Happy Thanksgiving

Every year, food-related pet illnesses spike during Thanksgiving weekend, according to pet insurers. There’s a lot of things they need to avoid, and some of them aren’t obvious. Here’s what you need to know to keep them safe this holiday season.

Turkey Skin
Feeding pets small bits of white meat, the leanest type of meat, is fine. However, don’t offer your dog or cat any turkey skin. You may not realize how it has been seasoned, and that may be a fatal mistake. If the turkey has spent hours being rubbed and basted in things like onion, sage and garlic, the skin has been soaking up the very things that are most toxic to dogs and cats.

Stuffing and Gravy
If you use mushrooms, onions, sage, leeks, chives, garlic, scallions, or pepper, don’t even think about giving stuffing or gravy to your dogs and cats. Many of these ingredients are toxic to their systems, while others won’t kill them but can make them very uncomfortable. Sage in particular, a seasoning we use quite a bit at Thanksgiving, gives cats an upset tummy and messes with their central nervous systems.

Cranberry Sauce
Cranberries themselves are fine for pets. Cranberries fight urinary tract infections and contain a number of healthy vitamins. When cranberries are turned into a holiday sauce, however, contain huge amounts of sugar or high fructose corn syrup, be careful about any cranberry sauce you give to your pets.

Green Bean Casserole
Regular green beans make a nice, healthy snack for your pet. It’s when they go into a flavorful casserole that the problems begin. Ingredients for green bean casserole include mushroom soup and a fried onion topping. Dogs and cats can’t have those ingredients.

Turkey Bones
Never feed cooked bones to your pets. At best, they can cause vomiting. At worst, they splinter easily and can injure or even puncture the stomach and intestines.

Bread Dough and Cake Batter
Remember what happens to dough when it gets warm? It rises. You don’t want that happening inside the stomach of a dog or cat. There will be vomiting and painful abdominal bloating.

Mashed Potatoes
Potatoes all by themselves are fine in moderation. What you need to watch out for are all the ingredients that go into the mashed version. If your pet is lactose intolerant, the milk and butter you’re adding can give your furry friend diarrhea and an upset tummy. In addition, watch out for flavorings. Any added garlic or onion, even in powder form, is toxic to animals.

Fruit Salads
Be careful when friends and family bring over their scrumptious Waldorf salad — or any salad with fruits. If there are grapes or raisins in the mix, your pet can’t have any. Grapes can cause serious and sometimes fatal kidney problems for dogs.

Walnuts and Macadamia Nuts
Many nuts are fine for dogs in moderation, but walnuts and macadamia nuts decidedly are not. Macadamia nut toxicosis can cause neurological symptoms, vomiting and lethargy. Walnuts can cause gastric problems and may contain mycotoxins that cause seizures and neurological symptoms.

Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Pie
Pumpkin and sweet potatoes are just fine for pets, especially dogs. In fact, veterinarians often recommend feeding raw pumpkin to settle a nervous digestive system. Sweet potatoes turn out to be better for animals (and us) than other potatoes because of their lower glycemic index. However, the holiday pies, casseroles and yam dishes made with these ingredients are a different story.

Most recipes for pumpkin pie and sweet potato pie call for nutmeg and cinnamon. While humans love nutmeg for all sorts of reasons, it’s dangerous for dogs. Nutmeg contains a toxin called myristicin, which in large amounts can cause seizures and problems with the central nervous system.

If ingested in large powdered amounts or via an essential oil can cause diarrhea, liver disease, vomiting and low blood sugar. Dogs that eat too much can even die, so keep those pies out of reach and keep the ingredient bottles well away from pets too.

Aluminum Foil and Plastic Wrap
Dispose of these when you’re done with them. There are two risks here: one, your pet will be licking the fatty substances off the wrappings, and two, swallowing these can cause an intestinal obstruction.

Keep the cold ones to yourself. Some dogs might love beer, but it can really mess with their stomach. And if the dog has too much, it can cause a fever, rapid heartbeat, seizures, liver damage, or even death.

Fungi are good for you, but very bad for your dog. If your dog eats mushrooms, the dog may experience vomiting, seizures, or even coma and possibly death.

Too Much of a Good Thing
A few small boneless pieces of cooked turkey, a taste of mashed potato or even a lick of pumpkin pie shouldn’t pose a problem. However, don’t allow your pets to overindulge, as they could wind up with a case of stomach upset, diarrhea or even worse—an inflammatory condition of the pancreas known as pancreatitis. In fact, it’s best keep pets on their regular diets during the holidays.

Thanksgiving is a day for fun, friends and family. If you want to include your dog or cat in the food extravaganza, do it right:

  • Offer up raw carrots, broccoli, a bit of well-cooked white meat if you must, but not the indulgent foods you’re feasting upon.
  • Feed pets only reasonable amounts of any safe people-food treats.
  • Be sure you know what ingredients are in the foods you’re letting your pets eat.

Do right by your furry companions so they’ll be around to enjoy many future Thanksgivings by your side.