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Keeping pets safe from Thanksgiving feasts

JAMESTOWN, N.D. -- Gary Pearson will never forget the German shepherd that quit eating after Thanksgiving.

The dog had a turkey neck bone lodged in its esophagus.

"That was an early reminder to me that holidays can present some special hazards," said Pearson, who was a veterinary student at the time and now works at Prairie Veterinary Hospital in Jamestown.

Veterinarians across North Dakota said their phones ring more often around the holidays as owners worry about sick pets or ask questions about what's OK for their pets to eat.

Pearson said he sees an increase in pets with vomiting and diarrhea after the holidays due to dietary indiscretion.

"It's eating things they are not accustomed to eating and that, of course, usually isn't the pet's fault as much as it is the owner's fault," he said.

Veterinarians advise against feeding turkey skin and bones to pets. The American Veterinary Medical Association also lists chocolate, avocado, alcohol, grapes, raisins, yeast dough, salt, Macadamia nuts, onions, garlic and candy as harmful or deadly to dogs and cats.

Trevor Bjerke of Casselton Veterinary Service advises pet owners to also keep a watchful eye on the garbage during the holidays.

"That would be my biggest advice for Thanksgiving: Don't feed your dog table scraps and keep the garbage away from the dogs and cats," he said.

Besides eating fatty foods they shouldn't, pets digging in the garbage could end up eating tinfoil surrounding the food, Bjerke said.

Kim Brummond of Dickinson's West Dakota Veterinary Clinic expects to receive about a dozen phone calls after Thanksgiving related to pets having eaten turkey skin and fat.

"If you want to include the pets in the holiday, there are a lot of doggie products available that are doggie safe," she said. "I would stick to dog products."

Pet owners should also be cautious as they begin to decorate for Christmas, Brummond said. Tinsel, Christmas tree water and mistletoe are among the holiday hazards for pets, she said.

The extra guest traffic during the holidays can also create issues. It's not uncommon for pets to get out the door if people aren't watching them closely, Pearson said.

Some pets are bothered by the extra noise and need a private, quiet place to be while there is extra activity in the house, said Dawn Entzminger of Dr. Dawn's Pet Stop in Jamestown.

People think they're doing a good thing for their pets by including them in the holiday fun, she said, but it's best to know the pet's needs and not feed them the holiday feast.

"If you can't help yourself, best if you avoid the skin and the bones and just give them a little bit of strictly meat," she said. "But best to just stick to the dog food."

Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co.