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Choking Hazards and Toxic Foods: What You Should Know About Pets and Thanksgiving Dinner

on November 20, 2018
Posted in Food & Recipes

Thanksgiving is coming up in the United States, and for thousands of pets across the nation, that means they’re in for a feast! With the serving dishes and pans brimming full of delicious food, it’s almost a given that your cat or dog will emerge from its hiding space to beg for table scraps. And, if you or your guests are like the average homeowner, you’ll be tempted to slip them one—or a few—bites from your plate.

It can be fun to toss a treat or two to your beloved four-legged friend. Unfortunately, however, many pet owners and their guests don’t understand the risks involved with feeding their pets foods from Thanksgiving dinner. There are actually tons of choking hazards and toxic foods that could make your pet sick, meaning one small treat for Fido could turn the evening’s plans south very fast.

Before you host your friends, family and pets this Thanksgiving, make sure you understand which foods are pet-safe and which are absolutely off-limits to your fur babies, so your holiday plans can continue smoothly.

  • Turkey: Small chunks of the Thanksgiving turkey are perfectly fine for both your cat and dog to consume. However, make sure that you’re only giving your pets boneless and skinless meat. Any excess fat from the skin can be bad for your pet’s health.
  • Bones: Your dog loves to gnaw on bones, but resist any temptation to toss Fido bones from your turkey this holiday. Turkey bones are typically very small and thin, meaning they can break easily. These bones are one of the main choking hazards of the evening.
  • Stuffing: Stuffing often contains alliums, or the vegetable group containing onions, scallions, leeks and garlic. Alliums are very toxic to your pets and can lead to life-threatening anemia if enough are ingested.
  • Cranberry sauce: Cranberry sauce is generally okay for dogs and cats to consume. However, if your sauce has a lot of sugar, it might make your pet feel sick, so keep quantities to a minimum.
  • Mashed potatoes: Mashed potatoes are a perfectly safe food for your pets this Thanksgiving—as long as they are prepared plain. If your potatoes contain lots of dairy like cheese, sour cream and butter, it can make your pet feel sick and have digestive issues. And, if your ‘taters contain vegetables like onions, keep them far away from the pets!
  • Green beans: Although they are far more popular with dogs than with cats, plain green beans are a safe food for pets. In fact, adding greens to your pet’s diet can give them additional vitamins they might be missing in their daily diet.
  • Chocolate: Your after-dinner desserts might be what all the humans at your party are looking forward to, but they should never be given to your pets. Chocolate can make your pet extremely sick, causing vomiting and diarrhea. It might also be fatal if enough has been eaten.

Taking party precautions

Hosting family and friends at your home can be hectic enough without worrying about your pet’s safety. While it’s perfectly okay for you to understand the dangers and slip your pets a treat now and then, it’s safe to assume that your guests won’t have all the same knowledge you do. If you are concerned about your guests potentially feeding your pets something unsafe, it’s best to make a general announcement requesting that your pets do not receive table scraps during the festivities.

Throughout the party, make sure to tidy up any food left on plates or serving dishes that your pets might be able to access. Countertops and garbage cans are easily accessible to dogs and cats, meaning they might be able to chow down when you aren’t looking. It’s best to clear plates and clean up immediately after dinner to prevent any mishaps.

If you notice that your pet has been fed or got into something it shouldn’t have eaten, or if you notice that it is acting strangely, move the pet into another room and close the door so it cannot access any more toxic foods. Call your emergency vet right away to get instructions on how to best care for your pet. Do not attempt to make your pet throw up unless instructed carefully by the veterinarian. It may also help to feed your pet a supplement designed to detoxify its body and remove harmful substances for overall health.

Keep Thanksgiving treats safe for all

By keeping a careful eye on your pets, this Thanksgiving can go as smooth as possible. Just remember that cats and dogs digest things differently than humans do, so food that we enjoy isn’t always safe for our pets.

If you’re worried about your pets sneaking into your Thanksgiving treats, try making a special pet-safe treat just for them to keep them occupied while you cook and dig in.

Read also: The Link Between Your Cat’s Diet and Its Ability to Fight Off Illness

Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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