As many households sit down for dinner tomorrow, a few members of the family won't be joining us, at least not to eat.
While we humans are stuffing our bellies full, our furry, four-legged companions are sure to be on the lookout for any delicious scraps of turkey and sides that may miss the intended targets of our mouths. Or, they're hoping to make the leap up to an unattended counter or buffet to have a feast of their own while no one's looking.
Hopefully we'll be the only ones with a belly ache after dinner this year, and our pets, cats and dogs alike — though they maybe a little less satisfied with their Thanksgiving dinner of kibble and water — are no worse off than that.
Turkey and other meats
Avoid letting your pets eat fatty, rich meat scraps, like beef fat, poultry skin and even gravy. Not only can it cause excessive gas, which will definitely gross out your guests at the dinner table, vomiting and diarrhea are other unappealing side effects. It is, however, okay to let Fluffy and Fido try a little bit of lean, white turkey meat (avoid giving pets dark meat, it's too rich). Just remember, moderation is key! Also, make sure whatever you give them is bone-free to avoid choking or internal injury from splintered pieces.
Both cats and dogs can actually benefit from a sampling of this popular Thanksgiving side dish. Cranberries are full of vitamins, and can help maintain a healthy urinary tract, which can be great for cats who are prone to these types of infections. But there's a catch. Canned and jellied cranberries have too much sugar, so only let pets have a taste if you're cooking with fresh berries.
If your cat or dog is a fan of certain varieties of veggies, they can certainly enjoy uncooked and unseasoned carrots, green beans, brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes or fresh pumpkin (not canned) as a healthy treat – but only before you drench anything in butter and herbs. Sharing some bread rolls with your pup is also okay, but in moderation and without butter, since bread can cause weight gain pretty quickly in dogs. If you want to create a really special, pet-friendly treat this Thanksgiving, try these pumpkin-based treat recipes from the ASPCA
Packaging and wrapping
Make sure you dispose of any packaging or food wrappers that might be tempting to little kitty and doggy tongues, to avoid accidental ingestion. Likewise, don't leave any delicious-smelling garbage somewhere a pet could get into. Yes, it's cold outside, but it's better to take out any trash with tempting food scraps right away. Ingestion of bones, wrappers or any other kind of garbage can cause intestinal blockage and maybe a visit to the Pet Emergency Clinic — not an ideal way to spend the holiday.
Foods pets should avoid entirely:
Raw bread dough
— it can rise in your pet's stomach and cause upset or a serious emergency.
— this is an obvious one, and it's present in lots of desserts that will be out on the table during the holiday season. Dogs are more sensitive than cats to an ingredient in chocolate called theobromine, similar to caffeine, which dogs can't metabolize like humans. Symptoms of theobromine poisoning in dogs can include digestive issues, dehydration, excitability and a slow heart rate. Later stage complications include epileptic-like seizures and even death.
— cats are highly sensitive to this herb, which can upset their tummies and depress the central nervous system.
Onions and garlic
— these root vegetables can irritate dogs' and cats' intestinal tracts, cause asthma attacks and damage red blood cells and the liver.
Grapes, currants and raisins
— it's not completely known what's in these berries that's so dangerous to pets, but ingestion can cause serious complications, including hyperactivity, vomiting, and even kidney failure.
— this fruit contains a substance called persin, which is toxic to most animals and can cause difficulty breathing, congestion, accumulation of fluid around the heart and even death.
— as few as six of these popular nuts, raw or roasted, can be enough to cause negative reactions, like tremors and vomiting. In the worst case, ingestion can cause paralysis or hyperthermia.
— the artificial sweetener found in lots of candies, gum, and sugar-free drinks causes an insulin reaction in most animals, leading to elevated blood sugar levels, which can progress to seizures and liver failure. It doesn't take much to be harmful, so keep candy and other goodies containing artificial sugars out of reach.
Sources: Banfield Pet Hospital
, Reader's Digest
, Paw Nation
, Animal Planet