Next week, America celebrates its favorite gut-busting holiday. After we humans have stuffed ourselves full of as much turkey, potatoes, gravy, stuffing, dessert and whatever else we can fit on our plates, it is a natural inclination to give whatever leftovers we don’t want to our four-legged pals. The ones that have been begging for the past eight hours or have been tiptoeing through the side-dishes when we weren’t looking.
But hold the broccoli! Before giving one morsel of human food to the family pet, animal experts have some sage advice to keep Fido and Fluffy safe while letting them partake of this November tradition.
One piece of advice literally involves sage: not wisdom, the spice. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, sage and many other herbs contain essential oils and resins that can cause gastrointestinal upset and central nervous system depression to pets if eaten in large quantities. Cats are especially sensitive to the effects of certain essential oils.
John Crumley, a veterinarian at Baring Boulevard Veterinary Hospital in Sparks, said to be careful of poinsettias, which usually start to decorate houses around Thanksgiving. Both dogs and cats are known to eat the leaves, which is extremely poisonous. As a side note, Crumley also said to be careful when treating that post-family dinner headache with acetaminophen: One regular human dose can mean death for a cat. Local Bark Busters dog trainer Katherine Simkin sent an e-mail stating that alcohol beverages, caffeine and sweets of all kinds — especially those with chocolate or xylitol, an artificial sweetener — are no-nos for pets.
Crumley said the most common thing he sees around Thanksgiving involves bones and too much fat. Crumley said that although it is common to think that dogs are genetically predisposed to eat bones, that is not necessarily the case. If a dog swallows a bone it might not be digested, so it can cause punctures, he said. Most bones will make it all the way through the digestive tract, but it only takes one bone not making it out the back end to be fatal.
As is the case with people, pets need to be given fully cooked meat, Crumley said. A small dose of food from the table is OK for most animals, but overindulging is where problems occur. Crumley said people especially need to be aware of letting a dog or cat scarf down too much fat. Ingesting too much food can lead to an upset stomach, diarrhea or even inflammation of the pancreas, known as pancreatitis, according to both Crumley and the ASPCA. For safe treats, Crumley suggests just a little meat with no skin or bone and nothing with any dairy.
When the meal is all done and the plates scraped into the trash can, the time to monitor the pet has not ended. Besides the bone, fat or other undesirable parts that smell really good to a pet, any plastic that was used also could accidentally be ingested. A few days later some moldy dinner rolls might find their way into the trash, posing an additional threat. Crumley said mold often contains tremorgenic mycotoxins. “Dogs allowed to roam or get into the trash may ingest tremorgenic mycotoxins, which are neurotoxins that produce varying degrees of muscle tremors or seizures that can last for hours or days,” according to an article by Mary M. Schell, DVM, published in the April 2000 issue of Veterinary Medicine. Sources of these mycotoxins can include moldy dairy foods, moldy walnuts or peanuts, stored grains and moldy spaghetti, according to Schell’s article.
Animals also should not be given food that will give them an excess of pungent spices, such as chives or garlic, as this can be bad for the blood, Crumley said. The ASPCA also warned of giving an animal raw bread dough, as it can expand in the stomach. Though not commonly associated with Thanksgiving food, grapes are a new potential hazard for some dogs, Crumley said. The exact source of the peril has not been determined, he said, whether a mold or toxin or something else about the fruit, but they are bad for some animals.
Overall, the local veterinarian said, common sense needs to guide all pet owners through the holidays.