Deadly feast: Protecting our dogs at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is an exciting time to be a dog. There are interesting smells, tons of people to give you attention, and — best of all — the opportunity to snag some delicious table scraps.

As Pack Leaders we have to exercise caution, though all table scraps might look delicious to a dog, not all Thanksgiving food is good for them. If your dog gets into the wrong food, he can become quite ill. Nothing puts a damper on holiday festivities like having to rush your pooch to the emergency care center.

So what should you watch out for?

A bit of turkey is perfectly okay for dogs to eat — so long as it’s cooked and boneless. But don’t feed your pup uncooked turkey, as it may contain dangerous salmonella bacteria. In general, lean white meat is better for your dog’s stomach than fattier dark meat or skin.

But the biggest thing to watch out for is bones. They are a huge choking hazard. Make sure to remove them from any meat you give your dog, and never give her any kind of fowl bones to chew on. While all bones are potentially dangerous, bird bones splinter easily and can severely injure your dog’s mouth, throat, esophagus or stomach if swallowed.

Bread dough
If you’re baking some fresh rolls in the oven, make sure your dog doesn’t get into the raw dough. Dough can actually rise in your dog’s stomach, causing vomiting, abdominal pain, and bloating. In some circumstances, this can lead to life-threatening complications that require surgery.

Mashed potatoes
Potatoes themselves aren’t unhealthy for dogs. Many of the foods that get added to mashed potatoes, however, are dangerous. Dairy products with lactose, like butter, cream, and cheese can upset your dog’s stomach and intestines; onions can be potentially fatal for dogs, which also means you shouldn’t give your dog gravy made with a packaged mix or thickener, since most commercial brands of these products contain onion powder.

If you’re adding any artificial sweeteners to your food, never share the food with your dog. Sweeteners containing Xylitol are highly toxic and potentially deadly to dogs for a counter-intuitive reason. In humans, Xylitol has no effect on insulin production because the human system does not perceive it as sugar. In dogs, however, it does stimulate insulin production, which can cause a precipitous and dangerous drop in blood sugar, possibly leading to seizures, coma, and even death.

Adult beverages are common at many holiday gatherings, but make sure all alcoholic beverages are out of your dog’s reach. Even a small amount of alcohol can be toxic to dogs and, in the case of wine and beer, the ingredients they are fermented from — grapes and hops — are also toxic to dogs. In addition to liquids, keep an eye out for cakes that may have alcohol in them (such as fruitcakes or rum cake) and unbaked bread dough. There have been cases where dogs were poisoned from food with alcohol cooked into it — the idea that all alcohol “cooks out” of food is a myth.

This well-known dog hazard has a habit of turning up in unexpected places. Many recipes call for baking chocolate, which is particularly dangerous for dogs — the more bitter the chocolate, the higher the levels of the chemicals in it that are toxic to canines. Also remember to place any cakes or desserts out of your dog’s reach.

We know it’s tough to say no to those puppy eyes, but remember that you’re doing it to keep your dog safe. And you don’t have to completely keep them away from your meal — just make sure to pick and choose which treats you give your pup. If you’re unsure, consult your veterinarian.

As long as you keep an eye out for lurking holiday food hazards, you and your dog are sure to have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.

Why are you thankful for your dog? Tell us in the comments below.