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Ask the Vet: Don't Feed Thanksgiving Leftovers to Pets

Dr. Lee Pickett on

Q: May we treat our dog and cat to some Thanksgiving leftovers? Is it OK for the cat to clean the remaining meat from the turkey carcass and chew on the small bones?

A: In a word: No. Veterinary emergency clinics see way too many dogs and cats after holiday feasts. Don't make your pets join that crowd.

Any abrupt change in diet can precipitate diarrhea and vomiting in pets.

Worse, many dogs that feast on high-fat foods like turkey skin, mashed potatoes and gravy develop pancreatitis. This condition, which starts with loss of appetite, abdominal pain and vomiting, may progress to death. Recurrent pancreatitis can lead to diabetes and loss of normal pancreatic digestive enzyme activity.

Bones cause countless problems for dogs and cats. They often break teeth, and sometimes they slice the gums or cheek.

If a bone gets stuck in the esophagus, your pet will choke and gag. A bone that becomes lodged in the stomach or intestines will cause vomiting and decreased appetite. If a fragment gets inhaled into the trachea or lungs, expect coughing and breathing difficulties.


Bones can splinter and puncture the stomach and intestines, causing infection within the abdominal cavity, and bone fragments can produce constipation and rectal bleeding.

Many of these problems require surgical intervention.

Another concern over the holidays is foods that are healthy for people but toxic to pets. Onions and garlic damage pets' red blood cells enough that they break apart and no longer carry oxygen. Grapes and raisins can harm canine kidneys. Macadamia nuts cause neurologic problems in dogs.

Even xylitol, a sugar substitute found in many prepared foods, candies and gums, can cause life-threatening hypoglycemia and liver damage in dogs.


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