A Very Thankful November

by Bruce W. Little, DVM

This is the time of year when Americans pause to give thanks. We give thanks for living in the greatest country on Earth, and to the veterans who made it possible for us to remain free. We give thanks to our parents and other family members for coaching and mentoring us. Most importantly, we give thanks for the presence of our pets and the unconditional love and devotion they bring into our lives. A recent survey, conducted by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, found that 97% of 1,000 family doctors and general practitioners believe there are health benefits to having or interacting with a pet. 75% reported seeing a patient’s overall health or a specific medical condition get moderately to significantly better after the patient brought a pet into his or her family. 87% saw a patient’s outlook or mood improve.

There is also research suggesting that soldiers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can improve their health through interacting with a service dog. These dogs help reduce the stress and depression of the returning men and women, and allow them to adjust to new environments faster. In cases where the soldiers carry wounds, service dogs help mitigate anger, depression and guilt. We are most thankful for these human and animal interactions.

Thanksgiving means family dinners and parties to celebrate the blessings that we have. However, there are cautions that must be taken to protect the pets that make up an important part of the family. Sometimes pets become overzealous in partaking of the family’s food and drink that can be detrimental to their health. Fat trimmings and bones from the turkey dinner should be kept far out of reach from the family pets. They are delicious to eat, but are dangerous for the pet. Fat, whether cooked or raw, can cause pancreatitis, while bone splinters can get lodged in your pet’s mouth and throat causing a digestive tract blockage. Raw eggs, meat and fish can also contain bacteria, which can upset your pet’s gastrointestinal tract causing vomiting and diarrhea. Milk and other dairy products are not well tolerated by many cats and are particularly difficult for dogs to break-down and digest. Dairy products can also predispose pets to food allergies. Alcohol and caffeine in large quantities can make dogs disorientated and sometimes cause seizure-like symptoms. Chocolate in large quantities whether it be in candy, cookies, cake or other baked foods can also create problems for your dog. The darker and the more bitter the chocolate, the more dangerous it is.

With this in mind, have a happy Thanksgiving Day and remember to give thanks for your pets for all the good they bring to your family and to mankind in general.