There’s plenty to occupy our minds during the holidays this year — that is if we’re having anything approaching a “normal” family gathering. But somehow, even on top of the 2020 concerns like spreading a deadly virus to family members, we can’t overlook the usual safety issues. I’m talking about keeping your furry family from getting sick.
Yes, while you’re eating your feelings this holiday you may want to share the bounty with your dogs and cats, but you could unwittingly be putting them in harm’s way. You may already know that dogs shouldn’t have cooked bones that can puncture or damage their digestive tract, but holiday tables can carry many other potential risks for your pets.
The American Veterinary Medical Association shares some guidance on keeping pets safe and healthy this holiday season. It will take cooperation from everyone in the family, so be sure your relatives agree to the house rules when it comes to feeding your pets. (That means no slipping the pup a turkey leg under the table, dad!)
1. Skip the turkey and trimmings
To start, it may be tempting to share some of that platter of leftover turkey, but save it for the turkey salad unless you can pick out a small piece of light meat with no skin. The skin contains spices and butter, said Jerry Klein, DMV, American Kennel Club's chief veterinary officer. He’s seen a number of patients over the years after a dog snatched turkey off the table or out of the trash can. Fatty foods like poultry skin can cause pancreatitis in pets, he says, a condition that can be life threatening. At minimum, he asks, do you want to spend Thanksgiving cleaning up vomit or diarrhea, or at the emergency vet?
But what about topping their kibble with gravy as a holiday treat? That’s a no from Klein as well. The flour, fat, salt and spices in gravy are problematic. Likewise say no to stuffing, which can have onions, garlic and spices, all dangerous to your pet.
2. Sweet treats should be kept out of reach
Desserts are also off the table (and should literally be off any table or counter where a curious dog can sniff them out unless you’ve done a stellar job of training them!). Chocolate items can pack a one-two punch, said Klein. While they can recover from the chocolate toxicity itself in 12 to 24 hours, the butter and fat in milk chocolate “can cause them to get sick several days afterwards with vomiting, diarrhea and pancreatitis.” Oatmeal raisin cookies are also a no-go thanks to the raisins, which — along with grapes — are poisonous to dogs. And while canned pumpkin can be a nice treat for pups, pumpkin pie filling can contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener that can be deadly to cats and dogs.
3. Keep the dinner rolls at bay
Pass the bread? No rolls for your pup. Yeast dough can cause painful gas for them, and can even cause the dangerous condition known as bloat (such as in a case Klein saw one holiday when a Great Dane puppy got into a plate of rising croissant dough).
4. Close up garbage cans, purses and luggage
Perils don’t end at the table. Unless your dog is one hundred percent trustworthy when it comes to staying out of the garbage, take great care to be sure they can’t go nosing through the trash, said Klein. And if you do have family visiting this year, be aware of open purses or luggage in pets’ reach. Anything from birth control pills to marijuana edibles to xylitol-containing gum can be consumed in a heartbeat.
5. Keep flowers and centerpieces out of reach
Be sure to avoid centerpieces or flower arrangements with items that can be dangerous to cats and dogs as well. Among those are amaryllis, Baby’s Breath, Sweet William, some ferns, hydrangeas and lilies. If you think your pet has been exposed to anything dangerous call the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline at 888-426-4435.
Can they have any food fun this holiday season? We want to show our love through food, but “you can kill them with kindness,” said Klein, when you consider that “obesity is one of the largest problems in canine health.”
If you really have to give them something, stick with plain, skinless, white meat turkey, just a little bit, he said, or maybe a few unseasoned green beans. Better still, keep them away from temptation in a place where they’re safe and happy, like a crate or their favorite bed with a toy they love. It can be harder to train relatives than the dog, after all!