This Holiday Season, indulge responsibly!
Thanksgiving is so close we can almost… taste it? Now that we’ve been putting our celebrations off for over a year, this season seems likely to be a celebration of celebrations! Every year from Halloween through Valentine’s day, Veterinary clinics see an increase in food-related illnesses in dogs and cats. Here’s a rundown of the things we see pretty frequently. More importantly, I’ll give you a list of fun ways you can share the joys of special treats with your pets safely and responsibly.
- Various toxicities- Chocolate, grapes, raisins, xylitol-containing gums and candies, macadamia nuts, and garlic are well known to be toxic. Remember that the darker the chocolate the more concerning the toxicity. Also, remember that chocolate with other ingredients may carry a greater risk- i.e. THC containing chocolates, chocolate-covered espresso beans etc.
- Diarrhea- Probably the most common post-holiday ailment is diarrhea. Eating any food that is not part of a pet’s usual diet can cause mild stomach upset. We call this “dietary indiscretion”. Although generally not a big ordeal, sometimes the diarrhea requires medical attention to get under control.
- Weight Gain- Pets are not immune to the holiday weight gain that we humans experience. It happens really fast! Sometimes this happens from overindulging in treats. Sometimes it happens because all of the family comes home for a little while, and suddenly everyone thinks it’s his or her job to feed the cat (and the cat certainly isn’t protesting!)
- Pancreatitis- pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, the most common cause is eating fatty foods. The Pancreas has two jobs. One job is to release insulin (this is the endocrine pancreas). The other job is to release digestive enzymes (the exocrine pancreas). In pancreatitis, the digestive enzymes are activated within the pancreas itself, rather than being released to the small intestine and being turned on. This causes inflammation of the pancreas, as well as the abdominal cavity and sometimes the liver, gall bladder, and bile ducts. Pancreatitis cases can be relatively mild, responding to hydration, bland diet, nausea control, and pain control. Pancreatitis cases can also be extremely severe. These cases require hospitalization, pain management, antibiotics, fluids, and nausea control. Some truly severe cases can die from the pancreatitis itself, or from complications related to pancreatitis. There is definitely an increase in the frequency of this disease around the holidays. Sometimes pancreatitis is called “dumpster disease” because dogs who raid the garbage can for holiday leftovers will overindulge and give themselves pancreatitis.
Did that thoroughly bring the holiday cheer crashing down? Never Fear! You can celebrate responsibly and safely and share Holiday joy with your lovely pets! Here are some things you can do to keep everyone safe!
- Communicate well. Tell your guests the rules ahead of time to avoid any confusion. Make sure to tell your guests if your dog will get on the table when you leave the room so the table can be clear. Make sure family members know your rules and expectations for how and what the dog or cat should be fed.
- Clean up. It sounds obvious, but take the trash out! Especially if there are bones, grease, or potentially toxic things in that garbage can. Make sure to clean the turkey bones off of the table, and make sure children know to keep their candy and treats in a cabinet or high enough place that pets can’t reach it.
- Be mindful of suitcases! If you have out-of-town guests, the suitcase is a commonplace to keep snacks and medication that might tempt eager canines. Remind your guests to keep their suitcases closed or to empty any dangerous items out of them.
Here are some healthy options for special treats for your pets!
- Green beans- it sounds simple, but it’s a healthy, low calorie, high fiber treat and a LOT of dogs love them! Some love them frozen.
- A puzzle toy- This provides entertainment and a treat! You can use the pet’s own food to cut down on new foods and to reduce Calories. Puzzle toys of various types are available for both dogs and cats.
- Snuffle mats- like puzzle toys, these bring fun and a treat! The longer an activity takes, the more the enjoyment!
- Use the pet’s own food for a treat! This is an especially important tip for pets with food allergies. Put the “treats” in a special container to make it a special and fun thing! This is helpful for humans AND pets. If your kids love to give the dog or cat treats, decorate a treat container together and fill it with the pet’s own food to make it “special”.
- Do an activity. Playing a special game or going for an extra walk may be JUST as fun to your dog or cat as a special meal. Begging for food is actually begging for attention in most cases.
- Safe foods are ok in moderation for a special occasion. If you want to give your dog a small taste of turkey, just remember that 1 bite of turkey for you is 10 bites of turkey to your chihuahua. Avoid fatty foods in favor of more bland foods such as turkey, bread, vegetables, and egg. Steak, hamburger, bacon, pie, sausage etc. are more likely to cause digestive issues!
It’s such a fun time of the year! Take a few quick precautions to prevent an unexpected emergency so that everyone can enjoy the holidays safely! Your dog or cat will thank you for keeping them safe while helping them to celebrate (and so will your veterinarian!)