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How Not To Give Your Dog Pancreatitis This Holiday Season

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of year to give thanks and surround yourself with friends and family.

It’s also a great time to dig in and eat a huge feast complete with turkey and all the trimmings.

The holidays are also the perfect time for your dog to take advantage of all the yummy food being prepared and for them to take advantage of all their friends by turning on their sad begging puppy dog eyes to do some begging.

Unfortunately,  not everything from your delicious meal may be safe for your dog, in fact, some foods can be downright dangerous for dogs and your friends and family might not even know it.

Dog Hungry for Thanksgiving Turkey

Not only is it super common for dogs to experience diarrhea during their holidays, but it’s also very common for dogs to get pancreatitis,  which is why dog owners need to be extra vigilant to watch what is going on in their dog’s mouth. 

When I worked at the vet clinic we called the day after Thanksgiving was called Pancreatitis Friday.

The day and the entire weekend after Thanksgiving would be filled with diarrhea, vomiting, and pain.

It was all hands on deck and we weren’t allowed to request that weekend off.

There would be several calls from panicked owners about their dogs getting into the garbage and eating the turkey carcass, owners that woke up to diarrhea and/or vomit scattered throughout their house, and dogs that stopped eating.

Welcome to pancreatitis hell.

What is Pancreatitis in Dogs?

Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas. 

The pancreas produces and secretes digestive enzymes and it produces insulin.

Digestive enzymes are needed for food digestion and insulin aids in the control of the metabolism and blood-sugar levels.

When the pancreas becomes inflamed, digestive enzymes that are normally inactive become active in the pancreas.

This results in pain and swelling as the pancreas begins to digest itself.

dog pancreas


Acute vs chronic pancreatitis

Acute pancreatitis is when the pancreas becomes inflamed suddenly and it is often more severe than chronic pancreatitis

Chronic pancreatitis is when the pancreas is mildly inflamed for long periods.

Some dogs that have IBD and diabetes can suffer from a slightly inflamed pancreas and throughout their disease, it will flare up into acute pancreatitis.

illustration of the gaster, pancreas and pancreatitis

What causes pancreatitis in dogs?

There can be many causes of acute pancreatitis in dogs some of which include high-fat diets, obesity, hypothyroidism, diabetes mellitus, Cushing disease, some toxins, and certain medications.

During the holidays’ pancreatitis is mostly caused by foods high in fat that are given to dogs all at once. 

Symptoms of pancreatitis

Symptoms of pancreatitis can vary based on the dogs but the most common symptoms seen are usually vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, pain in the abdomen, lethargy, and restlessness.

Other symptoms that can also be seen are a swollen abdomen, hunched back, gagging, and lick-lipping.

Treating Pancreatitis In Dogs

Treating pancreatitis will vary but it will often include pain medication, anti-vomiting and diarrhea medication and a special diet.

In severe cases, hospital monitoring may be recommended along with IV fluids, antibiotics and any other medications that the veterinarian deems necessary for your dog’s full recovery.

Is pancreatitis in dogs expensive to treat?

It can be.

Depending on the severity of the dog’s pancreatitis it can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars.

Mild forms of pancreatitis that are given an early diagnosis will normally include a treatment plan that can be followed at home.

In severe cases, a dog may suffer long-term effects and follow-up exams might be needed to make sure that the dog is recovering well.



How to Avoid Pancreatitis This Holiday

Acute pancreatitis can easily be avoided by not giving your dog foods that are high in fat around the holidays.

There is no need for them to have gravy on their dinner, a juicy turkey thigh or the skin off of a turkey.

Dog Hungry for Thanksgiving Turkey


If you must give them something special try things that are low-fat and healthy for them.

Safe Thanksgiving Foods To Give Dogs

Even though Thanksgiving meals are always a little different from home to home, there are usually some classic Thanksgiving foods on every table that are safe for most dogs to eat in moderation.

Safe Thanksgiving foods for dogs:

You can also substitute turkey gravy with turkey bone broth for dogs. 

how not to give your dog pancreatitis this Thanksgiving

Not Safe Thanksgiving Foods For Dogs

It’s important to stay away from unsafe foods for dogs but it’s also important to avoid foods that are high in fat because these foods can lead to pancreatitis.

