food safety for petsAs October winds to a close, many of us turn our thoughts toward the upcoming holiday season and its promise of family and friends, fun, and of course, food. Unfortunately, the holiday season is also when veterinarians see an increase in the number of food-related pet emergencies, especially pancreatitis.

By being aware of the principles of food safety for pets, you can help to keep your four-legged friend happy, healthy, and celebrating right alongside the rest of the family.

Pancreatitis In Pets

Although it may not seem like a big deal to feed a few Thanksgiving leftovers to your pets, it may pose a serious risk to their health. Pancreatitis, a dangerous and potentially fatal inflammatory condition, can result from the ingestion of even a small amount of fatty or oily foods such as poultry skin, gravy, or bacon. Pancreatitis is so common around the holidays that the day after Thanksgiving is sometimes known as “Pancreatitis Day.”

Symptoms of pancreatitis include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Dehydration

Pets suffering from pancreatitis need immediate medical attention. Besides making your pet very ill and causing significant pain, pancreatitis can create scarring on the pancreas, which could lead to decreased insulin production and diabetes. In severe cases, pancreatitis can be fatal if left untreated.

Foods To Avoid

Pets who partake in the holiday meal (or help themselves to the garbage) are at an increased risk of ingesting something toxic. The following holiday foods can make pets seriously ill:

  • Fatty, buttery goodness – Turkey skins, gravy, butter and cheese-laden mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, and the like all pose a serious risk for digestive upset and pancreatitis. Keep access to these foods  to a minimum, and offer plain mashers or sweet potatoes, a morsel of white meat, or unbuttered green beans instead.
  • Chocolate – Depending on the type and amount ingested, chocolate can cause gastrointestinal upset, hyperactivity, and even dangerous heart arrhythmias.
  • Grapes and raisins – Grapes and raisins can lead to kidney failure.
  • Xylitol – This artificial sweetener commonly found in sugar free gum, baked goods, candy, and peanut butter can result in a life-threatening drop in blood sugar and potential liver failure.
  • Onions and garlic – Onions and garlic can lead to digestive upset or damage to the red blood cells (especially in cats).
  • Macadamia nuts – Ingestion of macadamia nuts can cause depression, vomiting, or tremors.

Food Safety For Pets

Nothing puts a damper on a holiday celebration like a pet emergency. Fortunately, practicing proper food safety for pets is a simple way to avoid a disaster at any time of the year:

  • Never feed table scraps to your pets, and make sure your guests don’t either
  • Put leftovers away immediately
  • Keep garbage bins covered or take the trash outside (and in a tightly covered bin) right away

Again, there’s no reason that most pets can’t enjoy a small treat while the rest of the family eats their holiday meal! A small scoop of canned pumpkin, a bit of cooked, plain green beans, or a few cubes of plain turkey breast (no skins) is a healthful and tasty way for your pet to join in the fun.

If you have any further questions about food safety for pets, please give us a call. Your team at Poulsbo Animal Clinic is always here for you and your pet!