Ask a Vet: How Can I Make Thanksgiving Better for My Pet?

Welcome to our Ask the Vet series, where we get top advice from real pet experts! In this edition, meet our friend Dr. Charles Berk.

Team Rachael: Thanksgiving can be a tough time for pet parents. I often find that people love to give my dog treats (which I wouldn’t otherwise allow). What’s a good way to help set parameters with guests on feeding the dog?

Dr. Charlie Berk: The big thing about controlling what your dog gets is setting boundaries for your guests. They may think its fine to give your dog some turkey, potatoes or stuffing, but they are not going to be around to clean up the mess if your pet’s stomach gets upset. Even giving dog treats meant for dogs can be an issue, if it is a new treat they haven’t had before or if it is in large amounts. Ask your guests to respect your wishes, and if treats have to be given, make sure it is what you would normally use and potentially break them up into smaller pieces to have them last longer.

TR: Are there any holiday foods that are particularly bad for our pets that we should be aware of?

CB: Yes: chocolate, garlic, onions, avocado, grapes, and raisins are all harmful, and I would stay away from nuts as well. A few of them can be very dangerous. Any “people food” can cause diarrhea and vomiting, so it is important to be aware of what your pets are up to.

TR: If we were going to build a mini Thanksgiving meal for “Fido,” what would you include?

CB: As I have mentioned previously, dogs really don’t do well with foods they aren’t used to eating, and the seasoning that we put on our food can make it worse. If you really want to give your pet something special you could give them some a small amount of boiled chicken breast with their regular food.

TR: If my dog gets stressed out by the amount of people or commotion, do you have any suggestions for helping calm him down and making it a more pleasant evening for all?

CB: There are a number of natural supplements on the market that can be helpful for dogs that have anxiety with guests. A few oral ones are Anxitane and Rescue Remedy. There is also something called dog-appeasing pheromone (DAP), like Adaptil. These are collars that can be put on that continually release a hormone that people can’t smell that calms dogs. None of these are guaranteed to work but have no negative side-effects.

TR: Any other tips/insights you think our readers should know?

CB: Also, be careful about garbage and turkey carcasses. I have seen a lot of dogs and cats that have gotten into the garbage and have become really sick or, in the worst cases, need surgery for bones that get stuck. Even though the holiday season is very busy, just remember that it is our responsibility to take care of our pets, and just because they like eating something doesn’t mean it is a good idea.

Thanks for the advice, Dr. Berk!

[Top image via Flickr/HJ_West]

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