A few common foods that are not safe for dogs are:

  • cooked bones
  • turkey skin (many turkeys are soaked in brine so make sure to check your label)
  • stuffing
  • gravy
  • grapes or raisins
  • onions
  • chocolate
  • alcohol
  • corn on the cob
  • sage
  • bread dough that contains yeast
  • sugar-free candy or desserts that contain xylitol which is very toxic to dogs)
  • various nuts such as macadamia nuts and pistachios which are very high in fat
  • nutmeg

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How to Keep Your Dog Safe On Thanksgiving

Keep them out of the kitchen

If you’re doing a lot of cooking and you have food in areas that are easy for your dog to swipe something, it’s a good idea to block the kitchen off with a pet gate.

A few years ago, Leroy stole a loaf of stuffing bread off the kitchen table.

He only managed to eat a few slices before I chased him down but he was sneaky and on a mission and since he has chronic pancreatitis because of his IBD, a whole loaf of bread could have been disastrous.

how not to give your dog pancreatitis this Thanksgiving

Secure the garbage

Turkey carcasses are the number one foreign body ingestion we saw at the vet clinic and it was almost always because the dog got into the garbage when the owner wasn’t home or when they were sleeping.

Throw that turkey carcass away and get it out of the house.

We always put all of our Thanksgiving garbage in one garbage bag, secure it in a garbage can with a locking lid and then put something heavy on top of that.

I don’t recommend putting the garbage outside in just a bag if you have wildlife around.

Secure your walk until garbage day

Garbage day after Thanksgiving is a feast for wildlife and I’ve learned this firsthand.

I’ve walked down the road in years past and seen turkey carcasses everywhere.

I can control how I dispose of our turkey but I can’t control how the neighbor does so I will walk our route and scope it out for Thanksgiving garbage.

I have been known to wear plastic gloves and carry a bag to pick up the debris.

It only takes a few extra minutes and it saves me potentially thousands of dollars if Leroy would find it before me.

Sign available on Amazon

Tell your holiday guests “DO NOT FEED THE DOG”

Your guests only mean well by sneaking your dog a snack when they flash those big brown eyes but make it clear that is not cool.

I’ve put signs up around my house before explaining that if Leroy gets any table food it could kill him so please do not feed him anything without asking me first.

I’ve also left a small bowl of “Leroy-approved” treats out for my guests to give if they just can’t resist the urge.


Thanksgiving is a holiday to enjoy with your family and friends and eat a lot of good food, but it can also be a nightmare if your dog gets sick.

Taking a few extra steps to keep your dog safe is well worth it.

If your dog does happen to get into something that isn’t safe for them, you should call your local veterinarian or emergency vet.

 In the event of an emergency you can also contact the Pet Poison Helpline.

Infographic poster about food and snacks that are dangerous for your dog and may cause intoxication. A set of icons including avocado, mushroom, dairy, coffee, etc


I am not a veterinarian and this post does not substitute for medical advice. If you suspect that your dog may have pancreatitis please contact your veterinarian immediately. 



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Tails Around the Ranch

Tuesday 20th of November 2018

Great post, Jen. The steadfast rule is no table scraps. Ever. The only people food allowed is some cheese or frozen green beans, and plain pumpkin. And then in only small (read...tiny) amounts. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Jan K

Sunday 18th of November 2018

Great post! I shared on Twitter. I think there are a lot of dog families that aren't aware of this; so many people still think you can feed a dog anything. We once gave our dogs some leftover pork from the crock pot. It was too rich and too much for them, and we were really lucky that diarrhea was the only problem we had (the beagle was fine though!). I spoke to our vet but since there was nothing else going on, we needed to just keep an eye on things. It took them quite a few days to get back to normal! I am far more careful now, and if they're going to get any leftovers at all, it's in very small amounts.


Monday 19th of November 2018

Thanks for sharing Jan and Yes, I agree. Sherman is normally a dog that does well with a few extra things here and there but just the other day he got 2 small pieces of steak and it did not agree with him. Thankfully, it was minor but he for sure won't be getting anything this year for Thanksgiving-it's just not worth making him sick.

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