By Laura Fournlotis
BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital
Thanksgiving is a time to pause, reflect, and show thanks to friends, family, and companions, which includes our beloved pets. While we enjoy quality time (and food) with friends and family this holiday, it is important to keep a few things in mind—specifically, the hidden pet dangers that lurk on our dining room tables and plates.
Each year, BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital clinicians see a significant uptick in cases during the November and December months. The most common problems include an increase in animals struck by vehicles, gastrointestinal irritations with vomiting and diarrhea, and pancreatitis from eating fatty human foods. Lindsey E. Bullen, DVM, DACVN, Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist, BluePearl Pet Hospital in Cary, N.C., says that while some pets can handle certain human treats and foods, not all can.
“Although tempting, cats and dogs with food specific allergies or dietary hypersensitivities should always stay on their prescribed food and not get anything else,” explained Dr. Bullen. “Additionally, pets with any chronic disease such as diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, or pancreatitis, should not receive any human foods without first discussing with your pet’s veterinarian. And this should be discussed on a case-by-case basis.”
When it comes to a pet’s Thanksgiving Day menu, Dr. Bullen says there are a few things to consider like calories associated with human foods. According to Dr. Bullen, small volumes of foods can be deceptive, as mass does not always equate to calorie content. Take for instance, peanut butter and mashed potatoes. While one tablespoon of delicious nutty goodness contains approximately 95 calories, one tablespoon of mashed potatoes contains approximately 17 calories—big difference.
Here are expert tips to help keep pets safe this Thanksgiving:
Stick to simple, unprocessed foods. Many pre-prepared Thanksgiving dishes include garlic and onion, which can be harmful for pets. If you feed your pet human foods, avoid preprocessed foods and review all ingredients carefully to ensure nothing obviously dangerous is being fed. Also, make sure friends and family are aware of your pet’s dietary restrictions and not sneaking your pet treats.
Be careful with baked goods. Chocolate, raisins, grapes, and macadamia nuts can create major problems for pets. Be especially vigilant about xylitol, a sweetener found in sugar-free gums, cookies, candies, and some brands of peanut butter. The substance is extremely toxic to pets, so if you suspect your pet has ingested xylitol, get to an emergency animal hospital as quickly as possible.
Avoid raw/undercooked and high fat foods. With raw foods there is an increased risk of contracting a foodborne illness, such as E. coli, Salmonella sp., and/or Listeria sp. Foods high in fat content, such as ham grease, can cause pancreatitis, so avoid feeding table scraps. Also, make sure to seal garbage bags and place them in a tightly covered container to prevent your pets from getting into them.
Make sure ID tags are up to date. As guests and deliveries come and go, there is an increased opportunity for pets to slip out the door unnoticed and become lost. During high traffic times, confine pets in a comfortable room and/or make sure in-home gates are thoroughly closed. Should your pet become lost, you will want their ID tags and/or microchip information to be up to date. This greatly increases the chances of a successful reunion.
Do not overtreat. Generally, pets should not receive more than 10 percent of their daily calorie intake from treats—including human foods or anything needed for medication administration (like peanut butter). Excessive treats given to pets throughout the holidays can cause pets’ diets to become incomplete and unbalanced, leading to nutritional deficiencies and/or excesses, or result in or contribute to pet obesity. If your pet is overweight or obese, a weight loss plan managed by a veterinarian is strongly recommended.
Tolerance to human foods depends purely on the individual pet. If you do decide to make your furry pal a plate, here are a few Thanksgiving foods that could be okay:
Turkey and/or ham (meat only, cooked). Avoid feeding your pet bones or meats with bones attached, as it could result in fractured teeth and/or gastrointestinal tract obstruction (both of which can result in a serious pet emergency). Bones can also splinter and cause the intestinal track to become perforated.
Plain mashed sweet potato
Plain mashed potato
Parker house style roll
“A lot of the cases we see during the holidays are preventable,” said Dr. Bullen. “By discussing safe pet foods with a veterinary nutritionist or primary care physician ahead of time, and taking some basic precautions, pet owners can ensure a safe and happy Thanksgiving for all.”
Most BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospitals are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including holidays. If your cat or dog begins to show signs of illness or distress this holiday season, immediately take them to a primary care veterinarian or an emergency pet hospital. Find a local BluePearl Pet Hospital.