When I was growing up, back in the dark ages, my first dog was an outdoor dog. He lived outdoors and came in rarely, mostly when the weather was freezing. Now when I look back at those days, I marvel at how much things have changed. My dogs not only live inside with the family, they share our furniture and our beds. Whether or not sharing a bed is a good idea, that’s another blog post for another time. In my house, we treat our dogs as family members and like to share the experiences of the holidays with them. That includes feasting, right? Well, that’s something we should definitely think twice about.
Many foods that humans eat not only aren’t good for dogs, they can be quite harmful. For instance, I think we all know that chocolate, which is found in most homes this time of year, can be poisonous for dogs. Chocolate contains theobromine which is similar to caffeine and can cause increased blood flow to the brain. Can it cause death in dogs? Yes, but few dogs actually consume that much. But even in smaller amounts it can cause symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and a racing heart rate. In higher amounts, seizures, tremors or heart failure can result. The darker the chocolate, the higher the theobromine levels. If you have a mixed household with both dogs and cats, theobromine is even more toxic to cats.
Onions, and the rest of the onion family (garlic, leeks, shallots and chives) are also on the list of items not to feed to dogs. Relatively small amounts of onion, raw or cooked, can cause big problems for dogs. For instance, a 45 pound dog, according to the American Kennel Club, would only have to consume one medium to large onion to experience dangerous toxicity levels. Onion powder and garlic powder are even more potent in N-propyl disulfide, the compound in onions and other alliums the can lead to anemia in dogs and cats. Symptoms of toxicity caused by onions include vomiting, lethargy, pale gums and fainting. If you suspect onions have been ingested by your animals, contact your veterinarian right away. Within four hours of ingestion, your veterinarian may want to induce vomiting to get rid of as much of the harmful components as possible. After four hours, it is likely already absorbed into your dog’s system and the treatment is different, changing to a supportive therapy to counteract the damage to red blood cells instead of trying to keep the damage from happening in the first place.
So what about roast turkey now that Thanksgiving is almost here? Turkey is often a main ingredient in dog food and is perfectly safe for dogs to eat, with some caveats.
* Make sure it is cooked WITHOUT other ingredients. Turkey cooked with onions, garlic and other seasonings should be avoided since those ingredients can cause stomach upset, or worse, in large quantities, as mentioned above.
* Turkey skin, even without spices and seasonings is quite fatty and dogs can develop pancreatic issues when they eat a diet high in fat.
* Be very vigilant that all the bones have been removed from the turkey you feed to your dog and that the pieces of turkey are bite sized.
* Most importantly, don’t overfeed your dog.
The holidays can be a great time of year for both the human members and the four-legged members of your family as long as you keep in mind that human foods aren’t always a safe option for your dogs and cats.