Baker, Larry (copy)

Larry Baker, owner of the Northgate Pet Clinic, holds a dog as he walks through the clinic in January. Some Thanksgiving foods can cause pets to become ill. 

Ryan Voyles, Herald & Review

DECATUR – Your furry and feathered friends are part of the family, but they probably shouldn't be too much a part of Thanksgiving and other holiday meals.

"You've always got to keep in mind the main toxins we see in animals are chocolate, grapes, raisins, onions and garlic. Those are toxic to cats and dogs, so anything with those is off the list (of safe foods)," said Dr. Brent Minick of Bel Aire Pet Clinic in Mount Zion. "With that caveat, moderation is the key. If you give a small little piece of turkey, you're not going to cause any harm, but if 15 people give the same small piece to a chihuahua, you're looking at a lot. If they're not used to rich foods, it upsets the stomach and can cause vomiting and diarrhea all the way to full blown pancreatitis, which can be fatal."

It's hard to say “no” to pleading eyes or squawking demands for a bite when the table is groaning under so many yummy things, but you must.

One particularly scary prospect is that your dog will get to bread dough that's rising on the counter and eat that. Put it well out of his reach, Minick said.

"Once it hits the stomach, it will continue to rise in the stomach, and it can rupture. We've had to go in and remove (bread dough) from a stomach," he said.

Don't give dogs or cats turkey bones, said Dr. Jennifer Owen of Brush College Animal Hospital. A little turkey – not the skin, the meat – is fine as a treat, in moderation. But stay away from garlic, peppers, grapes, raisins, chocolate and other candy. If the pleading eyes are too much, put them in another room with a safe treat suitable for them while the family eats.

Dogs and cats not used to the rich and fatty foods of the holidays are far more likely to get sick from eating too much of it.

Most of the same rules apply to parrots, said Dr. Teresa Schecker of Northgate Pet Clinic, though parrots have such varied diets in the wild that table food is not quite the same hazard for them, but some foods are toxic and forbidden.

For birds, as for dogs and cats, chocolate, sugar, salt, caffeine, alcohol, onions and garlic are toxic. Birds, too, can get pancreatitis, she said.

"In general, some people have Amazons and some have cockatiels or parakeets," she said. "What's toxic to a parakeet is not s to a giant bird because, of course, the parakeet is smaller."

The quantity of mashed potatoes with garlic that is safe for a cockatoo is far too much for a parakeet, for example. A small taste won't hurt, or you can prepare some plain mashed potatoes specifically for your feathered friend before you add the flavors for the humans to eat.

In addition to being careful what foods you let your parrot have, be careful about other toxins in the environment that are more likely to be a problem during holiday celebrations. Teflon coating gives off fumes that can kill a bird quickly due to their delicate respiratory systems. Air fresheners, such as Febreze and scented oils, are not safe for birds. If you're cooking and accidentally burn something, air the room out quickly so your bird doesn't suffer from breathing the smoke. And if you have a self-cleaning oven, don't use it, ever, if you have birds.

Decorations pose a hazard to pets as well, Owen said, and keep that in mind as well.

"Pets with Christmas trees, make sure they're not getting into the tinsel or curling ribbons," she said. "It can cause obstructions. Make sure cats aren't chewing on the lights on the tree. They can shock themselves."

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Staff Writer

Education and family reporter for the Herald & Review.

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