Avoid an aching pet this Thanksgiving

A dog looks at a plate of food on a table.
The holidays, and the feasts that come with them, result in thousands of veterinary visits every year for ill pets.

During the holidays, it’s always tempting to slide a chunk of turkey or two off your plate to a furry friend, but even in the giving season, it may do more harm than good.

The holidays, and the feasts that come with them, result in thousands of veterinary visits every year for ill pets.

This Thanksgiving, veterinarians at Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, want to help you help your pet avoid the ache.

“We tend to see a higher risk of vomiting and diarrhea around the holidays,” Jessica Bell, instructor at the College of Veterinary Medicine, said. “Make sure they aren’t eating people food — that’s the biggest tip.”

Cutting out foods high in fats, like gravy or leftover meat on a turkey or ham carcass, is a good place to start.

High fat foods can cause pancreatitis, an acute condition where the pancreas becomes inflamed by activating digestive enzymes before they reach the small intestine. Activating those enzymes in the pancreas causes pain and swelling and can later result in diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy and a swollen abdomen.

“If you really want to give your pet a treat, give them a limited amount of low fat,” Raelynn Farnsworth, clinical associate professor at the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine, said. “A little piece of turkey will not kill your dog. If you give them a Thanksgiving dinner, they could very well get sick.”

Common foods that can be toxic to dogs include anything high in onions, garlic, alcohol, chocolate, the white sap found in poinsettias, the berries found on mistletoe, lilies, too.

While most know not to give dogs certain foods, Farnsworth recommends putting a lid on the garbage, emptying it regularly, and ensuring other food is out of reach from pets.

“You don’t want your pet emptying the trash for you,” she said.

Bones from ham and turkey carcasses also cause problems around Thanksgiving, and in some cases require surgery to remove.

And keep in mind, what’s upsetting your pet’s stomach ache may not have anything to do with what they ate.

“Increased stress can cause nausea,” Farnsworth said. “Around the holidays, lots of people have visitors at the house and it can be chaotic. Pets need a place where they can escape the chaos.”

For stressed out pets, that may be access to a quiet room, the backyard, or a crate, if they are crate trained. Depending on the pet’s anxiety around visitors and their boarding history, boarding facilities may also be an option.

Wherever the pet is, Bell said to make sure they have shelter, and don’t forget about their food and water in the middle of the holiday madness.

“Really it’s trying to keep the animal’s routine as consistent as possible,” she said.

Media contact:

Raelynn Farnsworth, College of Veterinary Medicine, 509-335-8607, raelynn@wsu.edu

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