When you see those big brown puppy-dog eyes looking over at you yearning for food, it’s hard to say no. But you should. This fall, Halloween is the first of a string of holidays that are filled with treats and food your pet shouldn’t eat.
Many people don’t realize that candy and various human foods are bad for pets. For example, chocolate can actually poison your pet. It contains caffeine and a chemical called theobromine, and in large amounts can be extremely toxic to your pet. The toxicity depends on the type of chocolate. White chocolate is the least dangerous and dark baking chocolate is the most dangerous. If your candy stash mysteriously disappears and your pet starts becoming restless and hyperactive or vomiting, get him to the veterinarian immediately. Most animals recover, but the toxicity depends on the pet’s weight. If a small dog eats a lot of candy, it can be fatal.
The types of rich fatty foods dogs love can also be cause for concern. If your dog is a dumpster diver or gets into a great cache of leftovers, he may be rewarded with a case of pancreatitis. Most veterinarians will tell you that they see a lot of pancreatitis cases around the holidays. The classic problem is that the dog gets into the Thanksgiving turkey, gorges on it, and then gets very sick.
The signs of pancreatitis include vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Dogs with pancreatitis tend to stand in a characteristic "hunched over" position because of the pain. Dogs who get pancreatitis are often hospitalized and receive a course of fluids and antibiotics. Severe cases can be fatal.
A couple of traditional treats also are surprisingly bad for pets. Many cat owners don’t realize that milk isn’t well tolerated by most cats. Dairy products in general are often overly fatty and it’s best to avoid giving dairy to dogs too.
The traditional "give a dog a bone" idea isn’t necessarily a good one either. Although dogs love snacking on meat bones, the bone can splinter and puncture the stomach or intestines. Chicken and other poultry can be particularly dangerous as the bones become brittle when they are cooked. It’s much safer to give your dog bones that are designed for pets.
It should go without saying, but giving your pet alcoholic beverages isn’t funny. Most people are aware that too much alcohol can poison humans. Remember that your pet is a lot smaller than you are, so even small amounts of alcohol can be toxic. Pay attention at parties where pets may be able to get into drinks. If you smell alcohol on the animal’s breath or notice behavioral changes, call the vet as soon as possible. Alcohol toxicity can be fatal.
Another obvious point is to keep your garbage in tightly covered garbage cans. Both cats and dogs often enjoy the challenge of getting into the garbage and seeing what leftovers they can find. Spoiled food can make a dog sick, the same way it can make you sick. A midnight run to the emergency vet clinic with your vomiting canine is probably not the way you want to spend your holidays.