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5 ways to keep your pet safe this thanksgiving

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when tail wagging can be a bad thing
Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on Dec 01 2014

There are some patients that I will simply never, ever forget, I think. Many of these are from early in my career and stand out as the first time I diagnosed or treated a particular illness, and many of them stick with me because of their shining personalities or silly attitudes. And there is yet another category of persisting patient memories: those surrounding holidays.

One such patient was a young Golden Retriever appropriately named Rascal. Now, Rascal presented to me the day after Thanksgiving, and boy, was he ever thankful. You see, deep frying turkeys was all the rage that year, and Rascal’s parents decided to try their hands at preparing their bird that way. All went well, and apparently the turkey was delicious.

It wasn’t until early the next morning that Rascal’s parents discovered their one tiny mistake: they saved the turkey laden oil for proper disposal, but they didn’t put it out of Rascal’s reach. Finding a tub full of poultry flavored oil was too much for Rascal to resist, and he relished every last drop (well, every last drop that wasn’t smeared all over his face, that is!).

Rascal was very, very lucky. His only reaction to his tasty Thanksgiving meal was gastrointestinal in nature—terribly greasy, messy, oily vomit and diarrhea. This made his pet parents decidedly unlucky and unthankful when it came to cleanup, but they could have been much less lucky that Thanksgiving—high fat snacks can cause life-threatening pancreatitis in dogs, and veterinarians reliably see an uptick in pancreatitis cases surrounding meal-centric holidays like Thanksgiving.

The lesson here is: if you’re going to deep fry a turkey this year, secure your leftover oil well! But even if deep fryers aren’t playing a role in your menu, heed these other tips to keep you thankful for your pet’s health.

Food, glorious food

Thanksgiving is full of food, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t treat my pets at Thanksgiving, too. If you must treat your pet, keep it to small bites of turkey, plain mashed white or sweet potatoes and maybe a vegetable or two. Keep the portions small and avoid overly salted or buttered items.

Stuff it

Keep the stuffing on human plates only. Stuffing is usually dressed up with onions and herbs, both of which can cause upset tummies at best and prove dangerous to red blood cells at worst. Be thankful for the excuse to eat a few extra bites of stuffing to save it from your pet’s bowl.

Dem bones, dem bones

Don’t feed your pet cooked bones! No matter how hard your pet tries to win the wishbone, don’t give in. Cooked bones are brittle, and cooked poultry bones are especially prone to splintering. They have the potential to cause oral and intestinal injuries if ingested.

One man’s trash is your pet’s treasure

Mind your trash can after holiday feasts! As Rascal proved to his folks, leftovers are fair game, even if they are headed for the dumpster. A trash can full of food scraps is virtually impossible to ignore if you’re a pet, so make sure yours is like Fort Knox.

Gild the lily

We often dress the table in fine china, cornucopias and flowers for holiday meals, but if lilies are a part of your holiday fanfare, you and your cat may pay the price. Cats are notorious for nibbling on floral arrangements, and they don’t discriminate between lilies, which are highly toxic to cats, and other, safer greenery. If you have cats, they’ll be thankful if you leave the lilies at the florist.

Rascal was a youngster when I first laid eyes on his smiling, greasy face, so I suspect he’s still with us. If so, I imagine he thinks back fondly to the Thanksgiving years ago when he was happy as a pig in slop, slurping up oil and going back for more. I know I do—I’ve seen a lot of dog smiles in my day, but I don’t know that I’ve seen one quite as proud as his was, even if he did get caught with his paw in the proverbial cookie jar.