by Tasha Phillips, M.S.
It’s finally turkey time! As we all prepare for copious amounts of turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and dessert, we can’t help but fight the urge to give our fuzzy friends a bite or two to celebrate the holidays with us. It’s not uncommon for an owner or family member to feed pets part of their Thanksgiving meal (or drop a bite purely on accident).
However, the ingestion of toxic foods can lead to costly veterinary bills and even threaten your pet’s life. That is definitely something we want to avoid as we spend this time with the people and animals we love most. With that in mind, we thought it would be a good idea to point out some important foods to avoid giving your pet during this year’s holiday feast. Some of these foods are also seen in our Pet Poison Prevention post, along with symptoms of a potential poisoning and what to do in such an event.
1. Turkey Bones
This is perhaps the number one thing owners give to their dogs during Thanksgiving that can be dangerous and sometimes life-threatening. Because the turkey bone has been cooked (and subsequently chewed up), it can result in gastrointestinal blockage, and/or in more serious cases, intestinal perforation. This is where the sharp ends of the bones puncture the intestine, which can lead to significant infection and sepsis. This is a life threatening event and calls for an immediate trip to your local emergency veterinary clinic.
Stuffing is a particularly hazardous food considering the common ingredients that go into making it - including garlic and onions! Onions and garlic contain N-propyl disulfide,a compound that can lead to the destruction of red blood cells and anemia (red blood cell deficiency) in dogs and cats. Other foods often containing garlic and/or onions are gravy, casseroles, and potatoes. All of these foods should be avoided.
3. Yeast Dough
Yeast rolls are a common staple with any holiday dinner. Although many people buy frozen rolls, some of us may make these delicious rolls from scratch. The dough contains - you guessed it - YEAST!
If you’ve ever made bread, you know that it has to rise in a warm, moist area. Unfortunately, your dog’s stomach is the perfect little oven for yeast dough. As the bread ferments, it releases ethanol into the bloodstream, resulting in alcohol toxicosis. Symptoms of alcohol toxicosis are hypothermia (low body temperature), weakness, drunken or wobbly gait, seizures and coma.
4. Chocolate and Xylitol-Containing Desserts
Many pet owners know how dangerous chocolate is to your canine friend, but many are unaware of an artificial sugar called xylitol. Xylitol cannot be processed correctly by the body; therefore, the pancreas releases potent amounts of insulin into the blood stream. This results in dangerously low blood sugar in your pet that can cause shock, coma, or even seizures.
Safe Foods for Pets
Now that we’ve covered a few of the common foods that you must avoid giving your best friend this year, let’s go over some safe treats that you can make especially for them! Many of these are foods you probably have on-hand already, and recipes are quick and easy.
Peanut butter treats: These are a simple treat that you can give your pet to make them feel special!
Turkey (no skin, bones, or gravy): You can give your dog a bite of unseasoned, bland turkey in moderation.
Sweet Potatoes: This is a great source of fiber and vitamins for your pet. Be sure to give them potatoes with no added seasonings or ingredients.
Apples: This is another snack full of vitamins and fiber! However, avoid the core and seeds, which can be toxic.
Plain green beans: This is always a healthy go-to snack, whether your pet is begging for a treat or they’re on a weight loss journey!
If your pet has a history of gastrointestinal upset, food allergies, or medical conditions, avoid table food all together and opt for a bite of their own dog food instead.
If for any reason you believe your pet has ingested any of the toxic foods above, please call your local emergency veterinary clinic for medical advice and guidance. Another helpful resource is the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Hotline: 888-426-4435.
Even if it’s a food not listed above and you’re unsure, they are always glad to help and make sure you and your best friend have the safest and happiest holiday possible.
Tasha Nelson Phillips is a veterinary assistant and researcher. She began her work in veterinary medicine in 2014 at a small practice in East Tennessee. She has a B.S. in Biology as well as a Master’s degree in Microbiology from East Tennessee State University. Her undergraduate and graduate research focused on Lavengel®, exploring its efficacy and mechanism of action against common bacterial species.
Tasha’s interests focus on natural antimicrobial options and exploring novel compounds to combat antibiotic resistance. She continues to work in small animal emergency and critical care medicine. She spends her free time with her husband and three furry babies in their East Tennessee home.