Some Tips for a Safe Thanksgiving for our Pets

As we gather with our family and friends this weekend for food, fun and football, remember that our furry friends cannot always eat the same foods that we can. To avoid an expensive trip to the Animal ER, here are a few suggestions to keep your pets safe this Thanksgiving weekend.

Foods to Avoid:

  • Chocolate – especially dark chocolate or baking chocolate can be toxic to our pets.
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Onions and garlic
  • Coffee
  • Alcohol
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Yeast Dough
  • Fatty foods – can inflame the pancreas
  • Bones – of any kind, can splinter causing perforations or can break teeth
  • Xylitol – a sugar substitute

If you need to give a pet a taste of Thanksgiving, some turkey meat and green beans are ok.

Accidental poisonings often occur from the pets ingesting their human’s medications. I have had dogs get the pill containers off the cabinets and chew the whole bottle. Place your medications out of reach of your pets and make sure your guests do the same. Also remember that Tylenol is lethal to cats. Always check with your veterinarian before you give any medication to your pet. What is safe for humans may be deadly to our pets.

Decorations can also impose a danger to our pets. Electrical cords can be bitten, tinsel and ribbons swallowed. The water for the live trees may also pose a danger. You may want to elect to put your Christmas tree in a room that can be blocked off from your pets.

Candles and patio fire pits can also cause burns in our pets. Just last week, one of my patients brushed up to the fire pit and received a burn to his side. Cats can flick their tails into the flame or knock over a candle resulting in a fire.

Holiday flowers can also cause problems with our pets. Although the poinsettia has gotten a bad rap, it is not toxic but other houseplants such as lilies, holly berries and mistletoe are.

Download my free e-book “Common Houseplants that are Toxic to our Pets”

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If your pet accidentally ingests something harmful, emergency advice is a phone call away. Call your veterinarian, emergency animal hospital of the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 ( a fee applies) or visit

Problems with Vetsulin for Managing Diabetes in Pets

Vetsulin has been used to manage diabetes in our dogs and cats for years. Recently, batches of the crystalline zinc insulin may have made its way into the vetsulin batch. This may affect the duration of activity or have fluctuations in the glucose level. If your pet is receiving vetsulin to control his diabetes, you will need to contact your veterinarian.Vetsulin will probably not be available next time you refill and you and your veterinarian will have to transition your pet to a different insulin product and dosage. The alert from FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine Alerts is listed below.

The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) and Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health are alerting veterinarians and pet owners that Vetsulin®, a porcine insulin zinc suspension used to treat diabetes in animals, may have varying amounts of crystalline zinc insulin in the formulation. Because this Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health product is out of specification it could cause a delay in insulin action and an overall longer duration of insulin activity. Products having significant problems with stability can affect the management of chronic diseases. Unstable insulin products can result in unpredictable fluctuations in the glucose levels of diabetic patients. Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health is unable to assure FDA that each batch of their product is stable.

FDA and Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health request that veterinarians closely monitor their patients receiving Vetsulin® for any changes in onset or duration of activity, or for any signs of hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia. The classic signs of hyperglycemia include increased thirst, increased urination, weight loss and lethargy. The classic signs of hypoglycemia would include disorientation, unsteadiness, weakness, lethargy, and seizures.

I have researched the Veterinary Information Boards and have included a few threads on recommendations of which insulin dogs or cats should be switched to. Please check with your veterinarian to see what you should do.

It is recommended to transition animals currently on Vetsulin to other insulins until this problem is resolved.
posted by Dr. Sherri Wilson ACVIM Small Animal Internal Medicine (1992)
“For CATS, I would change to Glargine (Lantus). As a second choice, try Detemir (Levemir)—some positive initial reports using this—seems to be very similar to Glargine but may work better in some cats. I would avoid PZI, as it is a compounded insulin–so its potency can vary from batch to batch

For DOGS, I would change to NPH as the first choice
– If there is a problem with the NPH taking too long to start working after it is injected, try 70:30 insulin (a mixture of 30% regular insulin and 70% NPH); note that this problem of delayed onset of insulin action can also be due to a post-prandial surge in the glucose levels; that can be addressed by giving insulin 30-45 minutes BEFORE the food is given (if the dog is a reliable eater)
-if there is a problem with too-short of an insulin duration with NPH, then try Glargine or Detemir, but be aware that these sometimes cause no appreciable lowering of glucose levels in some dogs and will be very expensive in large dogs

To clarify: when we change to a different insulin, there is unfortunately no predicting what dose to use for the new insulin. Different insulins have different potencies, so we have to start over (e.g. don’t transfer the same dose that you used for the Vetsulin to the new insulin).

Most endocrinologists recommend starting at 0.25-0.5 units/kg BID for a new insulin. Personally I go with the 0.5 units/kg BID. Then wait at least 1 week to run the first curve and adjust the dose accordingly.

The exception to the above is when we change to Glargine in cats—it can be remarkably more effective in dropping the glucose levels so it is recommended to do a few BG checks during the first few days on it (not complete curves) to make sure we don’t cause acute hypoglycemia.

Sherri Wilson, ACVIM (Internal Medicine)
Seattle, WA

I hope this helps

Debra Garrison, DVM

Swine Flu and Pets

Yesterday I got the news of a confirmed case of swine flu in a cat. The thirteen year old cat contracted the flu from his family and has recovered without problems. Most of the time we do not worry about giving flu to our pets, but with the swine flu, it may be different, especially with birds, ferrets, cats and pet pigs. There have been 2 confirmed cases of swine flu in ferrets which did result in a death of one of the ferrets. I have been fielding calls today about pets passing swine flu to people, but it is the other way around. Humans are passing the swine flu to their pets. So if you are feeling under the weather and possibly coming down with the flu, resist the temptation to snuggle with your pet while you are ill.

As of now, we have not seen swine flu infections in dogs, but their is an influenza virus that can infect dogs. There is a vaccine for the influenza virus recently approved as well as the Bordetella-parainfluenza-adenovirus (kennel-cough) vaccine that we regularly recommend for dogs, especially those that board or go to areas where other dogs frequent, such as grooming, pet stores, dog parks, etc. As of now, there is not a vaccine for the swine flu for dogs or cats, and because of such infrequency of getting the virus, there may be no need in developing one.