Warming up for Thanksgiving: Pet safety

We all know the look.

It most commonly appears around mealtimes and kicks into high gear during especially big feasts, such as Thanksgiving.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we’re talking about the puppy eyes.

Who can blame pets for doing a little extra begging when the dining room table is laden with delights such as turkey and pumpkin pie? However, not all of those items are good for our furry friends.

“The biggest issues are eating too much food they shouldn’t be, such as items high in fat, sugar and starch content, and ingesting poultry bones,” said Neogen’s Dr. Jim Little.


Poultry bones are one of the biggest concerns when feeding pets from the table (or when they snatch a chunk of turkey from the counter). The small bones, such as ribs, can easily splinter and get lodged in an animal’s esophagus or digestive tract. Since the bones usually get caught in the esophagus, the pet may not cough and it may not be immediately obvious there’s an issue. However, if they don’t want to eat, can’t swallow, exhibit a fever or become lethargic, a call/trip to the vet is in order, said Dr. Little.

Fatty foods

Thanksgiving is a time when humans get to be much less diet conscious. However, for pets it’s a different story. Foods with high fat, sugar and/or starch content can, at the very least, cause stomach upset for our furry family members. However, real harm can occur in the form of pancreatitis, which occurs when the pancreas is being overworked to produce digestive enzymes. This can lead to inflammation, followed by potentially severe illness, including vomiting and loss of appetite, said Dr. Little.

Although turkey meat itself doesn’t have an extremely high fat content, its skin and drippings do, along with other Thanksgiving standards such as desserts (high sugar content can also contribute to pancreatitis).

Spices and atypical diet items

Variety may be the spice of life, but suddenly varying a pet’s diet by feeding him or her heaps of Thanksgiving handouts isn’t good. Many items, including turkey skin, may be heavily spiced, which can cause stomach upset. Other spices and ingredients of concern for pets include sage, nutmeg, garlic, onions and nuts. This is of special concern with pets that have “sensitive stomachs.” Ingesting these items can lead to a variety of ailments including diarrhea and vomiting.

Feeding a pet raw or undercooked items, such as raw beef or turkey, should also be avoided as the item may harbor pathogens such as Salmonella or E. coli.

Toxic items

We’ve all heard it – chocolate is bad for dogs. Along those lines, grapes also are toxic to pets. Keep them – and food items containing them – out of reach.

Be aware of pre-existing conditions

All of the above mentioned problems can be exacerbated by already existing issues, such as diabetes or pancreas troubles, said Dr. Little.


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