The feast to end all feasts, Thanksgiving dinner, is just around the corner. Tomorrow evening, Americans from all walks of life will be in cozy food comas, lounging contentedly with full stomachs. But what about their dogs? Many well-meaning owners may be tempted to share the bounty with their canine companions, but it is important to remember that many common ingredients in human food can cause gastrointestinal distress or outright toxicity in dogs.
To help you avoid a pet-related crisis this holiday, here’s a list of the dangerous food items that may show up in your Thanksgiving spread.
Turkey, turkey skin, turkey fat, and bones
Feeding raw or undercooked poultry to your pup is risky for the same reason it is risky to you – the possibility of pathogenic salmonella bacteria. In addition, the high-fat turkey skin can lead to pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) or, in smaller amounts, nausea and vomiting.
Veterinarians warn against giving dogs cooked or raw poultry bones because they can break into sharp splinters and/or become lodged in the digestive tract. Such an occurrence could require surgical intervention and could be fatal.
And though it may seem like a nice treat to give your dog the leftover turkey fat that accumulates in the oven dish, these lipid-rich tissues – cooked or uncooked – put them at risk of pancreatitis.
Onions, garlic, and chives
The stems and bulbs of plants in the Allium genus contain sulfur-based compounds called disulfides and sulfoxides, which damage the red blood cells of both dogs and cats. According to PetMD, these chemicals are present in fresh, cooked, and dried forms of allium vegetables. The resulting condition of lowered red blood cell count, anemia, may present as fatigue, decreased appetite, and pale gums.
“In severe cases, the anemia may lead to internal organ damage, organ failure, or even death,” Dr Ann Hohenhaus, staff vet at NYC's Animal Medical Center, told the website. "Consumption of as little as 15 to 30 g/kg in dogs has resulted in clinically important hematologic changes.”
As these items are common ingredients in stuffing and frequently used to season the surface of the turkey, be mindful when slipping the dog waiting under the table tidbits off your plate.
Grapes and raisins
A surprising number of dog lovers are unaware that grapes and raisins are extremely toxic to dogs. Just a small bunch of the fruit may cause severe kidney damage. According to the ASPCA, scientists have yet to identify what substance within grapes causes this effect.
Although less traditional, raisins and grapes can also make their way into stuffing.
Chocolate, coffee, and tea
Though chocolate may be a well-known no-no for dogs, some people may be surprised to learn that coffee and tea are risky for the same reason. Chocolate (made from seeds of the Theobroma cacao plant), coffee (brewed from coffee berry seeds), and tea (brewed from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant) all contain caffeine, theobromine, and other alkaloid chemicals belonging to a class called methylxanthines. Extremely dangerous to dogs, ingested methylxanthines can cause hyperactivity, vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, muscle tremors, and potentially fatal seizures and heart rhythm abnormalities. Symptoms may onset within 1 to 2 hours.
Long story short, no coffee- or chocolate-flavored dessert or post-meal cup of tea for your pooch.
Raw yeasted dough
Unbaked breads and other doughy foods containing yeast, like yummy dinner rolls, should be kept away from pups because the tasty microorganisms can continue to release gas inside the animal’s digestive tract, leading to painful bloating. In some circumstances, trapped gas can lead to twisted intestines, which is a medical emergency.
Xylitol is a naturally derived sugar alcohol used as a sweetener or sugar substitute in many food products. In regards to Thanksgiving, be on the alert for xylitol in the cranberry sauce and in desserts, as it pops up in low-sugar jams, jellies, and mixes for cakes, cookies, pudding, and Jell-O. As it does in humans, xylitol causes dogs' bodies to release insulin. However, in canines, the level of excess insulin is more dramatic and can lead to hypoglycemia. It may also cause vomiting and diarrhea.
Per Dr Ahna Brutlag, director of veterinary services at Pet Poison Helpline, within 15 to 30 minutes of xylitol consumption, dogs may show signs of xylitol poisoning, including lack of coordination or difficulty moving, lethargy, tremors, seizures, or coma. Dr Brutlag notes that past reports show xylitol doses of about 50 mg per pound of body weight (100 mg per kg) can cause hypoglycemia in dogs.