Give pets something to be thankful for by not giving


When people overindulge on Thanksgiving, a little indigestion and an overwhelming urge to take a nap on the couch is usually the worst that can happen.

Pets are a different story.

Help your clients and their pets have a safe holiday by passing on these Thanksgiving pet safety tips:

  • Keep the turkey on the table, not under it. Eating even a small amount of turkey or turkey skin can cause pancreatitis in pets—a life-threatening condition. Make sure your clients understand that fatty foods are hard for animals to digest, and that includes a lot of Thanksgiving favorites like gravy and buttery mashed potatoes.
  • Same with the stuffing. Food like onions, garlic, and raisins, which find their way into many treasured family stuffing recipes, can pose serious health threats to pets.
  • Ditto on desert. Chocolate can be harmful to pets. And xylitol, an artificial sweetener commonly used in baked goods, also can be deadly if eaten by cats or dogs.
  • Ban the bread. If you’re making it from scratch, resist the urge to let the dog lick the spoon—in addition to the damage an expanding mass of dough in the stomach can do, like cause bloat, the real danger is alcohol toxicosis. The fermentation of the yeast produces alcohol, which can lead to intoxication.

Turkey-specific trouble

Every year around Thanksgiving, many veterinary hospitals find themselves treating—here’s that word again—pancreatitis. And the same food safety rules that apply to humans also apply to pets.

  • Take the turkey’s temp. Make sure the turkey and other meats are cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit before eating. Raw and undercooked contain germs that can cause serious illness in both people and pets.
  • Beware the bones. A random drumstick or turkey bone can lodge in a dog’s esophagus, requiring emergency endoscopy or surgical removal.
  • Aww, juice! Juices from raw turkey can make for delicious gravy once the bird is cooked, but raw turkey juice will contaminate anything it touches in the kitchen, including counter space, other food, utensils, and especially pet dishes. Wipe as you go, to protect all concerned.

Yes, you might think pet owners would know better already, but Thanksgiving’s a day when people like to relax the rules.

But just because your clients relax the rules for themselves, doesn’t mean they should do the same for their pets.

Meanwhile, AAHA Senior Veterinary Officer Heather Loenser, DVM, offers these thoughts to the entire profession:

“On behalf of AAHA, I’d like to express our profession’s gratitude to all of those veterinary teams who are working in the trenches this Thanksgiving. They’re sacrificing time with their families, friends, and pets to care for others in their time of need. This ranges from treating the calamities we’ve tried to prevent in this article, as well as the inevitable holiday-time euthanasias, when a beloved pet did his best to stay alive until the family could all be back together again.”

And Loenser reminds you, “If you’re not working this holiday, consider calling your local ER/specialty hospital to thank them for the care they’re providing while you recharge with loved ones. And for those team members who may not be working but are not in a situation that fills them with joy, please know that you matter, and there will be pets waiting for you on Monday to help them feel better.

“Be well, everyone.”