Thanksgiving is one of the busiest days in the veterinary ER, which should surprise none of you. The very first Thanksgiving I had Emmett, he dug the turkey carcass out of the trash and settled down for a little leftovers. Luckily he left a disgusting trail of grease from the kitchen, across the living room and up the (carpeted) stairs so I managed to find him before he did too much damage, but Thanksgiving is a time of excess and gluttony for all of us, and for pets unaccustomed to the traditional rich foods of the holiday, it can lead to trouble.
Not to say you can’t give your pet some judiciously chosen Thanksgiving treats, as long as your pet is otherwise in good health. Choose wisely.
Foods to Avoid
1. Bones. Cooked poultry bones are exceptionally brittle and can easily splinter in your pet’s stomach, leading to a painful bellyache, a blockage, or even an emergency surgery.
2. Turkey skin. The fat is the problem here- most pets on commercial diets just aren’t accustomed to sudden high levels of fat in the GI system, which can lead to the pancreas essentially overreacting and the very painful, dangerous condition known as pancreatitis.
3. Cheeses and sausages. The same reasoning as above, with fat being the culprit. Keep that Hickory Farms gift box up high.
4. Alcohol. Not that I think any of you would actually do this, but yes, people try to get their pet drunk on purpose sometimes, and it’s not nice. Have you ever seen a hungover Yorkie? It’s awful. If you see your dopey uncle trying to give some microbrew to the family pet, you have my permission to pour the beer on his head.
5. Toxic foods. The following commonly used food items are specifically toxic to dogs and cats and shouldn’t be used in any food item they might ingest:
There are plenty of things that your pet can enjoy with you on Thanksgiving. The number one key to remember is fat is not your friend. The best way to deal with this is to set aside a small portion for your pet before you toss in the butter, cheese, or whatever Miracle Whip concoction your Great Aunt Edna insists is vital for the perfect mashed potato. So assume all these items are butter and gravy-less.
turkey meat sans skin
steamed green beans
stuffing (no onions)
canned pumpkin (before you add in sugar and cream and turn it into a pie)
low sodium broth, which can be used in place of butter for a bit of flavor
The best thing to do is plan ahead, make sure your pet is full, and, um, in my case, get a covered trashcan. Make some pet-friendly treats ahead of time so that when you see Grandma plucking forkfuls of fat-laden cheeseball out to give to Sparky, you can cut her off and tell her, “Why not give him a nice Brody ball instead?”
Lots of people like to cook for their pets, but most people don’t do it every single day. Of those who do, most do so because they have to, a pet with kidney disease who also has food allergies and diabetes, that sort of thing. Occasionally there is the person who just likes to do it, like the chef who makes seared sea bass for his two incredibly spoiled schnauzers every day. I admire that dedication, which is significant.
More common are people like me, those who do it every once in a while for giggles at times like Thanksgiving- and yes, I’ll be coming up with something for the dogs because why not, it’s a holiday. And then they will go back to their regular food until Christmas, when I make them gingerbread. Because cooking is a show of love, even if you only do it twice a year.
(Yes, I made those both last year in a peppermint induced fit of insanity.)
For those sorts of occasional treats, balance isn’t a big deal. But when you are making a maintenance diet, a complete and balanced diet is vital.
For the article, I interviewed Dr. Sean Delaney of BalanceIt.com. Dr. Delaney is a board certified veterinary nutritionist who just happened to be a resident in training when I was a senior student at Davis, and he remains just as friendly and knowledgable and excited about nutrition as he was that day one hundred million years ago when we were in a cramped room in the hospital annex with some Flintstone-era nutrition software doing nutrition consults.
We talked about food. We talked about online recipe sites and books. We talked about kabocha squash (did you know it caused neurologic signs in a group of labradors? Brand new info here, guys. You heard it here first.) I kept the poor doc on the phone for an hour but it was so interesting, and I love nutrition topics, and I know you do too.
