Thanksgiving With Our Dogs

Thanksgiving With Our Dogs

Prevent Pancreatitis, Bloat and Digesitve Emergencies


As you and your family sit around the dinner table this Thanksgiving, you may be tempted to invite your beloved dog to join you as you indulge in the mountain of goodies.

The holiday season is almost upon us!  This is a time to be thankful for all we have, for those around us we love, including our canine friends. We may even be tempted to share the family feast with our dogs in an offering of thanks and love.  While cooked turkey meat (not the skin, bones, gravy etc. ) is safe to give our dogs as a treat, be aware that it is not as easily digested by them as it is by us. Don’t get carried away – just feed a small amount and only as a treat, not as a meal.   Also, please be extremely cautious when discarding items used to cook the turkey which may be tempting to dogs, such as skewers, string, pop-up timers, and roasting bags. Swallowing such things can cause an intestinal blockage or perforation.

Cooked turkey bones should never be fed to dogs. All COOKED bones splinter easily, and, whether splintered or whole, they can lodge inside or perforate a dog’s intestines.

Be sure to place left over, cooked turkey bones and other garbage in cans with tight fitting, dog-proof lids, outside and out of your dog’s reach. If your trash cans are over-filled with extra holiday trash, place the filled bags of garbage behind a closed door with a dog-proof latch until it can be put out to be picked up with your other trash.

Turkey skin is something dogs love to eat, but consuming fatty food like cooked poultry skin or gravy, can lead to gastric distress and Pancreatitis, a serious inflammatory condition of the pancreas that causes vomiting and dehydration.

I know, I know, you tell yourself, “it’s just this once” or “only for the holiday.” However, things can turn bad quickly and with the hustle and bustle of the holidays; you may not be as alert to the first symptoms of distress, or you may pass them off as just nerves, stress, having a little too much turkey or the excitement of all the family at the home for the holiday.


Let me just tell you a little more about Pancreatitis. The pancreas produces digestive enzymes that break down food so the body can digest it. These enzymes are carefully handled by the pancreas in order to prevent them from damaging the pancreas itself or surrounding tissue. If they break down for any reason, the result is leakage of enzymes, which damage the pancreas and any surrounding tissue they reach. This breakdown is called pancreatitis. Symptoms include loss of appetite, severe and frequent vomiting, diarrhea that may contain blood, reluctance to walk, weakness, pain, crying, restlessness, irritability, or refusing to eat. Many people know their dog is sick, but may be confused as to whether or not it’s serious because of a lack of symptoms or symptoms being vague and mild.

Pancreatitis may occur only once in a dog’s life or it can become chronic, a condition that returns over and over again. It can quickly become fatal or just be a mild attack of pain that is over in a few hours or a day or so. It can cause serious side effects including shock, blood clotting disorders, heart arrythmias, and liver or kidney damage. So if your pet exhibits ANY of these signs, even if mild at first, get him to your vet immediately! Of course with it being a holiday, many animal clinics may be closed – another VERY valid reason to not be so sharing with your pets this Thanksgiving. And just in case, make sure you have an emergency number for your vet or the emergency vet clinic number handy for when your vet’s office is closed.


One last word of caution on holiday meals and your pet is “bloat.”

Bloat is a gastric condition that can be deadly and is an EMERGENCY for you and your dog. Bloat is most commonly caused by too much gas or fluid in the stomach. This gas extends the stomach causing gastric dilation. If the stomach partially rotates it is called gastric torsion. If it fully rotates its called gastric volvolus. Each can be a life threatening problem. Usually, large, deep-chested dogs are the most common victims, but it has occurred in some smaller breeds and puppies that have been allowed to eat too fast or drink a lot of water after having eaten dry kibble. The causes of bloat are varied, gulping of food and water, heavy exercise after a meal, too much cooked fats, etc.

Bloat is a deadly condition that gives you a very limited amount of time to act. Symptoms include abdominal distention, salivating, retching, restlessness, depression, lethargy, anorexia, weakness, or a rapid heart rate. Any of these symptoms, even if mild at first, should IMMEDIATELY be attended to by your vet.

The stages and manifestations of this condition can happen rapidly once started, so no time should be wasted in seeking advice and care, even if there is a little doubt.

Other Holiday Food Dangers


Most of your are or should be aware that another danger to dogs is chocolate. It contains a xanthine compound called theobromine. Theobromine is highest in dark chocolate, but even milk chocolate contains theobromine. Chocolate can be fatal to your dog! Bowls of candy, or pieces dropped by guests or children, may go unnoticed by you for hours, but pose a real risk to your pets.


Onions contain an ingredient called thiosulphate which is said to be toxic to dogs (and cats). The ingestion of onions may cause a condition called hemolytic anemia, which is characterized by damage to the red blood cells. Onion toxicity can cause the red blood cells circulating through your pet’s body to burst.

Onions are not something that a wild dog or cat, Wolf or Tiger would ever seek out, dig up and eat –  they are carnivores and their digestive system simply is not designed to eat any vegtables -root or cruciferous.

Safe Treats and Food

I know you are all like me and want to give your dogs a special Thanksgiving treat so they can partake in the celebration.  Here are a couple of safe ideas:

  • Give them a special new safe, toy or a fill a Kong Toy with raw ground turkey to keep him occupied during the meal.
  • Give them the raw turkey neck, thigh, heart, gizzard and/or liver.

Make sure your guests and family know a head of time that you don’t want anyone sharing their food with the dog and if your dog is the cute, wide eyed begging kind,  you may want to feed him his meal while you eat and then let him or her stay in another room until the family finish their meal and have things cleaned up.

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