Keep Your Pets Safe this Holiday Season

Denver Animal Protection shares tips to ensure furry family members have a paw-some holiday ~

DENVER—Our dogs and cats are part of the family, so on Thanksgiving and during the holidays, you may be tempted to include them in the celebration and share with them a cornucopia of holiday foods. Denver Animal Protection (DAP) offers the following tips to keep your pets healthy and happy this holiday season.

Follow These Food Safety Guidelines for Fluffy and Fido:

DAP veterinarian Dr. Louisa Poon says most people food will give your pet an upset stomach and some foods can even be dangerous. To sidestep a visit to the vet avoid feeding your pets holiday goodies, paying special attention to the list below:

Do Away with Dough, Cake Batter – A combination of raw bread dough and the pet’s body heat can cause the dough to rise inside the stomach, resulting in severe bloating, abdominal pain, and vomiting. Raw eggs in batter could also harbor harmful bacteria.

Omit the Onion and Garlic – These ingredients contain sulfides, which in large amounts are toxic to animals and can destroy red blood cells, especially in cats, causing toxic anemia.

See Ya Sage – This, as well as many other herbs, contain essential oils and resins that can cause intestinal upset and central nervous system depression in pets, especially cats.

Refrain from Raisins and Grapes – In addition to being a choking hazard, ingestion of either can cause kidney damage. Just a single serving of raisins or grapes can lead to kidney failure and even death in a dog. The effects are cumulative, so even if a dog eats a few grapes or raisins over time, the toxins build up in their system.

No to Walnuts and Macadamia Nuts – These can cause weakness, depression, incoordination, and tremors. Also, the high-fat levels of these nuts may cause pancreatitis in dogs, resulting in severe vomiting and diarrhea. Some types of nuts, specifically peanuts (including peanut butter), almonds, and pistachios are fine to feed most dogs in small quantities. Large quantities are unsafe since nuts contain high amounts of oils and fats and can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and potentially pancreatitis.

Chuck the Chocolate – Chocolate can be toxic for pets, or even fatal, due to a substance called theobromine. Dark and unsweetened baking chocolates are especially toxic.

X the Xylitol – Many candies and chewing gum contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener that can cause a severe drop in blood glucose in dogs. As soon as 30 minutes after ingestion, dogs can begin to show signs of depression, loss of coordination, and seizures. Xylitol may also lead to delayed onset damage to the liver occurring days to weeks after ingestion. This toxicity in pets may be fatal and requires immediate medical attention. Also, read labels carefully, as this sweetener has become popular in common items such as peanut butter.

Adios Avocados – Toss that leftover guacamole and spare your dog the heart, lung, and tissue damage it can cause. Persin is the culprit, a component of avocado that’s safe for people and toxic to dogs.

Bye Bye Beer – Alcohol, especially the hops in beer, can be particularly harmful to dogs, causing intoxication, panting, fever, racing heart, liver damage, even coma, seizures, and death.

Steer Clear of Caffeine – Any coffee, tea or caffeinated product is not safe for dogs’ central nervous and cardiac systems. Spare your pup any restlessness and heart palpitations. Don’t let him near your morning joe.

Guard the Garbage – Besides keeping certain foods away from your pets, you should also keep them out of the garbage can. Make sure your pet can’t get the plastic wraps, bones, trimmings, and other temptations from the trash.

You Don’t Have to be Scrooge:

Avoid feeding your pet Thanksgiving treats and consider giving a fun treat or toy instead of food, like a Kong. A Kong should keep your pets occupied during mealtime. You can fill a Kong or similar toy with catnip or treats for cats. For dogs, you can also stuff an interactive toy with their usual food or treats.

It’s also safe to offer a small amount of cooked turkey without skin and gravy, but don’t include any bones since turkey bones splinter and can cause extensive damage to the stomach or get lodged in their throat or stomach. It’s also safe to offer cooked vegetables, like sweet potatoes, green beans, and squash. Cooked or canned pumpkin is also safe.

A Safe Home for the Holidays:

The holidays mean festive gatherings and more people in your home than usual. Pet parents prepare your pet before guests arrive:

  • Keep your pet in a comfortable place away from guests. If you know your dog doesn’t care for guests, have a crate ready in a quiet spot with a closed door.
  • Provide distractions. Have a variety of items to occupy your dog’s time while you visit with friends and family. This can include food-stuffed toys or puzzles, bones, chews, chew sticks and toys.

Exercise is also a good way to get your dog tired and less rambunctious before guests arrive.

  • If you’ve recently adopted a new pet, keep in mind new people can be overwhelming. It’s best to slowly introduce the pet to guests. When in doubt, keep your pet in a quiet place until you know how they will react.

Even the best-laid plans can go astray, so if your pet ingests something harmful or shows signs of illness, call your veterinarian immediately. You can also call the ASPCA pet poison hotline at (888) 426-4435 for advice. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

The Denver Department of Public Health & Environment (DDPHE), Denver’s nationally accredited public health agency, empowers Denver’s communities to live better, longer. The divisions of DDPHE are: Administration, Animal Protection, Community & Behavioral Health, Environmental Quality, Office of the Medical Examiner, and Public Health Investigations. In partnership with Denver Public Health, DDPHE provides quality public health services to the City and County of Denver. For more information about DDPHE, visit or follow us @DDPHE.

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