Thanksgiving is just a few days away, and I know many of you are looking forward to sharing a meal with your nearest and dearest. 

And perhaps also with some that are not so near or dear, but are blood relations and that’s just how this holiday goes.

As you carve your turkey, dole out mashed potatoes, ladle on the gravy, and generally heap your plate with more than you can eat — do not, I repeat, do not be tempted to share with that whiskered face between your knees.

There are many reasons that Fifi and Fido should not be sampling your thanksgiving culinary delights. The first reason is that these deliciously flavorful foods can lead to immense gastrointestinal distress in dogs (and cats).

Even just a small bite of fatty skin, or sauce, or meat can result in days of diarrhea, tummy ache, and even pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is especially common in dogs after a high-fat meal, excessive table scraps, or getting into the garbage.

The pancreas, which is responsible for secreting digestive enzymes, can become overwhelmed and very inflamed. This leads to moderate or even severe abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and even sepsis or death.

The treatment often consists of hospitalization, IV fluids, anti-nausea medications, and pain medication. You have better ways to spend Black Friday, I’m sure of it.

Sharing table scraps can also lead to obesity, which is among the most common afflictions in our pet dogs and cats. Osteoarthritis, diabetes mellitus, grooming, and other conditions can be complicated by obesity.

Of course, obesity occurs over time, not at a single family holiday, but my point here is don’t start the bad habit of giving table scraps to your pets on Thanksgiving or any other day of the week.

Another lesser-known issue with sharing food is that our diets contain ingredients that can be toxic to pets, when fed in excess.

For example, onions and garlic are dangerous when eaten in larger quantities. Onions, garlic, shallots, leeks, and chives contain a compound (n-propyl disulfide) that leads to oxidative damage in the dog’s red blood cells. The red blood cells then rupture, leading to (sometimes significant) anemia.    

All parts of the onion (or any member of the allium family) are toxic, and whether they are cooked or raw makes no difference. It takes about 100 grams of onion (about 1 medium onion) per 40 pounds of dog weight to cause severe toxicity.

Signs of anemia include pale gums, lethargy, loss of appetite, and collapse.

What about our feline friends on Thanksgiving? They aren’t likely to partake in onions, or dumpster-dive after the big meal, and many won’t even eat the expensive food you buy them, much less what’s on your plate. But that doesn’t mean they are immune to any Thanksgiving dangers.

Many years ago, when my husband and I lived in Massachusetts, we spent thanksgiving with his parents in Connecticut. They had (and still have) a beautiful Birman cat named Enzo, whose tail was like a radiant plume swishing proudly behind him.

Enzo isn’t one to sample human food (he prefers Temptations) but he did allow himself a nice prowl of a set holiday table to determine if there are any bowls worth sitting in.

Unfortunately, this particular evening, the set table included flickering candlelight, and I’m sure you can predict where the story is going.

Picture Enzo, running at top speed, his beautiful fluffy tail alight behind him, and my mother-in-law dashing after him to extinguish the blaze. In the end, he lost only hair (and his dignity) and Thanksgiving was peaceful thereafter.

Generally, I prefer my holidays to be less memorable.

This year, I’ll be using battery-powered candles to protect my cats, and my dogs can take their place at my feet while I eat, but they know better than to expect any hand-outs.

I will be most certainly giving thanks for all my beloved furry friends, and a few humans in my life, too.

Dr. Hilary Quinn is a small animal veterinarian in Santa Barbara. She owns and operates Wilder Animal Hospital, and shares her own home with three humans (her husband and two kids) as well as two rowdy dogs, a very calm kitty, two fish, and six chickens. Contact her at news@noozhawk.com.

Dr. Hilary Quinn

Dr. Hilary Quinn is a small animal veterinarian in Santa Barbara. She owns and operates Wilder Animal Hospital, and shares her own home with three humans (her husband and two kids) as well as two rowdy dogs, a very calm kitty, two fish, and six chickens. Contact her at news@noozhawk.com.