Thanksgiving is coming, and that means tons of great food, lots of family love and more. Many of our pet health concerns around Thanksgiving have to do with all those scrumptious table goodies getting into the mouths of our non-discriminating pet gourmets.

Generally speaking, any unfamiliar food can pose real problems for our dogs and cats. Items unusually fatty in nature can encourage an acute onset of pancreatitis, an inflammatory condition affecting the pancreas, the organ making our enzymes for digestion in our small intestines. In the face of inflammation, the pancreas will leak these digestive enzymes, which create havoc to the tissues surrounding them. The result may be very aggressive and persistent vomiting and diarrhea. Animals can become very ill, very quickly, and their sickness can become a true emergency condition. The best solution is good prevention: Keep table foods off the floor and make sure to secure the trash bins.

Turkey bones are a great favorite of our pets. However, they can splinter or be swallowed in large enough fragments to choke your pet, or lodge somewhere along the bowel tract and create an obstruction. These conditions will run up major costs at the emergency clinic and also can prove life-threatening in some conditions.

And, do not forget that tasty dessert table. Chocolates are particularly dangerous, creating a toxicity for dogs due to a compound they contain called theobromine. Dark chocolates and cooking chocolate typically are most concerning, but even lighter, sweet chocolate can prove to be problematic. Chocolate toxicity in dogs can also be a potential killer for your dogs, due to this compound that is much like caffeine, directly affecting the dog’s heart. No chocolate is the rule.

Finally, I always have to alert pet owners to the issue of bloat. This commonly occurs in medium- to large-sized breeds. The stomach can swell with fluids from over-drinking or by eating items that create excessive gas accumulation, causing the stomach to twist on its axis, dragging the spleen along, and eventually shutting off the blood supply to those very critical organs. Dogs will either try to vomit without success, or pace uncomfortably. You may note obvious swelling of the abdomen, especially beyond the rib cage. This is a very true emergency and must be treated quickly and proactively. If you have a large-breed dog and you see any sort of abnormal behaviors as we described above, then I strongly encourage you to contact your vet or take a visit to the emergency clinic—better safe than sorry!

Dr. Doug Pernikoff practices at the Clarkson-Wilson Veterinary Clinic/Veterinary Pet Rescue. For more information, visit

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