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Holiday leftovers may create dangers for pets

With Thanksgiving leftovers in the fridge and Christmas dinner right around the corner, many people may be tempted to share their feast with their four-legged family members.

Recently, veterinarian Debye Turner Bell spoke on the CBS Early Show cautioning against feeding your pets anything from your Thanksgiving and Christmas table — no matter how much they beg.

“Cats and dogs aren’t used to the heavy seasoning we put in foods, or the high fat content. And sometimes, even a little bit can cause stomach irritation and result in vomiting and diarrhea,” she said.

Most everyone is aware of certain foods that can be toxic to animals, such as chocolate, but there are some hidden dangers you may not be aware of.

Giving turkey bones to your dog can be very dangerous, Turner said.

“Small bones or bone chips can lodge in their throat, stomach and intestinal tract.

“These bones break into very sharp splinters. They can then cause extensive damage to the stomach and gastro-intestinal tract after they’re swallowed. Sometimes, a bone can even puncture the small intestines, creating a life-threatening or even fatal situation.”

Turner cautions against onions and garlic as well because they contain sulfides that can damage red blood cells in animals.

Leslie Wereszczak, a licensed veterinary technician at The University of Tennessee Veterinary School said, “Dogs and cats lack an enzyme to digest this and they lack an enzyme to digest chocolate.

Chocolate contains a substance called theobromine, which causes the toxicity to dogs.

One of the biggest dangers of feeding your dog from your table is pancreatitis.

“Pancreatitis can be a life- threatening issue. It can start off as an upset stomach that leads to pancreatitis that can lead to multi-system organ failure and death in dogs,” Wereszczak said.

“People get an upset stomach and we take some Rolaids and they are fine, but this doesn’t necessarily happen in our pets,” she added.

Walnuts and macadamia nuts can cause pancreatitis in dogs and tomato stems and leaves, as well as potato skins, contain a poison called oxylates that can cause tremors, seizures and an abnormal heart rate.

According to Turner mushrooms may be one of the most hazardous foods for dogs.

“Mushrooms can produce damage to a number of internal organs, including kidneys, liver and the central nervous system. Seizures, coma, vomiting, even death can occur if a dog eats mushrooms,” she said.

Wereszczak said the best way to ensure you do not feed your pets anything toxic is to stick with their own commercial pet food.

“The diets are very balanced and specific for animal needs,” she said.

“You can up their treat intake or buy them some special treats. There are some very good treats out there commercially at the pet store.”

If you absolutely cannot deny Fido a treat from the table, Wereszczak recommends raw carrots and green beans.

“Those are good alternatives. They are low calorie and low fat and they are good for them,” she said.

What happens if your pet accidentally ingests table scraps?

“Vomiting is generally the first symptom that develops. Depression lethargy, drooling can indicate they are nauseous, diarrhea, and sometimes their abdomen can look distended,” Wereszczak said.

“If the vomiting persists, if the dog is depressed, they can develop dehydration and need veterinary intervention,” she added.

Turner said if you think your pet has eaten anything that may be potentially toxic, the American Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Animals Animal Poison Control Center is a great emergency resource.

“The center is the best resource for any animal poison-related emergency, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It’s dedicated to helping animals exposed to potentially hazardous substances by providing 24-hour veterinary diagnostic and treatment recommendations. The Center has specially-trained veterinary toxicologists on-duty around the clock. They also have an extensive collection of scientific journals and books, as well as sophisticated databases available nowhere else. And, the center’s clinical experiences collected over the past 10 years can be rapidly reviewed for diagnostic and treatment insight,” she said.


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