Contributed by: Dr. Heather Poncelow, Emergency Veterinarian

It is natural to want to share our celebrations with our pets, and for many people this means sharing their Thanksgiving feast. Make sure that sharing food with your pets does not end up harming them. Dogs or cats that are given food that is new to them, is made with spices or that is especially rich may develop vomiting or diarrhea of varying severity. Foods that are high in fat can cause pancreatitis in dogs. This inflammatory condition of the pancreas can cause vomiting, loss of appetite and pain. It can range in seriousness from needing medicines and special food at home up to needing hospitalization and being life threatening or fatal. If you want to share your Thanksgiving meal with your pet then stick to small amounts of skinless, boneless, cooked lean meat or poultry, and cooked sweet potato with no butter/oil or spices.


  • Not eating
  • Vomiting
  • Pain
  • Lethargy
  • +/- diarrhea

What to do if ou see these signs

  • Contact your veterinarian to see if the pet needs medical care at that time.
  • If your vet feels that the pet does not need immediate care, then withhold food for about 8 hours to allow their stomach to settle.
  • If the pet does not vomit during that time, then you can start offering bland food (like boiled chicken (no skin, bones or spices) mixed with a little rice.
  • If the pet cannot keep water down, vomits despite not being fed, vomits once food is reintroduced, has very watery or bloody diarrhea, or seems painful at any point, then the pet should see a veterinarian at that time.

What NOT to do if you see these signs

  • Do not try to force feed the pet or force it to drink. This can worsen vomiting and they may accidentally inhale the food or water, leading to pneumonia.
  • Do not give any pain medicines to your pet unless they are specifically approved by your veterinarian for that pet, for that episode of illness. Many over the counter medicines are toxic to pets, and some types of animal specific pain medicines can worsen intestinal problems.


To avoid pancreatitis and gastrointestinal upset make sure to keep any food treats you give your pets low fat and without spices.

Toxic Foods

Garlic and onions cause red blood cell damage in both dogs and cats (though cats are more susceptible to this problem).  Grapes, raisins and currants can be toxic to dogs, potentially causing kidney failure. Chocolate and coffee can cause problems with heart rate and rhythm. For a comprehensive list of foods that may be harmful to your pet, please visit the ASPCA’s animal poison control link.