Thanksgiving Debate Settled: Don't Give Your Pets Turkey

The holidays can be extremely dangerous for your pets.

Thanksgiving is about sharing, but that doesn't include your fur babies.

Thanksgiving is about sharing, but before you are tempted to invite your cat or dog to join as you indulge in a mountain of goodies, you might consider an alternative treat.

Why must you resist the temptation of giving even a few giblets of turkey to your pet? Because there is a good chance you will end up in the vet’s office or, worse, the emergency room with a $1,000 bill and a suffering pet.

The majority of emergency room for pet visits during the Thanksgiving holiday revolve around the turkey. Owners must abstain from feeding any table foods to their pets. Even a small piece of butter-coated vegetable can cause a life-threatening pancreatitis in certain pets. And don’t even think about adding a ladle of gravy to your pets’ kibble. Don’t risk it. Strange foods and diet changes are hazardous to your pets’ digestive system and can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and a very sick animal.

If you can’t say no to those big brown eyes staring up at you while you savor your incredible meal, simply put your pets in another room with some of their favorite toys and their regular food and water. That way, you will resist the urge to share your holiday feast and your pets won't think bad thoughts of you while you ignore their pleas for a little table scraps.

Toxic turkey


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Refrain from giving any part of that beautiful bird to your cat or dog. While it may seem like just a little piece of turkey skin couldn’t hurt your pet, it can actually cause a life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas called pancreatitis.

The pancreas is a vital organ, which lies on the right side of the abdomen. It has two functions: to produce hormones, such as insulin and to produce enzymes that help in digestion of food. The production of enzymes helps break down food to allow the absorption of nutrients. But when pets eat high-fat foods, it triggers the pancreas to produce and release a large amount of enzymes.

Subsequently, the pancreas malfunctions and the enzymes end up digesting the pancreas itself. Clinical signs of pancreatitis include severe abdominal pain, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and depression. Pancreatitis may occur as a single episode or a recurring event. Most cases need immediate medical attention as pets can quickly develop potentially fatal side effects such as dehydration, shock, blood clotting disorders, heart arrhythmia, and liver or kidney damage. If you suspect your pet has pancreatitis, take them to the vet immediately. Overweight dogs are even more at risk.

We can’t speak enough about the dangers of bones. Cooked turkey bones can splinter and lodge in an animal’s throat or intestines with life-threatening consequences. The carcass can also create dangers as it may harbor salmonella, an organism that lives in the turkey’s intestinal tract. The cooking process usually kills all of the bacteria, but occasionally the center of the turkey may be undercooked, especially if it’s large or full of stuffing.

If the carcass sits out at room temperature for too long, the bacteria will multiply, and pets can become violently ill from eating it. Symptoms of salmonella poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, listlessness, fever, and loss of appetite. Make sure you either freeze the carcass or tie it up in a plastic bag and throw it out in a secure dumpster where no pets can get to it. The same goes for the string used to tie up the turkey; dripping with turkey juices, that string is a delicacy for cats and dogs just waiting for you to turn your back.

Holiday meal

The average Thanksgiving Day meal is around 3,000 calories. We may violate our diets and good senses, but don’t subject your pets to the dangers of overfeeding. Pets shouldn’t gain any extra pounds over the holidays.

Keep all candy and baked goods out of reach of hungry pets and make sure your cat or dog isn’t left unsupervised in the kitchen. Again, when removing string from ham or other packaged meats, place it in a plastic bag and dispose of it outside immediately. Some pets find packaging quite tasty and will chew and swallow it, with disastrous results. Never give your pets alcoholic beverages, chocolate, or people food of any kind. Believe it or not, most pets would prefer more attention instead of food and toys!

Your cat or dog doesn’t understand how dangerous the holidays really are for them, so as a responsible pet parent, you need to take control. With tasty morsels everywhere they look, even the best-behaved pet may be tempted to steal food from the kitchen counter or rummage through the garbage. So keep food pushed toward the back of counters. Incredibly, dogs have been known to pull whole turkeys off of ovens and tables!

Traffic troubles

Don’t just expect that your pets, which may not be used to increased traffic in the house, will take this added stress in stride. Take precautions to take the edge off your pets by creating a safe haven to which they can retreat. Provide a quiet room where your cat or dog can escape the holiday activities and guests. Make sure to include their food, water, and favorite scratching post or bed.

Dogs and cats are creatures of habit, so don’t deviate from exercise or feeding schedules. Also, be on the alert when guests arrive. Make sure all visitors know not to let pets escape out the door. It’s also a great time to make sure that all pets have collars with current ID tags and information.
Be sure to caution all guests, both kids and adults, not to give your pets anything except their normal food and treats. Non-pet owners are often unaware of the dangers of offering food from their plate to your begging pets.

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