Monday, November 24, 2014

How To Have A Safe Thanksgiving With Your Pet.

OK, it’s Thanksgiving evening or the next morning. Tell me where you’d rather be –(a) hitting the after-Thanksgiving sales, or possibly lounging on the sofa and watching football or a good movie – (b) or at the vet’s office praying that your dog survives or searching the neighborhood because he has escaped? Basically, an (a) or (b) will do just fine. As for me, my answer would be (a).
There are preparations to prevent scenario (b) from ever happening. A smooth peaceful Thanksgiving is possible even with kids and family you only see once or twice a year in the house.
The purpose of this Blog is to prevent bad things from happening to your pet. I will not be giving advice about controlling kids, or keeping Uncle John from drinking too much (again), or Aunt Bertie from overeating.

Avoiding A Pet Tragedy

You can avoid a Thanksgiving tragedy by being aware of the hazards and dangers to your dog or cat and practicing a few safety tips.

Dogs and cats like predictable routines, and Thanksgiving is not predictable. There’s lots of people coming and going, meals are prepared and eaten at odd hours, there’s lots of tempting food sitting around in bowls just waiting to be eaten. Dogs or cats can get overly excited or nervous – and some pets that are on the nervous side may get aggressive because the added stress simply “puts them over the top.”

When greeting guests, your dog should not greet them with you. With everything that is going on, you may forget to watch him, someone may inadvertently forget to close the door, or he can wiggle past your visitors before you realize it. You don’t want to spend your Thanksgiving looking for an escaped dog!
Please, please, please ask your guests NOT to feed your dog except his own food or treats! In fact, the safest place for him may be in that dog safe-room away from all the commotion of cheering from football games, kids running around, lots and lots of conversations (you know which family members are louder than others!) Even though you may think your dog is a member of the family who should be included in the celebrations, your dog may become stressed because this gathering is such a departure from his routine.
If your pet shows any of the following signs, get him or her to a “safe room” immediately.
Be alert for these stress signals:
  • Acting afraid or nervous (moving away)
  • Attention seeking
  • Cowering
  • Drooling
  • Freezing or becoming very still – this is very important. Biting could be next!! Whatever he is staring at is his intended target. Interrupt him by standing between him and whatever he is staring at IMMEDIATELY. Don’t yell, but quietly distract and remove him.
  • Growling (Growling is good – your dog is telling you he is uncomfortable. Never punish a growl because you are taking away the warning! Change the situation.)
  • Hiding
  • Jumping or barking more than usual
  • Pacing
  • Panting
  • Raising the fur on his/her back
  • Shivering or shaking
  • Showing the white of his/her eye
  • Trying to hide under furniture or escape
  • Turning his head away
  • Whining
  • Yawning or licking his chops.

Foods To Avoid

·         Too many fatty, rich, or unfamiliar foods can give your pet pancreatitis or gastroenteritis; two medical conditions that can be very painful and even life-threatening.  

·         Certain bones can lacerate or obstruct your pets' insides. Save the bones for the broth - not your dog. 

·         Make sure to dispose of turkey bones where the pet cannot get to it. These bones will splinter when chewed. Bones can get caught in a pet’s esophagus or intestinal track. 

·         Alcohol – wine, beer, mixed drinks, eggnog 

·         Bread dough expands in your dog’s stomach and causes pain and bloat, which is 100% fatal unless treated IMMEDIATELY. 

·         Onions and onion powder, widely found in stuffing and used as a general seasoning, will destroy your dog or cat's red blood cells, which can lead to anemia. 

·         Grapes and raisins contain a toxin that can cause kidney damage to both dogs and cats.
      ·     Chocolate can actually be fatal to your dog or cat; so all those sweets must be kept   well out of reach. Please read my blog on Chocolate Toxicity (Oct, 2014)
       ·        Buttery side dishes 

      ·         Coffee or tea 

·         Aluminum foil, wax paper and other food wrappings can cause intestinal obstruction. Make sure to place these items securely in the garbage. 

·         Keep an eye on the garbage and keep it securely fastened! If your dog gets into it, he may think he's hit the jackpot, but all he'll be winning is health problems from something as simple as gastric disturbance, vomiting and diarrhea to the worst-case scenario - death.  

·         Rancid food is full of bacteria and can make a pet very sick, so make sure garbage is not accessible to the pet. 

The following items can be eaten by your pet and possibly cause obstruction:

These cooking items can be consumed by your dog and get stuck in the intestinal track causing a blockage or perforation:
  • Baking string
  • Napkins
  • Plastic bags or shrink-wrap covering
  • Plastic eating utensils
  • Plastic glasses
  • Plastic or paper plates
  • Plastic wrap
  • Pop up timers
  • Roasting bags
  • Skewers
  • Tin foil
  • Toothpicks
  • Wax paper 

One especially dangerous Thanksgiving food is turkey skin or other very fatty foods. If you think your dog has eaten any or has any of these symptoms, then he may have pancreatitis, so take him to your vet or the emergency service that is standing in for your vet.

 Symptoms of pancreatitis are:
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhea (which may contain blood)
  • Fever
  • Increased water consumption with or without vomiting afterwards
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting  

One More Thing

If your guests have medications in their luggage, ask them to close and lock their luggage. With purses, put them in a closet with the door closed so your dog doesn’t go exploring…..
This may seem like a lot to do, but you love your dog and want to protect him or you wouldn’t be reading this article!

Please let me know if there are other points to mention for next year. Anything you might add could save someone’s pet next year.

We at Providence Veterinary Hospital wish you and your pet(s) a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday.

The Providence Veterinary Hospital Blog is a publication of Peter Herman, VMD, at the Providence Veterinary Hospital, 2400 Providence Ave. in Chester, PA. Contact Dr. Herman at 610-872-4000 or visit us at