Holiday meals mean holiday leftovers. It can be hard to ignore your dog’s longing looks as you pack away that turkey and stuffing. After all, what’s the harm in a few bites?
As irresistible as your dog may find table scraps, many of the ingredients that make them delicious can pose grave short- and long-term threats to their health. Before you let your pet chow down on human food, it’s important to understand the risks.
Turkey or Chicken Bones
Bones are so strongly associated with dogs that many pet parents assume they are a safe treat. Though they may be tasty, leftover bones can cause many potentially serious health problems.
Bones that are boiled in stock or roasted inside a cut of beef or poultry soften significantly during the cooking process. As your dog chews, these bones can break into small pieces that become a choking hazard or splinter into sharp fragments.
Dogs who swallow sharp pieces of bone are at risk for:
- Injuries to the mouth and esophagus
- Internal bleeding
- Intestinal obstruction
- Peritonitis (abdominal inflammation)
If your dog accidentally swallows a cooked bone, monitor them closely for signs of choking or distress and call your vet right away.
Rich and Fatty Foods
We all know what it’s like to feel bloated and uncomfortable after overindulging in rich foods during a holiday meal. For dogs, differences in body chemistry and their smaller size can magnify this discomfort many times over.
Fatty foods like turkey skin, grease, gravy, and items prepared with oil or butter can put a strain on your dog’s pancreas, the organ that produces digestive enzymes. This inflammation of the pancreas, or pancreatitis, is life-threatening and extremely painful. Get your dog to the emergency vet if you notice:
- A distended stomach
- Signs of dehydration
- Loss of appetite
Toxic Hidden Ingredients
The ingredient lists for our favorite holiday dishes can be long. You would never feed your dog a leftover brownie, but it’s easy to forget that casseroles and salads can contain foods that are harmful to dogs.
If you aren’t completely certain what goes in your Aunt Alice’s famous stuffing, keep it out of reach of your pets. From garlic and onions, which can cause gastroenteritis, to grapes and raisins, which can cause renal failure in very small amounts, unfamiliar leftovers are risky business.
Bad Table Manners
Every Thanksgiving and Christmas season, emergency veterinarians see an uptick in food-related incidents. Though some of these are the result of pet owners unknowingly feeding their dogs something toxic or harmful, they frequently occur because dogs get into the trash or help themselves to unattended food.
Feeding your dog from the table can encourage nuisance behaviors like begging, but it can also unintentionally set the precedent that human food is up for grabs. Dogs who are regularly offered table scraps won’t recognize that your uneaten raisin-filled bread pudding is off-limits, and the results can be disastrous.
If you want to share a snack with your pet, choose a safe treat like a carrot or apple, and offer it away from the dinner table. Rewarding your dog in a structured way not only discourages counter surfing, but can also keep you out of the emergency vet this holiday season.