Thanksgiving stirs memories both warm and not-so, the latter often connected with our younger years, when we were forced to sit quietly and display impeccable table manners. Most of my own Thanksgiving recollections are quite pleasant, especially those of the seasonal flavors inextricably bound in my primitive brain.
The day after Thanksgiving evokes its own set of images. So-called “Black Friday” makes us think of waiting in line at obscene hours (party!), great bargains, death-defying stampedes, and excitement. For me, the thought of Black Friday calls up equally hectic but less enjoyable memories: of the many phone calls I’ve received from worried owners of dogs suffering from various degrees of indigestion.
It’s only natural that we’d want to share the glorious cuisine of the holiday with our furry friends! How can we sit there in our gluttony, savoring Grandma’s special sage stuffing and creamy gravy, while Daisy’s imploring eyes stare at us? It’s hard to ignore the saliva dripping from her flews while you’re enjoying a delectable piece of Mom’s sour cream pumpkin pie with whipped cream.
I implore you: Please ignore it! Ignore the whining, slavering, barking, head nudging, pacing — all of it! If you capitulate to clever canine manipulation, there could be a price to pay.
Even careful owners can be undone by a devious dog. The leftover scalloped potatoes (made with heavy cream and shredded Gruyère cheese on top!) languish on the kitchen table, and your dog quietly counter-surfs; or she silently salvages turkey bones from the garbage. All the while, you’re in the living room eating the aforementioned pie.
Sure, a little indigestion might be only slightly unpleasant for you both; your dog’s appetite temporarily decreases, or she has a bout of loose stool in the yard. But most dogs are used to eating the same food at the same time every day, and deviation from that protocol can have more severe consequences. Those usually involve a trip to our office, intestinal antibiotics, and anti-vomiting drugs, perhaps with Imodium and probiotics thrown into the mix for the inevitable diarrhea that follows (usually on your newly cleaned carpet). Occasionally an abdominal x-ray, lab work, and fluids are necessary.
Not as common but of more concern is the possibility of pancreatitis. In some dogs, even a single meal that is too high in fat can result in inflammation of that tiny but crucial organ. The pancreas produces digestive enzymes; when it becomes inflamed, those caustic substances can leak out and literally digest the surrounding tissue. It’s serious, painful and sometimes even fatal.
So how do we assuage our guilt when we’re dining like royalty and our best friend is pleading for a share of the fare? Yes, you can resist. Or if your dog can handle table food, simply make her a doggie version of some of your dishes. Save some of those boiled potatoes or baked sweet potatoes before you slather them with cream cheese and butter. Soak plain croutons in hot fat-free chicken broth. Unembellished carrots, cooked green beans and peas are all flavorful treats that some dogs enjoy. Add small amounts of skinless, boneless turkey white meat to any of those dishes for extra palatability. What about dessert? The ASPCA has published a pumpkin pie cookie recipe for dogs and cats!
Reduce the possibility of accidents by making sure leftovers and table scraps are safely put away or stored well out of reach.
And remember: Although you might enjoy pushing back from the table engorged like a replete tick, that doesn’t mean your dog does. Filling her stomach won’t fill her heart. Only you can do that.