As the most delicious of all holidays approaches, your furry pal may be drooling in delight over the mouthwatering aromas wafting from your kitchen. Although saying “No” to that begging gaze beseeching you for a turkey leg or a bowl of buttery, garlicky, mashed potatoes is incredibly difficult, it’s in your pet’s best interest to stick to pet-safe foods. Like all holidays, Thanksgiving holds its own set of hazards that can harm your four-legged friend and require an emergency veterinary visit, or a trip to Johnson County Animal Clinic for urgent care. When preparing for your Thanksgiving, keep in mind the following potential complications that may arise if your pet becomes overwhelmed by all the festivities. 

#1: Pancreatitis in pets

Turkey is always delicious, whether roasted, fried, or packed with a tasty stuffing—your pet thinks so, too. However, turkey is one of the main culprits in pancreatitis development, as the fatty skin and dark meat can inflame your pet’s pancreas. Butter, oil, and other high-fat foods can also cause this life-threatening condition. During a pancreatitis episode, the body essentially begins to digest itself, and your pet will likely experience abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and anorexia. Without prompt diagnosis and treatment, organ dysfunction can occur, and can lead to death.

#2: Gastrointestinal obstructions in pets

Thanksgiving is packed full of foods and decorations that can lead to a gastrointestinal (GI) obstruction in your pet. Turkey bones, pecans and other nuts in pies, cornucopia centerpieces, and wrappers from the trash are the most common obstructions, as these are often too tempting for pets to resist. Bones from a stolen turkey leg, corn cobs from the centerpiece, or a chunk of foil thrown in the trash can become stuck in, and potentially perforate, your pet’s GI tract, leading to sepsis. If you suspect your pet has eaten something they shouldn’t, emergency treatment is needed to prevent the condition from worsening. Keep an eye out for signs of GI obstruction, such as vomiting, diarrhea, inappetence, lethargy, or a fever.

#3: Food toxicities in pets

Thanksgiving is all about the food, but many favorite side dishes are loaded with ingredients that are toxic for pets. Ensure you keep the following toxic foods well out of paws’ reach:

  • Onions, garlic, and chives — While onions, garlic, and chives spice up any Thanksgiving side dish, these veggies should not be shared with your pet. A compound in these vegetables causes oxidative damage to your pet’s red blood cells, by attaching to the oxygen molecules, and reducing the blood cells’ ability to carry oxygen. This compound also tricks your pet’s body into thinking the red blood cells are invaders and need to be destroyed, which can lead to life-threatening anemia. Whether raw, dried, cooked, powdered, or in other foods, keep onions, garlic, and chives away from your pet. Offer fresh broccoli, cauliflower, or green beans for a healthy treat instead.
  • Bread dough — Fluffy rolls are a staple on most Thanksgiving tables, but bread dough can pose a serious threat to your pet’s health. Raw dough can rise and expand in your pet’s stomach, causing bloating, or a more serious emergency like gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV). The bloating is caused when the dough rises in your pet’s stomach and carbon dioxide is released from the fermenting yeast. Alcohol is also released, and can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure, and body temperature, if your pet develops alcohol poisoning from the rapidly absorbed alcohol released from yeast. Pets may also experience seizures and respiratory failure.
  • Chocolate — Although Thanksgiving isn’t typically known as a chocolate-filled holiday, this sweet treat still makes an appearance on dessert tables. The richer and darker the chocolate—like baking chocolate—the more it’s loaded with theobromine and caffeine, methylxanthines that are toxic to pets. Methylxanthines act as a stimulant, leading to hyperactivity, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, heart arrhythmias, and possibly death.
  • Xylitol — Another sweet substance, xylitol is a common sugar substitute that may lace many Thanksgiving desserts, to reduce calories and refined sugar consumption. However, xylitol is highly toxic to dogs—cats don’t seem to have a sweet tooth like dogs—and can cause a dangerous blood sugar drop that can lead to acute liver failure.   

If your pet nabs one of these common toxic foods this Thanksgiving, contact the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center or your Johnson County Animal Clinic team for help.

Is your furry pal a master at begging for table scraps? Or, perhaps they’re skilled at sneaking into the trash? Whatever issues you may run into this Thanksgiving holiday with your pet, your Johnson County Animal Clinic team has your back—give us a call for help.