Thanksgiving: that blissful holiday that requires no cards, gifts or elaborate lawn displays. All it asks of us is to eat heartily, have a grateful heart, and take it easy for the rest of the weekend (unless you're a Black Friday shopper). If you're a dog owner, you can expect to see your fur baby hovering near the dining-room table, hoping for a share of your bounty. But think twice about offering food scraps: Vets warn that certain Thanksgiving foods are dangerous for dogs. In some cases, even a nibble can turn your joyful dinner into a trip to the animal hospital.
"It is true that the day after Thanksgiving is the most hated day for us as veterinarians to work," says Wendy Mandese, DVM, Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine.
"But it’s actually not usually because of the toxic nature of the foods fed at Thanksgiving," she tells Romper. The problem, she explains, is that "dogs often are offered (or steal!) food that they don’t normally receive. This is called ‘dietary indiscretion’ and often results in GI signs such as vomiting and diarrhea."
Or worse. Fatty meats can also cause pancreatitis, Mandese adds, "which can be serious and result in hospitalization." And think twice before you hand over a turkey leg: Dogs should never be given animal bones to chew, because of potential serious complications such as intestinal perforations or obstructions that could require surgery (or even fractured teeth).
"Overindulging in the family feast can be unhealthy for humans, but even worse for pets, so keep the feast on the table, not under it," advises Daniel Edge, DVM, MBA, the Director of Veterinary Specialty Operations for animal health company Zoetis.
Dr. Edge and other experts offer some helpful advice on which Thanksgiving treats to keep out of the reach of dogs. While these are the ones most likely to cause trouble, there are other people foods that can wreak havoc with a pet's digestive system. "If you're ever in doubt, share a dog biscuit instead," advises Dr. Edge. And if you suspect your pet has eaten any of these foods, even if you don't notice any symptoms, call your vet or animal clinic ASAP.
1. Green Bean Casserole
"Safe foods [for dogs] might be raw vegetables such as green beans, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and apples," explains Dr. Edge. "The key is to make sure you give these foods before they're prepared with all the yummy butter, oils, and heavy creams that might not settle well with your pet." But the danger of the popular Thanksgiving side dish lies beyond its richness. Onions are toxic to dogs, and green bean casserole is traditionally topped with crispy fried onions; some recipes call for sauteed fresh onions as well, making it a double hazard.
2. Macadamia Nuts
If you put out bowls of nuts for your guests to nosh on before dinner, make sure to keep them out of reach of your fur baby if macadamias are in the mix. The tasty nibble can cause vomiting and tremors in dogs if eaten, warned PetMD.
3. Sugar-Free Cranberry Sauce
It just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without that tart little red fruit, and your dog may think so, too. But while a small taste of raw cranberries is fine for your pet, a keto or sugar-free cranberry sauce is dangerous if it's made with a certain artificial sweetener. "Xylitol, commonly used in gum and sugar-free baked goods, can be deadly if consumed by dogs," says Dr. Edge.
The classic turkey go-with comes in many varieties, from sausage to cornbread to chestnut. But what most have in common are onions and/or garlic, both of which can cause serious anemia in both dogs and cats, according to PetsBest. Play it safe and save the stuffing for your human guests.
5. Biscuit Dough
Thanksgiving brings out our inner baker, and few things smell better than rolls or biscuits just out of the oven. When bread dough is uncooked, however, it poses a hazard to pooches who sneak a bite of the scraps. Raw dough can rise in a dog's stomach, causing bloat, explained PetMD.
Some families add a glazed ham alongside the big bird on their Thanksgiving table, much to the delight of both guests and pups. Slipping a little plain turkey meat to your dog is fine, but say no to the ham. As PetsBest explained, pork products are hard for dogs to digest, so you may find yourself dealing with some unpleasant side effects if you treat your pet to a slice. Ham's high fat content can also lead to weight gain and pancreatitis in pets.
7. Chocolate Pecan Pie
Even though apple and pumpkin are the predominant flavors of the season, there are still plenty of chocolate Thanksgiving desserts to add to the mix. If you're trying out one of these recipes, resist your dog's whining for a taste. "Chocolate can be harmful to pets, even though many dogs find it tempting and will sniff it out and eat it," explains Dr. Edge.
8. Waldorf Salad
A fresh salad makes a nice counterpoint to all the heavy dishes on your table, and offering your dog a bite of lettuce or carrot (without dressing) is fine. But if your salad contains grapes — as a classic Waldorf salad does — keep it well out of Rover's reach, warns Dr. Edge. Grapes (and their dried counterparts, raisins and currants) can cause kidney damage in dogs.
Whether or not you bring out this holiday dessert on Thanksgiving or a few weeks later, put the leftovers in the fridge or a secure storage container so your dog can't get hold of it. Not only does fruitcake contain raisins, it's also often made with rum or a similar alcohol, which can cause seizures and respiratory failure in pets, according to Pet Health Network.
Wendy Mandese, DVM, Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine
Daniel Edge, DVM, MBA, Director of Veterinary Specialty Operations for animal health company Zoetis
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