Thanksgiving tummy troubles

On Thursday, many Americans will celebrate the biggest eating holiday of the year: Thanksgiving. We will join family and friends, talking and laughing for hours while enjoying “good eats.” As they have in years past, some churches and restaurants will likely serve a (free) turkey dinner with all the fixings to anyone who wishes to attend. (Many thanks go out to those who serve our community in the manner of the first Thanksgiving: sharing food with those in need.)

How will your four-legged furry friends fare on Turkey Day? If cats, they will most likely retreat into places where they won’t be disturbed (like under beds or in closets). Most dogs are social, so they probably will be in the thick of things, hoping for something to hit the floor and get to it before a person scoops it up. An occasional nibble here and there isn’t too bad, but some foods can cause severe illness, even in small quantities.

First of all, I’m assuming that you don’t actually feed your pooch a little here, a little there while you’re dining. If you don’t, please don’t start because it teaches your “kid” bad manners (begging), which can be difficult (if not impossible) to correct. If you do treat your dog, be sure to thoroughly research the foods that can cause illness, even death.

Second, I’m again assuming that you feed your buddy food made specifically for dogs, whether commercial or homemade. Long before commercial dog food was available, dogs ate table scraps as their main source of nutrients. Table scraps probably didn’t provide much of what was needed. This type of eating lifestyle can cause not only malnutrition but also obesity, possibly diabetes.

To help your search for foods to avoid, here is a list, which I ordered alphabetically, at just one website ( alcohol; avocado; chocolate, coffee, caffeine; grapes and raisins; macadamia nuts; milk; onions, garlic, chives; salt; xylitol (artificial sweetener); and yeast dough. That’s quite a list of harmful products.

Let’s consider onions and garlic. Cooks put onion and garlic into all sorts of savory sauces, like gravy. We have cooler weather now, so I would bet a whole lot of gravy making is going on in a whole lot of homes, all week long. And what dog wouldn’t just love some gravy over anything?

Here is what Dr. Jill Bowen has to say about onions and garlic: “Foods that you should avoid feeding because of their potential side effects and toxicity include onions and garlic because dogs and cats lack the enzyme necessary to properly digest onions, and this can result in gas, vomiting and diarrhea.

“If large amounts of garlic and onion are eaten daily, the red blood cells become fragile and break apart because of the chemical thiosulfate present in the plants. Depending on the amount eaten and the size of the dog, symptoms may develop either immediately after eating the onion or as long as a few days later. If the dog becomes severely anemic, it could be fatal.

“All forms of onion and garlic are at fault including raw, dehydrated, cooked, powders or even when used in baby foods for taste” (

So, the best course of action is to give your pooch food and treats, either commercial or homemade, developed for dogs. (If you buy commercial treats, be sure to check the country of origin. Dogs are still getting sick, sometimes dying, from treats made in China. See last week’s column, “Healthy snacks and treats.”) Treat with human food only rarely and only if the treat won’t cause harm.

As a final note, our 2014 Happy Endings calendar will soon be available, possibly within a week! We had some technical difficulties putting the final product together, but the file was sent to the printer on Tuesday. Christmas will be here before you know it, and at just $10, the calendar will make a lovely and inexpensive gift to a fellow animal lover.

This week’s article was contributed by Betty Duncan, a member of the CAPS board of directors.


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