Thanksgiving Foods, Plants Could Send Pet to Vet ER

Common holiday foods and decorations could pose grave dangers to dogs and cats. Veterinarian Karen “Doc” Halligan explains how you can save a choking pet, using a modified Heimlich maneuver.

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Thanksgiving is all about sharing, but don’t share your holiday food with your pets. Some of the most common festive foods can be dangerous or even deadly to four-legged members of your family.

“One little piece of turkey can set a pet off to a life-threatening pancreatitis,” says Dr. Karen “Doc” Halligan. “Just love your pets instead. Don’t give them a piece of holiday meal.”

Because turkey is similar to chicken, some pet owners may think it’s safe to feed turkey meat to their cat or dog. But Halligan says the inflammation of the pancreas could lead to severe abdominal pain, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea.

Stuffing bags and strings that are used to make holiday meats also pose danger to animals. Some pets will want to chew or swallow the turkey or ham packaging and string.

“They are soaked in ham and turkey juice. Your pets will sniff them out and ingest them,” Halligan warns. 

Here are other foods that are dangerous to pets:

  • Turkey carcass
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Chocolate
  • Candy, baked goods

The veteran veterinarian also warns holiday decorations and plants that are regularly used during the Thanksgiving holiday may harm animals.

“Mistletoes can be deadly,” says Halligan, who encourages families to consider artificial plans for their fur-babies. “Look up the plant before bringing into your home to make sure it’s safe.”

Candles are also dangerous as they are commonly used to light up the house around the holidays.

“Animals, especially cats, will knock them right off and burn things,” Halligan explains.

Here are other dangerous plants and decorations:

  • Pumpkins
  • Amaryllis
  • Autumn crocus
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Acorns from trees
  • Sweet William
  • Lilies
  • Poinsettias
  • Schlumbergera (Christmas cactus)

If your pet ends up with an object in its mouth, time is of the essence, according to Halligan. A choking pet’s airway must be cleared within 4 to 6 minutes.

Here are the common choking signs:

  • The tongue turning blue
  • Drooling
  • Panting
  • Pawing at the mouth

If your pet is showing signs of choking, first open its mouth and try to pull the object out if possible.

A modified Heimlich maneuver can also be performed to save your animal.

  1. Put a fist firmly under the rib cage where the diaphragm is. (For small animals, fingers can be used instead of fists.)
  2. Use the other hand to hold your pet up.
  3. Perform an upward press to expel the object

 More helpful tips on how to keep your pets save are available on Doc Halligan’s website.

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