Thursday, December 24, 2015

Sharing a holiday feast with your dog? Here's what you should know

Liam is waiting for his holiday meal
Chances are, there are all sorts of things on your holiday menu that your dog would love to share. Turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes and carrots are all favorite dog snackies. And it's fun to load up a pup's plate with human food for the holiday. To us, it feels like sharing.

But the key involves moderation.

Much of the food we eat when we're celebrating is a little too rich for a dog's delicate constitution. Feeding a pup a lot of fatty turkey, drippings-based gravy and butter-laden carrots can lead to a condition called pancreatitis, and it can be fatal in a dog.

Let's get technical for a minute.

The pancreas secretes juices the body needs in order to digest fatty foods. If that organ is pushed too hard for too long, the pancreas can begin to secrete excess juice. And that excess can, in turn, start to digest the pancreas itself.

This is an incredibly painful condition, and dogs who have it tend to whimper and cry. And, obviously, they don't want to eat anything at all. Medical care can turn the situation around, but it isn't uncommon for dogs in recovery to need a special diet. And sometimes, they need that diet for the rest of life.

I saw this condition quite a bit when I worked in the veterinary ER, and often, the families I talked to had no idea that they could put pup's health at risk by sharing festive food. When they found out, they felt just terrible.

I'd like to keep that from happening to any of my readers. (You can read more about the condition here.)

Both Liam and Sinead love their holiday food, and I like to vary their diet by incorporating different protein sources cooked in different ways. This is the sort of diet that can protect against picky eating, and it tends to provide a complete nutrition profile that helps them to stay healthy.

But their portions of holiday snacks are incredibly small. Liam gets about a tablespoon of potatoes, with no gravy, and he gets a piece of turkey that's about the size of one playing card, with no skin or gravy. Since Sinead is smaller, she gets even smaller portions.

Do they want more? You bet. And they can have another little bit when we have our leftovers. But big portions given out all at once? It's just not safe.

I hope all of you have a holiday that is merry and bright (and free of an emergency vet trip!). Be sure to leave me a comment, so I'll know you were here. Love to hear your holiday stories!

1 comment:

  1. Those are great tips. We each got a small taste of turkey with our kibble tonight as we had our holiday feast! Merry Christmas Eve!