by ANDREW M. STREIBER, DVM

Q:  On the subject of Thanksgiving, would you mind giving me a rundown on the potential menu pitfalls for my four-legged kids?

A:  While Thanksgiving is a great occasion for family, food, and football, it carries the risk of being a gastrointestinal disaster for our pets.  Any dish served during the meal should be included on our danger list.  Turkey, ham, stuffing, gravy, sweet potatoes, yams, mashed potatoes, green beans, salads, cranberry sauce, apple pie, pumpkin pie, ice cream — any of these (and others I may have missed), either due to their ingredients or the amount ingested, have the potential to be harmful.  Fatty foods can cause pancreatitis.  Onions and garlic can cause the red blood cell of the dog to lyse (erupt and die).  Nuts contain an unknown toxin to dogs.  Salty foods can cause renal disease and electrolyte imbalances.  And sweets?  Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine both of which are cardiotoxic to dogs.  Xylitol, a common artificial sweetener, is also known to be cardiotoxic to dogs.  Additionally, pet owners must be aware of the potential dangers both grapes and raisins pose to dogs as they too can cause acute renal failure.

Finally, like the dishes listed above, any non-traditional canine or feline foods, especially those fed in an unusually high quantity, have the potential to cause great harm to our furry companions: vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, inappetence, lethargy, anemia, or even, renal failure.  Treatment may range from outpatient detoxification to prolonged hospitalization.

Remember, the list here of possible toxins is lengthy, but by no means complete.  It serves to highlight some of the more likely pitfalls this holiday brings with it.  The lesson?  Listen to your mother and do not feed your pets at the table.  Ever.  A well meaning act that could lead to an animal’s toxicosis can easily be avoided.  Have fun, and happy Thanksgiving!