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Share Thanksgiving bounty with your pets - safely

AC Pup says don't give your pets turkey bones - ever
AC Pup says don't give your pets turkey bones - ever
courtesy of Robin Cook

With its wonderful smells and flavors of ham, roast turkey, gravy, savory vegetables and sweet desserts, the Thanksgiving feast is a delight not only for us, but for our pets. Their enhanced sense of smell makes the banquet seem irresistible, and that can lead to problems. AC Pup, the ASPCA and Pedigree all have great tips for keeping this Thanksgiving holiday safe and happy for you and your pets.

Of course, you should always make sure your pets cannot climb up on the dinner table or the kitchen counters and start giving your efforts their own, personal "taste test." We all know that, right? They can have table treats later. Remember, no matter how your pet begs, or how forlorn and deprived your pet contrives to appear, some Thanksgiving foods simply are not good for your pet.

That isn't to say you can't share the bounty with your favorite furbaby. In many households, sharing meals is a given, and that's fine. Keep a few cautions in mind, however, to avoid making your pet sick -- or worse.

  • Turkey, ham and other meats are great treats in small amounts. Make sure the meat is fully cooked. Size the meat tidbits appropriately to the size of your dog or cat's mouth and age. Puppies and kittens probably shouldn't have any at all, but older babies can probably handle a few, very small, bits of meat.
  • Chocolate. The darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is to your pets. A couple of M&Ms falling to the floor to be vacuumed up by an eager canine tongue probably won't kill the dog, but a bag full of them can. The smaller the dog, the lower the dog's ability to handle the toxins in chocolate. Why not buy some dog-safe carob treats to give your dog while you're indulging in your favorite chocolate?
  • Xylitol is a substance used in many sugar-free products. This sugar substitute can damage your dog's liver. Check the labels on any foods you wish to share with your dog, and don't give your dog anything you make yourself using this sugar substitute.
  • Raisins and grapes may cause kidney failure. Be safe rather than sorry and just don't feed any to your dogs or cats. Birds, of course, love them.
  • Avocado, on the other hand, can kill your bird, so don't share your guacamole with your feathered friends.
  • Macadamia nuts can cause dogs to suffer tremors. Keep these nuts out of Fido's reach.
  • Cake mix, uncooked pie filling and other foods containing raw eggs put your pet at risk for salmonella infection. Yes, some cooks do let their pets lick the beaters or bowl when they're whipping up a dish, but limit this special task to recipes without raw eggs.
  • Bones. All poultry bones tend to splinter. Never, ever, even if you've done so without incident in the past, give your dog turkey or chicken bones. Or your cat. Just because you've been lucky so far doesn't mean you won't have a tragedy -- and guilt -- to deal with this time.
  • Onions and garlic in tiny amounts are probably okay, so a spoonful of cooked stuffing on your pet's Thanksgiving plate is fine. Tiny amounts is the operative phrase, remember.

Safety during the holidays isn't just about food. Here are some more tips for a happy and safe holiday:

Monitor your pets every time someone enters or leaves the house. Some pets get excited when company comes, and may feel the urge to dart out the door and express their joy in running. Many pets become lost, or worse, are hit by cars and injured or killed. If your pet is a runner, confine the pet while company is there, or restrain your pet with a leash or pet gate.

Pets may become so excited when visitors arrive that they will bolt past an electronic barrier. If you have an "invisible" fence, make sure the batteries in your pet's collar are fresh and working properly. Make sure all pets have ID tags and/or a microchip, in case they escape the house or yard. Macon Animal Control Shelter's own champion of pets, AC Pup, says to make sure ID tags are easy to read.

Many plants are toxic to dogs and cats. Small amounts of poinsettia may not kill your dog, but play it safe and keep this holiday favorite and other toxic plants out of reach. The ASPCA has a list of toxic and nontoxic plants that affect cats here, and a list of toxic and nontoxic plants that affect dogs here. If you're decorating the barn, check the list of toxic and nontoxic plants that affect horses here.

Keep the kitchen garbage can out of reach. Better yet, bag up all the bones and other detritus from your Thanksgiving feast as soon as dinner is over and take it to the outdoor trash can. Secure the trash can lid with weights, if necessary.


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