Stuff the turkey, not the animals

Posted: Sunday, November 23, 2003

The aroma of a fresh, succulent bird roasting in the oven can mean only one thing "Turkey Day" is upon us once again. Thanksgiving is an entire occasion known for its overindulgence in the foodstuff department. However, as common as gluttony is during this annual eat-a-thon, it's important to remember to stuff the turkey and not your pets during the holiday.

Don't be swayed by the big eyes, pitiful looks and consistent begging. Though it's incredibly tempting to share people food, it's far best to resist feeding your pet from the holiday feast.

There are many brands of "delectable" pet food available in turkey flavor that are a better option than feeding pets human food.

If you insist on sharing a little turkey with pets, feed them only meat and do so in moderation. Most traditional Thanksgiving food is too rich for dog and cat consumption and can harbor hidden hazards.

Cooked turkey bones, as well as other bird bones, are dangerous to pets. The bones are hollow and break and splinter easily. This can result in sharp pieces being lodged in an animal's throat, or possibly tearing or blocking their digestive tract.

Dogs with bones lodged in their stomach or intestines, may seem fine for a few days after Thanksgiving, then will suddenly lose their appetite, have diarrhea or begin vomiting.

Dogs suspected of suffering from impaction should be taken to a veterinarian immediately to get an accurate diagnosis.

It's a good idea to know ahead of time where to go if the worst does happen, and your veterinarian can provide you with information and locations for emergency pet care during the holiday.

After dinner, remember that dogs and many cats may attempt to rummage through the kitchen trash. It's important to keep trash in a location that is not accessible to pets, and possibly double-bagged to avoid scents that could entice animals.

Pets that get into the garbage not only risk the potential harm from bones, but also the consumption of spoiled meat, tin foil or plastic wrap with clinging food remnants.

Remember that all the holiday company can be stressful to some animals. If your pets seem to be tired or stressed, give them a place to go where they can relax and get away from the activity.

Put them in a bedroom so they can calm down and rest. Perhaps purchasing a new toy that can be given at this time will make the animal feel more at ease.

Thanksgiving can be a busy time, with all the cooking, cleaning and visiting friends and relatives. It can help to prepare pets' regular meals and feed them before the company arrives.

Also, be sure that all guests are aware that they shouldn't feed any table scraps to pets.

So be careful with pets this holiday, since the last place you'd want to find yourself on a day that should be filled with warm and happy memories is in need of emergency vet care.

Joseph Robertia is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion. He has worked with wildlife and domestic animals for more than 10 years as a veterinary technician, a zoo keeper, and most recently as a zoologist for the Wildlife Conservation Society. He welcomes any pet-related questions or story ideas, but please none of a veterinary nature. Ideas and questions can be sent to his attention by e-mail at

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