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Happy (Safe) Thanksgiving for Pets

muppet (liz west) / [Flickr]

Thanksgiving is a holiday that centers around eating, but a lot of the food we enjoy can pose health risks for our furry friends.  Protecting your pet from some of the common food hazards can help to keep you at home enjoying family, friends and football, and not making an emergency trip to the veterinarian!


With Thanksgiving coming up this week, I was reminded that this holiday, which is all about gathering together and sharing, can hold some hazards for our pets.

Most pet owners know that turkey or chicken bones should not be given to dogs or cats. They splinter easily and could cause serious, even fatal intestinal damage for your furry buddy. But the bones are not the only problem – what about the stuffing? It may contain onions, garlic, even raisins and grapes. In small amounts, you might get away with giving your pet a taste, but dressing with those yummy added ingredients could affect your pet’s blood count and could even cause kidney damage for your dog.

Recently I learned that corn on the cob can cause problems for pets. The corn is not the problem – it’s the cob. If large chunks of it are swallowed, it could obstruct the animal’s intestines, requiring some expensive emergency surgery to save your pet’s life.

While cooking, and later, cleaning up, stash the trash. Carefully gather up any bones, plus strings, bags and wrappings that came on the meat or were used in cooking, even aluminum foil and plastic wrap, and dispose of it all in a sealed trash bag. Remember that compost piles and trash cans may be an irresistible attraction for a pet’s sensitive nose, so put the bag in a pet-safe garbage can.

Avoid “treating” your pet with high-fat foods, like the skin from the turkey or chicken, gravy, potatoes cooked with lots of butter. It’s not that healthy for us humans, but for our pets it could result in pancreatitis, which can be painful, even deadly. And as always, no chocolate!

So what can you give your pet? Try giving a small amount of white meat (no skin, no gravy), canned pumpkin (before it goes into the pie), green beans or carrots, even a piece of fresh apple (not cooked apple from the pie). Or even an extra helping of pet food.

A few precautions can mean a happy Thanksgiving for both you and your best friend. And that’s something to be truly thankful for, when you’re speaking of pets.


Mindy Norton has been “Speaking of Pets” on Alabama Public Radio since 1995.
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