Pet Tales: Give pets the right treats at Thanksgiving

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Turkey skin, turkey necks, gravy and other high-fat Thanksgiving food can make dogs and cats very sick, and in some cases, it can kill them. Emergency visits to veterinary offices and hospitals skyrocket over the Thanksgiving weekend, and so do vet bills, according to news releases from the American Veterinary Medical Association and Petplan pet insurance.

Many emergency visits involve serious and potentially fatal "digestive tract disturbances resulting from exposure to foods pets simply should not have received," said Clark K. Fobian, a veterinarian who is president of AVMA.

Petplan, which insures more than 100,000 dogs and cats, reports huge increases for the following potentially deadly conditions over the Thanksgiving weekend: 91 percent increase in gastroenteritis, 82 percent in poisonings and 28 percent in pancreatitis. A holiday bill for gastroenteritis averages $734 and holiday poisoning claims average $1,055, the insurance company said.

Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the digestive tract, usually the stomach and intestines. A "new food" that the pet is not accustomed to eating can trigger an attack. Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. One of the causes is ingesting too much fat, and it doesn't take a large amount of food to cause it.

A turkey carcass left on a table or counter or in an uncovered trash can lead to pancreatitis, "which is extremely dangerous and can cause death fairly quickly," Mr. Fobian said. All bones and scraps should be disposed of in covered, tightly secured containers or in a trash can that pets can't get into, he advises.

Some of the ingredients in the family dinner can be poisonous for pets, too, including onions, garlic, raisins and grapes. Desserts can be deadly if the ingredients include chocolate or the artificial sweetener Xylitol.

Part of the problem is that holiday fare for people is much richer and fattier than what pets generally eat every day.

If you feel bad because your dog or cat isn't getting special food for Thanksgiving, veterinarian Jules Benson, a vice president at Petplan, has suggested that instead of giving table scraps and bones, try one of these recipes from the vet experts at Petplan.

Turkey Meatballs

6 ounces lean ground turkey

1/2 cup chopped carrots

1/2 cup quinoa or oatmeal

Pinch of kelp powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place turkey and carrots in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.

Roll into 1-inch balls and place on a nonstick cooking sheet.

Bake 15 minutes.

Each turkeyball has 17 calories.

Quiche Bites

2 medium eggs

1/2 cup minced vegetables (celery, carrots, zucchini, spinach, broccoli)

Pinch of kelp powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a nonstick mini-muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk eggs in a bowl. Add veggies and kelp and stir until blended.

Evenly distribute mixture into the mini-muffin tin.

Bake 10-12 minutes.

Each quiche bite has 11 calories.

Pumpkin Smoothie

1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree

1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt

Place pumpkin and yogurt in a blender and blend on high until smooth.

Pour into eight small paper cups. Serve as liquid smoothies or freeze.

Each smoothie has 13 calories.

The Petplan release attributes the recipes to the book "Chow Hounds: Why Our Dogs Are Getting Fatter. A Vet's Plan to Save Their Lives" by Ernie Ward.

Treats should make up less than 5-10 percent of the pet's daily caloric intake, according to the Petplan release.

Thanksgiving dog show

Thursday is more than turkey and televised football games. For the 12th year, Thanksgiving is also the day to see "The National Dog Show" presented by Purina from noon to 2 p.m. on NBC, right after the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. In recent years it's been watched annually by 20 million viewers.

The televised show has highlights of the Kennel Club of Philadelphia competition at The Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, 15 miles west of Philadelphia. The competition is actually two shows that were held Nov. 16-17. The club has had shows since 1879.

About 2,000 dogs representing 175 breeds will compete. The TV broadcast is hosted by John O'Hurley, who played J. Peterman on the "Seinfeld" TV show. The expert analyst is David Frei, who is also the voice of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on USA Network in February.

A prime-time encore presentation of the National Dog Show will air on NBC next Saturday 8-10 p.m.

If you can't get enough from the TV broadcast, go to www.NationalDogShow.com, where the "extras" will include video from the judging of top dogs in the group competition, behind-the-scenes photos and video of Best in Show winners from the past 10 years.


Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Linda Wilson Fuoco: lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3064.

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