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Thanksgiving and Pancreatitis… Is Your Dog at Risk?

Did you know that the day after Thanksgiving is also known as the National Day of Canine Pancreatitis? It’s the #1 cause of visits to ER vets that day with symptoms of gastric upset. If your dogs are counter surfer’s or trash diggers (like most GSP’s), please keep them away from areas where food is left out on Thanksgiving day or they will help themselves!

More about canine pancreatitis here:

Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday. A plentiful of food, and most often your dog is overwhelmed with the smells of the dishes served at Thanksgiving, and are waiting for a taste or something to drop on the floor. People often wonder whether dogs can take part in Thanksgiving feasts.

The short answer, unless your dog has specific food allergies or intolerances, is yes and no.

Yes, most staple Thanksgiving table items are safe for dogs to eat in moderation. And no, it is not safe for dogs to indulge in excess. In fact, a dogs lack of moderation makes Thanksgiving one of the more dangerous holidays for dogs. A day that has often been referred to the day after Thanksgiving as National Day of Canine Pancreatitis.

The real trouble is rarely caused by humans sharing their dinners with their canine friends (again, unless the dogs have specific issues with foods). Problems occur mainly when humans, are full of food and tipsy after wine, and while enjoying themselves inadvertently leave the leftovers out where the dog can get to them. Dogs have been known to consume entire turkey carcasses; even less voracious eaters will still massively overindulge if given a chance.

The classic case that develops on National Day of Canine Pancreatitis proceeds like this. After dinner, the family adjouns to the living room to watch football. The dog sneaks into the dining room or the kitchen or the trash area and helps himself to a massive quantity of turkey — especially the delicious rich skin — and whatever else he can get his jaws on. The fat in the turkey skin overwhelms the dog’s pancreas, which produces the enzymes that digest said fat. The overwhelmed pancreas responds by releasing enzymes aberrantly, causing digestion of the organ itself. Vomiting, diarrhea, and pain occur. Severe cases can be life threatening or can lead to diabetes later.

What about people who keep the leftovers locked down but who want to share some of their feast (in moderation, of course) with their dogs? Here is the rundown on the common Thanksgiving foods that are (and aren’t) safe for dogs, or at least those dogs who don’t have any food allergies or intolerances.

Turkey: White meat turkey is generally among the safest things that can be fed to dogs. The dark meat is slightly richer and therefore less safe. Skin is a no-no in anything but the smallest quantities.

Turkey meat is relatively safe, but the same cannot be said for the skin.

Stuffing: This tasty item usually contains onions and garlic. Onions and garlic are potentially toxic to dogs, but the good news is that it takes quite a lot of them to cause problems. The drippings in the stuffing also pose a pancreatitis risk. Some folks put raisins in their stuffing. Remember that grapes and raisins are extremely toxic to some dogs and should never be fed to them. Long story short: A small quantity of raisin-free stuffing probably won’t harm most dogs.

Mashed Potatoes: Just think about the quantity of butter and sour cream that you put into your potatoes. In humans it is the wine served with the meal, rather than the grease in the meal, that seems most likely to trigger pancreatitis. Many people mix the potatoes up with garlic and onion. If the potatoes are super rich, then it’s best not to feed them to the dog. If you make your potatoes plain, without garlic and onions, then a little bit probably won’t hurt. Mashed potatoes themselves are okay for dogs in small quantities, but what you put in them could make them less so.

Green bean casserole: The creamy beans could theoretically cause pancreatitis if consumed in sufficient quantities, and the yummy canned onions on the top should be avoided. But again, a small quantity of the non-onioned part probably won’t cause damage.

Bread: Plain bread or rolls are generally no problem. Buttery garlic bread again poses a pancreatitis risk.

Cranberry sauce: Cranberries aren’t poisonous to dogs, but be cautious with the heavily-brandied, and added sugar variety. As with potatoes, plaini cranberries are okay for dogs, but what goes in the sauce might not be.

Gravy: The drippings and giblets are rich, but when consumed in very small quantities gravy is not likely to hurt most dogs.

Most dogs can tolerate a bit of most Thanksgiving foods as long as they are consumed ONLY in small quantities.

However, if you discover that your dog has broken into the trash or consumed most of the leftovers, then you will need to monitor them for signs of gastrointestinal upset and pancreatitis. Dogs who suffer from diarrhea, lethargy, vomiting, or poor appetite should see a vet. Those who don’t might be fine if fed a bland diet (which, ironically, can be made with boneless skinless white meat turkey or chicken mixed with rice) for a day or two. When in doubt, call your local vet or emergency clinic to determine whether action is necessary.

Warmest wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving from our rescue family to yours!

Article courtesy of Dogster ~ For the love of dog

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