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Is the “New Normal” Changing Your Holiday Routine?

It’s the week before Thanksgiving and things just seem…different! In previous posts, I have discussed the importance of making sure that visiting family and friends don’t accidently send you and your pet to the animal emergency room. Making sure our guests adhere to our rules about what kind of holiday treats and snacks we share with the pups and kitties is always important, but this year our festive gatherings are likely to be a little bit smaller. Travel restrictions, recommendations for limiting guests, and concerns about SARS-CoV-2 are taking a toll and changing what we will do for the holidays.

Despite the “new normal”, there are still some valid concerns about what we will be serving at our holiday feast and how those foods might affect our furry friends. In addition, many more households have added a new, four-legged family member this year and we might not fully realize how the new pet might react to the yummy sights and smells. So, let’s dive in and see what CAN be shared and what should be avoided when it comes to holiday foods and our pets!

Depending on your family, turkey or ham might be the main course and there are even some families (like mine) that need to have both! Despite knowing our cats and dogs would love to dig into some of that meaty goodness, it’s generally best to be VERY sparing when sharing these two entrees. Both ham and the skin of the turkey are very fatty and this can predispose pets to a serious, painful condition known as pancreatitis. Pets who develop pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) will act very painful, will find it hard to get comfortable, and dogs will often have bouts of vomiting. Our feline friends tend to be more lethargic and lose their appetite.

Across our Noah’s family of hospitals, we will generally treat 30-35 cases of pancreatitis on the weekend after Thanksgiving. You can avoid this trip to the emergency room or an added appointment with your regular veterinarian by limiting fatty foods. If you must share with your pet, consider a SMALL piece of white meat from the turkey breast. Keep in mind that your 4 lb Yorkshire Terrier does not need 8 oz of turkey! It’s also important to keep pets out of and away from the trash. Rooting in the garbage can also set up a pet for some pretty gross gastrointestinal upset (you know…vomiting and/or diarrhea!!)

Dogs like bones, right?? Well, yes, but if you ask any of our veterinary staff, they will tell you to avoid sharing these with your pet. Cooked bones can splinter, leading to perforations in the gut and a lot of bones can cause an obstruction that might need to be surgically removed. Even un-cooked bones are not 100% safe. Fractured teeth, bones caught on the jaw and, again, obstructions are often seen with these as well.

Side dishes come with their own concerns, especially those using onions, garlic, or salts/powders in the recipes. That smell you associate with garlic and onions is actually a chemical that can break down and damage hemoglobin in our pet’s red blood cells. The result of this is that the pet loses full capacity to carry oxygen and the red blood cells end up being destroyed, leading to anemia. It only takes about ¼ cup of raw onion or garlic to cause issues for a 20 lb dog!

Finally, I would be remiss if we didn’t discuss the dessert table. Chocolates, artificial sweeteners like Xylitol, and even grapes and raisins are on the naughty list for our pets. If your pet decides to help themselves to the chocolate pie or a spoonful of whipped cream made with Xylitol, it’s time to call your emergency veterinarian!!

Things will be different this year, but we can make sure everything is SAFE around our home by watching what our pets get from the holiday table. Have your veterinarian’s number and the closest animal emergency room number handy.

Remember, during these unusual times, animal ERs are VERY busy and the curbside service might lead to a longer wait than normal. Be patient, bring good energy, and help our dedicated, essential teams care for your furry best friend! Happy Holidays!

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