So how do we avoid this? Make sure your pets are unable to get into the kitchen, either crate or restrict them to a certain room or floor of your home. Garbage should be made inaccessible and/or removed from the home in a timely manner. Talk to your guests and their children in advance to make sure they understand that table scraps are not allowed.
If you have family/friends coming who love animals, but maybe don’t know which foods are dangerous for your pet, take the time to explain to them the true dangers of sharing a goodie with your pet. Here’s a rundown of some of the most dangerous foods that make an appearance on Thanksgiving.
- Grapes/Raisins: Raisins are commonly found in stuffing, baked goods and as snacks. When ingested, these fruits from the Vitus sp. can result in severe acute kidney injury. Signs of poisoning often don’t show up for days, until kidney failure has already taken place.
- Xylitol: If you have any calorie-counting chefs in the kitchen (I mean, really, why bother on this holiday?), you may want to verify that they haven’t used any xylitol in the baked goods. Xylitol, a natural sugar-free sweetener, is a sugar substitute used in a ton of products nowadays: baked goods, certain brands of peanut butter, gums, mints, mouthwashes, nasal sprays, chewable vitamins, etc. When ingested by dogs, it can result in a massive insulin spike, causing a life-threatening hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and even liver failure with higher doses.
- Fatty Table Scraps: While I’m guilty of feeding my own cat table food, I’m savvy about what is healthy and not. Fatty table scraps like gravy, turkey skin, etc. are potentially dangerous to your dog, as they can result in severe pancreatitis. Certain breeds are especially sensitive, including miniature schnauzers, Shetland sheepdogs, and Yorkshire terriers. Even a piece of bacon can trigger pancreatitis in dogs, so when in doubt, don’t feed it to your dog or cat!
- Bones and Turkey Legs: Huge no-no. While you may think you’re giving your dog a treat, you’re actually putting him at risk for a possible foreign body obstruction. The bones can also get stuck in the stomach or intestines, potentially resulting in a perforation (or rupture) of the intestines.
- Onions, Leeks, Chives and Garlic: Okay, this toxic food is a bit overhyped, as it typically takes a large ingestion to result in poisoning in dogs. That said, when ingested, these common kitchen foods from the Allium sp. can result in oxidative damage to the red blood cells, making these cells more likely to rupture (e.g., hemolyze). Cats are especially sensitive, and can develop a severe anemia (low red blood cell count) from even small amounts. Thankfully, this is typically seen more with chronic ingestion (e.g., when they are eating it for days), but to be safe, keep these out of reach.
- Unbaked Yeast Bread Dough: About to throw some fresh bread in the oven? Make sure your dog doesn’t eat the raw yeast dough first. When this occurs, your dog’s stomach acts like an artificial oven, making the yeast rise and release carbon dioxide, causing a distended abdomen and potential life-threatening gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV). Next, the yeast and sugar in the unbaked dough are metabolized to alcohol, which can result in secondary alcohol poisoning in your dog.
- Alcohol: As mentioned above, we can see alcohol poisoning from weird sources (e.g., unbaked yeast bread dough, rum-soaked fruitcake, etc.). Likewise, dogs can be poisoned by ingesting alcoholic drinks, so keep the mixed drinks and beer away from your dog. Accidental ingestion can cause severe coma, slowed respiration, and a life-threateningly low blood sugar in your dog.
If you think your dog or cat ingested something poisonous, contact your veterinarian, emergency veterinarian, or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for life-saving care, right away. When it comes to any poisoning situation, the sooner you diagnose it, the easier it is to potentially treat, less invasive it is to your pet, and the less expensive it is for you. Now, that’s something to be grateful for.