The holidays are most dogs’ idea of heaven. All those smells! All that food! All that company! All the opportunities to beg and steal!
Unfortunately, holiday gift cash is often used to help pay for new additions on many emergency clinics. To protect your dog and your pocketbook during the holidays, keep the following in mind:
Many holiday foods are fine in very small amounts, but can make your dog awfully sick if given too freely. Turkey and duck are fatty meats and too many scraps can cause pancreatitis. This goes for beef, chicken and pork fat too. Pancreatitis is potentially life-threatening, with symptoms including severe vomiting, diarrhea, reluctance to walk, pain and crying, irritability, restlessness, and refusing to eat. If you see any of these signs, get thee and thy whippet to an emergency vet pronto. Pancreatis can be fatal. If your dog has ever had a bout of pancreatitis, don’t give him any scraps at all. Stick to his regular diet. I know he will tell you he’s going to die without turkey leftovers, but the opposite may be true!
Nuts and chips are not only high in fat (see above warning) but also are very high in sodium. Another no-no for dogs. Macadamia nuts are deadly and often found in mixed nuts.
No chocolate! Dark chocolate is the worst, but none is good for dogs. It contains theobromine, which can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and increased urination. These can progress to cardiac arrhythmias, epileptic seizures, internal bleeding, heart attacks, and eventually death. Don’t panic if someone gives the dog an M&M, but be sure chocolate is out of reach, including wrapped packages that might be under the tree or candy on a guest room bedside table.
Put all aluminum foil, wax paper, twine, plastic wrap, and other items used to prepare or store foods in an outside garbage can with a well-fitted lid. Even the most obedient dogs can become talented thieves with enough motivation, and when the food is this good, that’s motivation! Many will try anything to get to it…including eating the paper it was wrapped in. Intestinal blockage is another emergency vet goldmine.
It goes without saying that turkey bones are very dangerous for dogs, Any bone that splinters can lodge in the esophagus, cause punctures internally, or set him up for an intestinal blockage (see Emergency Vet Goldmine #2 above).
Watch not only for a well-meaning guest slipping your dog a forbidden treat, but also for counter-surfing. If a human is not in the kitchen and/or dining room, neither should the dog be! Yes, he may usually be completely trustworthy around food, but with a steaming turkey glistening with juices on the counter? Get serious!
If you’re expecting company, make sure everyone knows you have a dog or dogs and what the rules are. It might be best to crate him or put him in another room while guests are arriving and making trips back and forth to the car for gifts or food. A door opening ten times in five minutes is an invitation for an unplanned game of chase!
Keep an eye on your dog and make sure he’s comfortable with all the hoopla. If he’s being badgered by children (or adults!), tactfully rescue him from the situation and give him some time to himself in that other room or crate. Just as for children, too much stimulation is not good for a dog. Even dogs who are generally very good with children have their limits. Nevermind the emergency vet, you definitely don’t want to end your Thanksgiving Day in the emergency room with a niece or nephew who just didn’t know when to quit!
Finally, just a few more reminders:
No drinking for the dog — alcohol can be extremely toxic for animals, and besides, who wants to see the dog dancing on the table with a lampshade on his head? Seriously though, some boys/men of a certain age/maturity seem to find it very funny to get the dog schnockered. Don’t let them.
If you bake bread, be careful to keep the dough away from the dog. Bread dough rising inside the dog’s tummy can make him very sick.
Stuffing may seem harmless enough, but if it is made with sage, garlic, onions, raisins, or chives , it’s not healthy for dogs.
Avocados, all parts, are bad for dogs.
Xylitol, the artificial sweetener used in some chewing gums and candies is poisonous to dogs. Check that bedside table in the guestroom again.
And just in case, keep a bottle of 3% hydrogen peroxide handy to induce vomiting if, after all your best efforts, your little Babyface Nelson succeeds in heisting the dinner. Dose is one teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide for every 10 pounds of weight..This method will take roughly 15-20 minutes to take effect. If it doesn’t work, you can give your dog hydrogen peroxide up to three times in a row. Do not induce vomiting if you think he has gotten into bones, however, as they may do even more damage coming back up.
Mostly, use common sense in all things dog.
Wishing a very happy holiday season for you and yours from all of us at the Virginia Federation of Dog Clubs and Breeders!