Dr. Delaney has since developed newer web-based versions of nutrition software that creates custom recipes for veterinarians as well as for consumers. BalanceIt has about 500 recipes to choose from, all designed by a board certified veterinary nutritionist and best of all, balanced. When clients tell me they want to cook for their pets, this is where I send them because I know they’re getting information from a trusted source. After the melamine fiasco, I’ve been mentioning this site more times than I can count.
It’s a neat site because, as you can see above, you can really customize your options. You select the protein source and the carbohydrate source, enter your pet’s age and weight, and out comes a list of choices that fit your criteria. If your pet has a medical condition, you can ask your vet to create an appropriate recipe on the section of the site that is just for veterinarians.
So here’s their gift to you all: with the holidays bearing down, perhaps you are looking for a little something special for your dog or cat’s festivus plate. Dr. Delaney is offering all pawcurious readersone free recipe from the Pet Lovers BalanceIt site- a $20 value! The diets can be made using BalanceIt supplements or human supplements- you’ll get options for both.
Just enter the code “pawcurious” at checkout. And don’t forget to give them a like over on Facebook and tell them I said hi!
Will you get the English dinner? The Surf and Turf? Which recipe are you going to try? Have you ever cooked for your pet?
by Dr. V | Sunday | November 13, 2011 | Comments are off for this post
Hey, if the stores are closed and the zombies have shut down the Target, you won’t have access to kibble. Do you know how to cook a healthy meal for your pet? Here’s a great dog-friendly breakfast recipe courtesy of Tasha Ardalan at Foxy Treats:
1 large buttercup squash
1/4c broccoli florettes
2tsp nutmeg (Dr V note: there are some reports of nutmeg causing toxicity; you may want to substitute another dog-friendly spice like a small amount of cinnamon)
shredded cheese, any kind
Cut off the stem of the buttercup so that it sits flat when upside down. Cut a hole around the blossom end of the squash (where it starts to look like a turban). Remove the cap and scoop out all of the seeds and “innards, ” leaving just the “meat” of the squash. Par-bake the squash for 30min at 350ºF. Whisk eggs and nutmeg together. While the squash is hot, fill cavity with broccoli and pour eggs into the buttercup. Top with shredded cheese. Replace the cap and bake an additional 25min. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Slice into wedges.
For more about how to cook for your dog- an AMAZING and EXHAUSTIVELY researched magazine article in Good Dog Magazine, check it out here!
Let me start with a warning: If you are in the camp that was offended by the legendary SNL Schweddy Balls skit, skip right on over the first half of this post and proceed straight to the G rated Cake Pops for Dogs portion of this post, because you’re going to hate the first half.
Still here? Good.
I have been searching my local grocery establishments high and low trying to find this ice cream to no avail. I don’t know if it’s because they have refused to carry it in protest of its saucy title, or because it’s flying off the shelves faster than they can keep it in stock. Based on the Facebook chatter I’ve seen, I’m going with the latter. Nonetheless, it was a great inspiration for me to come up with today’s Baking With Brody Segment, Balls Done Two Ways. (more…)
I am, to put it mildly, really into cupcakes. I think they are amazing. Adorable, teeny tiny little bites of cake heaven in a portable handheld form. When cupcakes started coming back into fashion a couple of years ago, I sighed, knowing my waistline was doomed. In their sugary clutches, I am powerless.
I’ve sampled some of the wares from local cupcakeries, most recently the Sprinkles that opened up about a half an hour from my house- which is a relatively safe distance. This week, I discovered Pubcakes, a cupcake bakery and coffee house, a couple of blocks from one of my favorite local bistros. This could be bad.
You might think the combination of beer and cupcakes an odd one, which I did at first, so I had to sample for myself just to prove how horrible they were going to be. I was sorely disappointed in how not-bad they were when I went on Tuesday, so I had to go again on Saturday just to verify that they were, in fact, amazingly delicious. This is definitely bad.
Good for the dogs, though. With all these cupcakes around and me in a cuppy state of mind, I decided that the dogs deserved a little something for all the longing looks they were throwing me when I was most decidedly not sharing any of my people cupcakes with them. So I decided to give this recipe a whirl: (more…)
Ever since I bought the original doggie donut for Emmett back in the day, I’ve been trying to figure out how to reproduce the results. Donut in shape but granola in texture, crunchy, dog-friendly perfection. I’ve done zucchini donuts and banana donuts and granola bars, but this latest incarnation is my closest yet to perfection.
