Keeping your pets safe on Thanksgiving

By Dr. Christina Weckesser, Rhinebeck Animal Hospital

As we approach the holiday season, our minds start racing. While we’re focused on decorating the house and planning the holiday dinners, we tend to forget about our pets.

The holiday season is actually a very dangerous time for dogs and cats. Many household items are dangerous a threat to your pet and without your supervision, your pet could end up in the Emergency Clinic — not where you were hoping to spend your holiday.

So here are a few valuable tips to keep in mind through this year’s Thanksgiving feast:

Most animal ER visits are due to acute vomiting. We all want to enjoy the Thanksgiving feast we have prepared for ourselves, but beware of what you give Fluffy or Fido. High-fat foods, like turkey skin, turkey gravy and even some pies, can cause severe, acute pancreatitis (a painful inflammation of the pet’s pancreas). The first clinical sign is vomiting and not wanting to eat. Another portion of the turkey that can cause your pet trouble is the bones. Poultry bones, especially cooked ones, can potentially break off into sharp shards that could cause a tear in the digestive tract or, if consumed in large amounts, could cause a blockage. These are situations are painful, life-threatening and not easily treated situations for an animal. If you absolutely have to share your meal with your pet, try give a more acceptable treat, such as a small amount of white turkey meat.

You should also let your guests know if your pet has food allergies. One bite of turkey can cause a food-allergic dog to start intensely itching. If your guests need to feed your dog, try hypoallergenic dog treats or keep the dog confined for meal time. Other foods to generally avoid giving pets include: grapes and raisins, excessively salty foods, foods flavored with onion or garlic powder, desserts and sweets containing xylitol and chocolate.

As for kitty cats, although they may not salivate at the cutting board like our dogs, don’t count them out of the mischief. The string used to tie the turkey legs together is very attractive to your cats because it’s really fun to play with and tastes great covered in turkey grease! String ingestion, however, can cause a linear foreign body (a foreign object in the shape of a line, thread, string, ribbon) if it gets stuck at any point in the digestive tract. This will cause your cat to vomit, become lethargic and not want to eat. This is also a painful, life-threatening, surgical emergency.

Now that you’ve kept your pets safe during the meal, keep them safe during clean up also. All leftovers should be secured in the refrigerator or behind a pet-proof door. Also, remember to keep your trash cans secured as well. Any leftovers or foil wrappers that smell like food can be dangerous if ingested.

Hopefully, your Thanksgiving this year is delicious and safe. But do keep your veterinarian’s number and the ASPCA poison control hotline, (888) 426-4435, nearby. (

One quick phone call can give life-saving advice or help you avoid a trip to the Emergency Clinic!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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