Giving Thanks In 2020 And Keeping Your Pets Safe Along the Way


Author: Karen L. McGlothlin, DVM, PhD

Even though it seems unbelievable to me, we are indeed already in the thick of the Holiday Season with Thanksgiving, 2020, just on the doorstep and Christmas, 2020, right behind. This has been a challenging year for all of us, and I, for one, am thankful to have had scores of amazing family, friends, and co-workers, in addition to my devoted pets, to me get through. While you are probably starting preparations for a scaled-down celebration this week, you are likely planning a special meal and the temptation is always there to share some of your feast with your favorite four-legged family members. I understand the desire to include your pets in the festivities and share your holiday meal as a special treat but avoid the temptation because there are several things that can cause problems for them. With this in mind, here is my Thanksgiving advice:

  1. Don’t share the turkey or turkey scraps. I know your pets would love a little of that turkey skin or even that leg bone that still has some shreds of meat on the end. Believe me, I KNOW. Don’t do it. Bones are indigestible and can cause gastrointestinal obstructions or even GI perforations if eaten. Turkey skin is high in fat, is difficult for animals to digest, and may result in vomiting, diarrhea, or even a potentially life-threatening bout of pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).
  2. Your pets won’t get a rise out of that bread dough, Raw bread dough that contains yeast can cause BIG problems if consumed by your pet. If ingested, you may see your pet experience painful gas and/or dangerous bloating due to the production of carbon dioxide gas that occurs as the dough rises. In addition, yeast also converts sugars in the dough to alcohol, leading to a potential for alcohol poisoning, as well.
  3. Your pets won’t enjoy garlic, chives, or onions. While these ingredients are common in many of our holiday side dishes and provide us with some delicious seasoning, they can be toxic to dogs and cats. Consuming foods with these ingredients can cause destruction of the red blood cells in dogs and cats, potentially resulting in life-threatening anemia.
  4. Just have your pets skip the dessert. There are several ways for pets to find trouble with this course. Some ingredients such as chocolate, macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins, and currants are toxic. With the availability of sugar-free dessert options, the possibility of your pet ingesting the artificial sweetener, xylitol, is increased. This sweetener is extremely toxic and ingestion of just a small amount can lead to a fatal drop in blood sugar as well as liver failure.
  5. Make sure the trash is securely stored. Food scraps from your Thanksgiving meal preparation can be pretty tempting! Make sure any trash containers are tightly secured to prevent your pets from some ill-advised snacking on turkey giblets, turkey carcasses and bones, as well as other scraps and food packaging materials that could lead to big problems.

    Dr. McGlothlin with Bea, Goldie, and Rosie

  6. Provide your pets with a special holiday treat. If you want to include your pets in your Thanksgiving celebration, you can do so in a safe manner. You can do something like purchase a special treat and set it aside to be shared on Thanksgiving Day. You can bake a sweet potato for your pets, share some pumpkin puree (without the spices), or feed raw fruits or vegetables, such as apples and carrots.

No matter how you are spending it, I suspect that your Thanksgiving this year is going to look quite a bit different from those of years past. My most fervent hope is that you can find a way to give thanks for the blessings that have come your way, even if things are not going as well as you’d have liked. As I am wrapping up this Thanksgiving blog, I can think of a lot of reasons to be grateful this year, but the five things that I am most thankful for are my three dogs and two cats: Beatrix Kiddo, Goldie, Rose, Mason, and Newfirt. Maybe you have a similar list? Count your blessings, enjoy the day, and Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Lawndale Veterinary Hospital.