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Kern County Animal Services offers some holiday pet health do's and don'ts

Thanksgiving is for family, and for lots of us, that includes pets. Nick Cullen of Kern County Animal Services has some advice for how to safely include your furry buddies in the food and fun.
Yellow lab and tabby kitten
Posted at 6:55 PM, Nov 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-22 22:02:04-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — If you're like a lot of pet owners, Thanksgiving dinner being a family affair means the furbabies are getting treats from second breakfast until midnight munchies. Animal experts say pet parents should use caution when sharing the meal with their best friend, though, as many types of food that are good (or at least harmless) for humans can make a dog or cat anywhere from a little gassy to deathly sick.

According to the American Kennel Club, veterinarian's offices around the country see a spike in vet visits around the holidays due to household pets being given (or getting into) food that isn't safe for them to eat.

Nick Cullen, Director at Kern County Animal Services, says onions, anything spicy, raisins and grapes, mashed potatoes, casseroles and stuffings, and anything with alcohol in it should not be given to dogs or cats.

"The things that sometimes we think are safe around us are not safe around our pets," said Cullen. "Dessert as well for the holidays. Chocolate is poisonous to dogs. Most artificial sweeteners that maybe aren't included in chocolate are unhealthy for animals, too."

The AKC says sweet potatoes, pumpkin, apples, green beans, and peas are all safe in small portions, as long as there isn't anything added to them.

Additionally, the AKC wants to clarify that turkey bones, like the bones of any bird, can be very hazardous for pets, as they have the potential to injure their digestive tracts.

Cullen recommends that pet owners keep scraps cleaned up and trash cans covered and out of pets' reach.

"Turkey and turkey skin is not good for your dog," adds Cullen. "It can cause or lead to pancreatitis. I had an issue come up; a neighbor of mine thought that he had taken all of the precautions and forgot to dispose of his turkey's carcass properly, and his dog ended up getting ahold of the spent turkey."

Cullen adds that there are plenty of animal poison control hotlines in case you think your pet has ingested a toxic substance over the holiday, and asks owners keep a watchful eye on pets and contact their local vet if they notice anything unusual.

Another pet health consideration owners should take into account is their animals' emotional health during the holiday season. Even a normally calm pet can become nervous, even agitated, in a house filled with unfamiliar smells, noises, and people.

If you have a pet that gets easily anxious or excited around company, Cullen says you can take precautions by keeping them comfortable in a closed, quiet room so they can feel secure, but more importantly so that they stay safe and inside.

“God forbid, you know, people start coming over leave a door open and your dog escapes or your cat escapes," said Cullen. "That identification being on its tag or caller and microchipping just becomes ever so important."

In the end, Cullen says, the best way to ensure the health and safety of your pets, on a holiday or any day, is to get into a regular routine with a veterinarian you trust.

“You always want to have a relationship, whether it be holidays or not holidays, with a local veterinarian," said Cullen. "You want to create a relationship with the veterinarian, knows you knows your pet, maybe has a history and records on your pet so that if you are noticing a change in behavior, that you can communicate it to the veterinarian and they might know your pet's normal behavior."

Cullen also recommends keeping a list of local and national numbers to call on your fridge if you need urgent help or advice for a pet. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' 24-7 hotline is one such resource for those who need advice right away but can't get in touch with a local veterinarian. That number is (888) 426-4435.