Thanksgiving is a time for families, friends, and animals to gather together and celebrate. Food is an important part of that tradition but it’s also the reason for a spike 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 with these tips.
“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."
In past years, DoveLewis doctors have seen everything from a dog who ate a turkey leg whole, to a dog who ate a whole pie (and part of the pie dish), to a cat who ate the string from the turkey. Thankfully, each patient recovered fully.
Follow these Thanksgiving pet safety tips:
- Don’t share “people food” with your pets. It may seem cruel to withhold these holiday treats, but some foods are toxic to animals. Fatty foods are hard for animals to digest. Poultry bones can damage your pet’s digestive tract. Holiday sweets can contain ingredients that are poisonous to pets.
- Keep pets away from raw or undercooked turkey and the cooked turkey that has been sitting out. Turkey can 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 and cause contamination.
- Stay away from the 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.
- Always secure your garbage bags, especially when they contain food scraps and bones. Otherwise, pets may try for a dumpster dive that could have dangerous consequences.
- No pie, dough or other desserts. Chocolate can be harmful to pets, but many dogs are tempted and will sniff it out. The artificial sweetener called xylitol – commonly used in gum and sugar-free baked goods – also can be deadly if consumed by pets. Yeast dough can cause problems like painful gas and bloating if your pets swoop in for a taste.
- Don't forget about the festive decor. Holiday displays, decorations or candles are just as exciting and attractive to pets as well as people. Never leave a pet alone in an area with a lit candle in case of fire. Pine cones, needles, and other decorations are also a risk for intestinal blockages or even possibly perforate an animal’s intestine if eaten.
- Create a safe, quiet zone for pets dealing with house guests. Visiting friends and relatives, even of the canine variety, can upset pets, making them want to hide or be aggressive. The stress can manifest in a variety of ways, including vomiting and gastrointestinal issues. If a pet seems overwhelmed, find an area of the house for them to relax until the 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. Watch the exits and check on updating a pet’s microchip to ensure that a lost pet will be returned if they do get out.
Quick action can save our animals’ lives. If you believe your pet has eaten something it shouldn’t have or appears distressed, call your veterinarian immediately. If your veterinarian is unavailable during the holiday, DoveLewis is open 24/7 every day of the year. Call 503-228-7281 for help if you see any signs of pet distress including sudden changes in behavior, depression, pain, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Source: DoveLewis Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Hospital