Turkey Day Dangers for our Furry Friends

By Dr. Karen Farnan, Managing Veterinarian

As you begin making your Thanksgiving plans and preparations, please remember to keep your furry family members’ safety in mind. Dangers such as pancreatitis, bloat, and toxins are significant risks for your pets during the holidays, so remember; an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

What is pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, which causes pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and can be severe enough to be fatal. Any fatty food can cause pancreatitis, so please don’t let your dog or cat have any turkey skin, dark meat, bacon or bacon fat, gravy, etc, etc… If you believe your pet has ingested any of these types of foods, contact your veterinarian immediately.

What are the toxins to keep in mind this feast day?

One of the newer ones is turkey brine. It’s appealing to dogs and cats due to the meat flavor, and can cause salt toxicosis if ingested, causing increased water drinking and urination, vomiting and diarrhea, and serious electrolyte changes which can lead to brain swelling! Onions, scallions, or garlic can cause anemia. The artificial sweetener Xylitol causes low blood sugar and liver damage. Xylitol can be found in low sugar or sugar free baked goods as well as chewing gum and dental products. Make sure your guests’ purses and suitcases are secure. My cat took sugar free gum right out of my friend’s purse, and my dog took cough drops from my mother-in-law’s toiletry bag! Luckily none were eaten, but I was quite worried as I crawled around on the floor counting sticks of gum. Lilies are very toxic for cats, causing kidney failure; the flower, leaves, or even a speck of pollen is all it takes, so check any flower arrangements carefully! And don’t forget about raisins, grapes, alcohol, and chocolate. Again, if you believe your pet has ingested any of these types of foods, contact your veterinarian immediately.

What about bloat?

Bloat, gastric dilatation, or gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV) are life-threatening risks for large breed, deeper chested dogs. Bloat happens when a dog eats too much of something quickly and swallows a lot of air while they are eating, the stomach enlarges and can twist and press on major blood vessels causing circulatory shock and stomach necrosis and death if not treated very quickly. Unfortunately, you can’t always notice it right away, so sometimes it is too late. A common bloat scenario is a dog eating from the countertop or trash, they eat quickly because they know they are not allowed, and swallow a lot of air in the process. So please, don’t leave your baked goods cooling or your turkey carcass unattended in the kitchen while you migrate to the dining room to eat your dinner. And put all trash in a secure trash can; most dogs can knock over covered kitchen trashcans, so in a cabinet with a baby hook or a pull out trash drawer is best. 

Better safe than sorry, but remember, we’re here 24/7 at Rocky Gorge Animal Hospital to help you with any emergencies that may arise!

Best wishes for a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

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