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Pet safety tips for Thanksgiving

What your pets can and can’t eat from the traditional plate
Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 5:53 PM CST
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PINE BELT, Miss. (WDAM) - As you prep for what’s going on the table this Thanksgiving, don’t forget about your pets who might be running around under the table.

Shelter Manager at the Hub City Humane Society Michelle Parker says it’s a funny movie scene we’re familiar with – the pet stealing the Thanksgiving food from the counter!

“It’s always exciting having a new pet for the holiday season, especially if it’s your first time. But pets are notorious for being mischievous getting into things they’re not supposed to,” says Parker. “Counter surfing is a great thing that pets love to do when you walk out of the room for just a minute. So just make sure anytime you’re cooking and you leave stuff sitting on the counter that you make sure when you leave the room. You take your pets with you so they don’t jump on the counter and eat your turkey!”

Paul Calhoun, D.V.M. owns Animal Medical Center in Hattiesburg and Petal Animal Clinic. He explains it’s more than just mischievous for pets to get into Thanksgiving food, it can be dangerous.

“What happens is you get new people coming in, you got friends, you got relatives and things, and they just see those little babies jumping up and down and begging and they just want to make sure they’re happy too,” Calhoun says. “So we give them a little something. A lot of times especially in small breed dogs, Yorkies, Pomeranians, and Shih Tzus. They develop something called pancreatitis, it’s so easy, especially with ham, and greasy type foods that they’re just not used to,” says Calhoun.

Calhoun explains that how big a dog is and how much food they get into matters. If it’s one small bite of food and they don’t seem affected, they could be okay. But if you can tell you’re pet got into more than they should, you should pay attention to them to see if they do get sick.

“It’s gonna be dose-related to how much they ingested any of those products. Chickens aren’t gonna be too bad. Turkeys not gonna be real bad, or any of those are going to be really toxic to them. But what happens is, a lot of times that they’re just not used to that substance and how it was prepared or if it’s spicy, if it’s got grease on it or whatever. Then that stimulates the pancreas to start throwing out enzymes to make them so sick,” Calhoun explains.

Overall, pets shouldn’t eat onions, turkey skin, or sweets like chocolate. Parker explains some specific food to look out for but says the occasional unseasoned bite of turkey won’t be a problem.

“Onions are extremely toxic to dogs. Most people don’t know that. So that’s one thing if you’re cooking with onions, anything like that. Don’t give them the onion,” Parker says.

“Turkey bones, those they tend to splinter don’t give your dog turkey bones. Ham is high-fat dogs don’t process the same way we do and that they can cause pancreatitis. So basically bland, boneless unseasoned, not delicious turkey dinner would be the best thing for your pets, but every once in a while a nice little bite of a sweet potato or something like that won’t hurt them,” she adds.

If your pet is showing signs of pancreatitis, like throwing up from eating too much “human food,” that’s when you can call your vet for help.

“If they ingest the scraps, so to speak, or plate food or ‘human food’ on that,… it’s usually the next day... and I use that as the ‘eat test.’ If they don’t eat pretty regularly at whatever time you normally feed them, there could be something wrong,” Calhoun explains.

Parker and Calhoun agree the best way to prevent any pet and food-related sickness is to keep them away from the scraps. They say it’s a good idea to keep treats and a full bowl of food on hand so your pets don’t feel left out on Thanksgiving.

“Give them treats when you just can’t resist them bouncing up and down and you’re at the dinner table. The other thing is to feed them outside the room that everybody else has gathered around, get them pretty full before the whole food is out for Thanksgiving and that tends to help just a little bit also,” says Calhoun.

The Animal Medical Hospital is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, even on holidays. Calhoun says the pet ER is there to answer your questions if you have them.

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