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You’ve just finished a delicious holiday lunch or dinner, and now all you want is to clear the table and plop down into your favorite chair to relax. You take the dishes and leftover food to the kitchen and return to a quiet afternoon with family, friends, and your beloved dog.

But while you’re taking it easy, your dog sniffs the delightful smells in the kitchen, sneaks away, and eats their fill of the leftover food. Several hours later, you realize that your dog is in real distress. They seem unusually tired and have begun vomiting yellow or greenish bile. They show signs of abdominal pain, such as whimpering or a hunched back, and have diarrhea. Later, a fever develops.

What has happened is common when a dog has access to ‘people food’ instead of dog food. During the holidays, your dog may discover leftovers of turkey, poultry skin, and gravy, whose high-fat content and seasoning can trigger pancreatitis, a painful inflammation of the pancreas that makes pets extremely sick. This condition can lead to dehydration, organ damage, diabetes, and, in severe cases, even death.

Other ‘people foods’ that can cause pancreatitis include cheeses and creamy sauces, high-fat or spicy processed meats and sausages, and baked goods that contain fat and sugars. Your dog’s digestive system is not equipped to handle these rich or spicy foods, and the result can be deadly.

So how can you help your dog avoid developing pancreatitis? Here are the best ways:

  • Keep your dog on their normal, balanced diet throughout the holidays.
  • Divide their daily food amount into several smaller meals. Avoid giving them their full daily ration at one time.
  • Don’t increase the amount of their food just because you’re celebrating a holiday. Your dog will be just as happy with their regular diet when you teach them that he won’t receive any food from the table.
  • Tell your guests that ‘people food’ is completely off-limits for your dog. If anyone tries to feed them something outside of their regular dog food, remove the dog from the room to keep them safe. You can also give guests a small dish of healthful treats, such as carrot sticks, instead.
  • Offer your dog treats occasionally instead of making them a regular part of their diet. Make sure that the treats are low in fat.
  • Maintain your dog’s health by making sure they have plenty of exercise that’s consistent with their age and physical condition.
  • Remain alert to any symptoms of pancreatitis in your dog. If they show evidence of this dangerous condition, such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or unusual tiredness, get immediate veterinary care for them.
November 21, 2023