Well, here it is- November already! How is it the 11th month of the year?! Before we know it, all of the holiday fun and craziness will be upon us, then it will be time to usher in a new year-new decade, even! But before we rush things, let’s enjoy that tasty turkey!
Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. Even as a child, I loved having my entire family gather around a home cooked meal to share what we are thankful for in our lives. I have many happy memories of all of us gathered around my great-grandmother’s kitchen table, laughing and sharing stories. She lived in a tiny 2-bedroom house with an eat-in kitchen. But somehow, we managed to fit 20+ in there, without complaints. The holidays are a time to remember those quality moments with your family. Many families include their pets during these special times. So, this month’s blog is about tips to keep our pets safe and happy during the holiday season. I hope you find it informative and entertaining.
Did you know that the Friday after Thanksgiving has long been known as “Pancreatitis Friday” in the veterinarian community? There is a rise in emergency visits and diagnoses of pancreatitis, gastroenteritis and intoxication during the holidays, especially Thanksgiving. This is due to the amount of fatty foods our pets may be given during the holidays.
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. It is caused by too many fatty foods. Signs of pancreatitis are a painful, distended abdomen, decreased appetite, depression or lethargy, dehydration, vomiting and a “hunched up” posture. It can be severe, so you should seek vet care. Gastroenteritis is usually any kind of GI disturbance. It is usually not as severe. Intoxication is as it sounds. Our pets get into alcoholic beverages, or they eat raw, yeasty bread dough that forms alcohol in their gut from the sugars and yeast in the dough. It takes a small amount to cause alcohol poisoning. If you know your pet ingested alcohol you should seek vet care.
I have comprised some other tips to avoid a trip to the vet. Some I read about and some I’ve learned the hard way.
• Many pets get stressed out over the commotion house full of people can bring and some may even develop colitis (constipation or diarrhea). If your pet has a hard time in this situation, consider giving them a quiet room to themselves, with a comfortable space to sleep, off limits to guests. CBD oil is extremely beneficial for times like these. It will offer a safe, calming effect that will last about four hours. It is mandatory in our house when we have a family gathering. My dog appreciates it, as well as our guests. Just ask my mom!
• Be sure plates with food or bones are never left within reach of your pets.
• Make sure the turkey carcass is disposed of in a manner that your pets cannot access it. NEVER give the carcass to your pets to eat. The cooked bones may splinter, causing GI disruption or even tears in the stomach lining. They are also a choking hazard. And that large amount of fat will most definitely lead to an emergency vet visit!
Here are the standard dishes most American families serve at Thanksgiving. I divided them into two sections. The first lists foods that are safe and the second section are foods to avoid.
• Turkey- Turkey is a lean, healthy protein for cats and dogs. Contrary to popular belief, most dogs with chicken sensitivities or allergies may safely eat turkey. White meat turkey is fine. Avoid giving fatty pieces, including skin. Never give cooked bones-that applies to all bones. Raw bones are safe. Cooked and smoked bones are not.
• Cranberry- Cranberries are beneficial for a pet’s urinary health. If your pet is experiencing, or prone to urinary tract infections or other urinary issues a few fresh or dried cranberries added to each meal can help. It also comes in a cranberry powder that is easy to mix into food. Just avoid giving processed sauces that may contain a high sugar content.
• Pumpkin- Possibly the healthiest of the Turkey Day offerings! Pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamin A, beta-carotene, iron and potassium. Pumpkin seeds and the oils in the flesh are high in essential fatty acids and antioxidants. It is beneficial for digestive health, urinary health and aids in weight loss. Pureed pumpkin can help cats and dogs suffering with constipation or diarrhea. Adding a small amount to their food daily can keep them regular. It also calms upset stomachs. For weight loss, reduce their food portion and replace with pumpkin. They will feel full while still reducing their caloric intake. And most love the taste. You may use raw, cooked, canned (pumpkin only, not pie filling) or seeds.
• Squash-Winter squash, such as butternut, spaghetti and acorn are high in vitamins A, B and C. They also provide potassium, manganese, folate, fiber and omega 3 fatty acids. They offer great moisture content, as well, making them an excellent choice when your pet is dehydrated from diarrhea. It may be served fresh, frozen or cooked. Butternut is the most appealing to dogs and cats.
• Green Beans- (and other fresh vegetables)- Fresh vegetables are always a healthy addition to your pet’s diet. Just be sure to avoid giving any that are in a creamy casserole or high in sodium.
• Sweet Potatoes- Sweet potatoes are low fat. They provide a natural source of Vitamins A, B6 and C. They are also high in dietary fiber, iron and potassium. Dogs love the flavor. Just be sure to give plain sweet potatoes, not the marshmallow casserole or anything high in sugar or sodium. Mashed white potatoes are fine to give as well, as long as your dog does not have a sensitivity to grain or gluten. Be sure those are also low in fat, sugar and sodium.
• Eggs- The whole egg is the most complete food source on the planet! It is also the most complete source of essential amino acids. It is not only safe to give an organic whole raw egg a couple of times a week, it is very beneficial. I have been doing this for years and my dogs and cats love it! Their digestive systems are made to handle bacteria such as salmonella, so despite popular theories, this is completely safe for our pets. Just be sure to wash your hands after handling raw eggs.
UNSAFE FOODS- ALWAYS AVOID
• Alcohol- NEVER, EVER give your pets alcohol. It only takes a small amount to cause intoxication, so alcohol poisoning can happen quickly and can be severe.
• Aliums- Aliums include onions, scallions, leeks, garlic. Although garlic is only toxic in very large amounts, be sure to avoid the others at all costs. They can lead to toxic anemia.
• Ham, bacon or sausage- Ham, bacon and sausage are entirely too fatty and salty. They are NEVER recommended for pets. Uncured pork, however, is a beneficial and healthy protein for cats and dogs, especially those experiencing food allergies. Pork is easily digestible, and they love it! (it’s my own dog’s and cats’ favorite)
• Raw bread dough- When eaten, the yeast in raw bread dough continues to convert sugars to carbon dioxide and alcohol. This can result in a bloated, drunken pet. Left untreated, it can turn into a life-threatening emergency.
• Chocolate- Always avoid, ESPECIALLY baking chocolate, which is the most toxic of all to dogs.
• Xylitol- Xylitol is an artificial sweetener. It is poisonous, and potentially deadly, to pets. You may have heard about it lately in the news, associated with peanut butter. As someone who is allergic to artificial sweeteners, I can tell you firsthand how important it is to always read labels. Even when you think a product is safe, there are many new sweeteners being used that we are not always aware of. Some are naturally derived so the FDA does not require them to be labeled as “sugar free”. An example of this is stevia. Other sugar alcohols are sorbitol, mannitol, isomalt, and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates. While most studies show other sugar alcohols to be generally safe for pets, xylitol is not. As the purist that I am, I choose to avoid all of these to be safe. Especially since I understand all too well the pain an allergic reaction to one of these can cause.
With a few safeguards in place and a little planning, we can all enjoy the holidays together in harmony with our furry family members.
May you have a blessed Thanksgiving, surrounded by family and friends.