for all owners who are working on getting their dog to lose weight, as the low calorie vegetable will keep dogs feeling full. 

We hope that by following these guidelines you and your furry friends will enjoy a healthy thanksgiving together– remember, prevention is the best medicine. Dr. Budge and the HomeVets team wish you and your family a happy Thanksgiving, full of love and joy! 

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