A Happy, Healthy Thanksgiving for You and Your Pet

While it is tempting to prepare our pets a special plate complete with turkey and all the trimmings, the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association (NJVMA) cautions that fatty foods such as turkey skin can upset the digestive system and potentially trigger pancreatitis. This is a serious condition causing the pancreas to release digestive enzymes into the body cavity, causing possibly life-threatening abdominal (belly) inflammation.

Symptoms of pancreatitis are visible when your pet becomes listless, refuses to eat and drink, vomit severely, and have a tense, painful abdomen. Prompt veterinary treatment is needed to support your pet through this crisis. Less dangerous, yet still uncomfortable, gastroenteritis may follow any change in diet or overindulgence from the Thanksgiving meal.

With tasty morsels at every turn, even the most well behaved pet may be tempted to steal food from the kitchen counter or rummage through the garbage can. To help prevent these situations, try to keep food pushed toward the back of the counter and keep trash cans either secured with a tightly fitting lid or under a kitchen cabinet or in a closet. Should your pet, especially a dog, find its way into a pile of discarded turkey bones or leftover stuffing, call on your veterinarian to help manage your pet’s malady.

Swallowing bones can cause problems ranging from intestinal blockage or puncture (requiring emergency medical intervention) to bellyache and constipation from slow moving bone chips. If you notice listlessness, severe vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal distention, contact your veterinarian immediately. Remember, your family veterinarian is your complete source of medical knowledge and guidance for all of your pet’s health care and behavioral needs.

If you want to do something special for your pet to celebrate the holiday, rather than sharing your Thanksgiving dinner plate with your animals, members of the NJVMA advise feeding either pet treats or a small additional serving of the usual diet during the family meal. Always use caution when switching your pet’s food or introducing new foods into their diets as these sudden changes in diet may trigger diarrhea. If your dog or cat is currently overweight, it is wise to contact your family veterinarian to discuss an appropriate weight management program for your pet. If you need a veterinarian, please visit the Find a Veterinarian page for a list of NJVMA veterinarians in your area.