I have decided, after a bit of time off the wagon, that I again need to re-commit to a vegetarian diet. I did it once for a year, felt great, then got lazy, overcompensated with pasta and unhealthy stuff, and just decided to throw in the towel.
But I didn’t feel good about it. I did it for health, yes, but also because I wanted to make a more conscientious choice about what I eat. I wanted to avoid contributing to factory farming and the multitude of ills it visits upon the world. Finding humanely sourced meat is a big challenge in our area, and rather than making the 45 minute drive to Whole Foods I ended up going to the grocery store and getting whatever.
I don’t want to do that anymore. To be honest I don’t even really like meat all that much, at least not as much as I think I once did. I really don’t have a good reason for eating meat and lots of good reasons for not doing it. So there you go. Meat galore for the dogs and the cat, and none for me.
It’s a tremendously personal decision how one wants to nourish oneself, just as fraught with debate and self-righteousness as the decision as to how one should feed their pet. So while I am never going to be one to tell someone else what to do with their food (except my kids), I’ll be happy to ask advice from those who have been there before.
My challenges are this:
Son and husband dedicated carnivores (though the daughter could easily go veg, I think).
Staying organized enough to prepare in advance
Choosing beans and kale when mac and cheese is oh, so delicious
I hesitated to even put this on the blog because then it seems like OH NO AN OFFICIAL STATEMENT NOW I’VE DONE IT but really, what better motivation is there than a public proclamation?
So there you go! Done! Now I need you all to keep me on the straight and narrow, and if you’ve done it yourself I am happy to accumulate a list of favorite blogs, books, sites, lay it on me.
Christmas is a bit of a surreal experience for me. That is by design. I was brought up in a house that transformed the day after Thanksgiving from a normal abode to a tinsel-filled glittery elftravaganza of kitsch, Rudolph figurines, and a sudden lifting of the No Sugar After 4 pm Rule. In short, December was magic.
Now that I have a 6 year old and a 4 year old, I’m beginning to understand why my mom worked as hard as she did to create that. It is kind of awesome to see a little kid shriek in delight at the sight of a candy cane dangling from the ceiling, to sing along to the Heat Miser song at the top of her lungs in the car, and to giddily warble through ‘Jingle Bells’ even though neither of my kids knows what a sleigh or snow is. It is cacophony of the finest degree.
I find myself needing that joyful lunacy more than ever the older I get, needing a little bit of holiday magic- even if I’m the one who had to make it. Life can be hard and ugly, and if you dwell too much on the despair without allowing yourself to just let it all go and be happy every once in a while, well, then the light goes out, and it’s hard to get back. So in my house, when it’s December, you’re gonna be jolly, dammit, even if I have to prod you out to the holiday light show with a candy cane in order to to do it.
I will march my kid and my dog in a parade with a bunch of other like-minded people in the 75 degree heat.
As we’re winging our way to the Thanksgiving holiday (get it? winging?) I decided to dedicate some thought to what I would include on the holiday menu for the pets.
It’s only fair, right? I’m going to spend all of Thursday and most of the week leading up to it in the kitchen preparing a feast the likes of which this kitchen sees only once a year, and the most the pets can usually look forward to is a sliver of turkey expertly slid under the table by Grandma (then Grandpa, then the other set of grandparents, then the kids…OK, Thanksgiving really isn’t all that bad for them.)
But in the spirit of true pawcureanism, I figured if I’m going to spend an hour perfecting a cranberry sauce no one wants to eat, the least I can do is come up with something good for the dogs.
I thought about making some sort of actual turducken derivative, but since I’d never consider making a real one anyway I stuck with something we’d actually give to the dogs. The idea was to make something impressive enough to silence even the most critical twice removed uncle in the room, but still use stuff you’re going to have on hand anyway. So without further ado, I present: