Owner of golden retriever poisoned by Thanksgiving rolls has this warning

A Tennessee family is thankful their dog survived Thanksgiving last year — and wants to help others do the same.

On Thanksgiving Day, Knoxville resident Becky Collins was busy preparing to host company. The mother of three kids — plus a playful golden retriever pup named Pippa — had mixed bread dough she shaped into a dozen dinner rolls. Then she placed a kitchen towel over them for the final rise of several hours.

“When I went to bake the rolls, I pulled the towel off and half of them were missing,” she told TODAY. “Sneakily, the dog had gotten the rolls without disturbing the towel. I don’t know how she did it.”

Because Collins was swept up in the hustle and bustle of entertaining, it didn’t occur to her that eating raw dough could be dangerous to her dog. After she, her husband and young kids said goodbye to their guests after dinner, Collins noticed the normally high energy, 2-year-old dog was lethargic and napping.

“That’s when I started to think, ‘Oh, yeast rises. I’m going to call someone and see what they recommend,’” she said.

A frantic internet search led her to call the Pet Poison Helpline, where a veterinary professional learned about Pippa’s weight, symptoms and amount of bread ingested and recommended she head straight to an emergency animal hospital.

Sure enough, the team at Animal Emergency & Specialty Center of Knoxville needed to hospitalize Pippa overnight. Part of treatment involved feeding her ice chips to stop the heat from making the dough rise in her stomach, according to Collins.

Fortunately, Pippa passed the dough on her own instead of needing surgery to extract it.

“It was a close call — we were really lucky,” Collins said.

When Pippa acted lethargic instead of interacting enthusiastically with the family, Collins realized something was wrong and called Pet Poison Helpline.  (Becky Collins)
When Pippa acted lethargic instead of interacting enthusiastically with the family, Collins realized something was wrong and called Pet Poison Helpline. (Becky Collins)

She hopes others learn from her experience to prevent similar scares — or worse.

“Just be aware that there are some normal food items that might be in your Thanksgiving meal that could be hazardous to your pets while they’re still in the process of cooking, or even after they’re cooked,” she said. “When in doubt, keep things way out of reach of animals.”

With veterinary care, Pippa survived ingesting rising bread dough. (Becky Collins)
With veterinary care, Pippa survived ingesting rising bread dough. (Becky Collins)

Dr. Renee Schmid, a board-certified veterinary toxicologist at Pet Poison Helpline, said calls to the 24/7 helpline always spike around holidays, particularly food-centered ones like Thanksgiving. She noted that there are two main concerns with bread dough that contains yeast: the risk of a fatal stomach torsion — aka “bloat” — and alcohol poisoning.

“What would be occurring sitting on your kitchen counter ends up occurring in your pet’s stomach,” she told TODAY. “That dough rises and causes a stretching of the stomach, or a distention. And then that yeast as it ferments produces ethanol, an alcohol. So these animals can develop alcohol poisoning.”

Luckily, the prognosis is “excellent” if treated early. But if a dog has had alcohol poisoning for hours and hours or is experiencing neurological changes, or their stomach is significantly distended, the outlook is poorer, she said.

So as the adage goes, prevention is the best medicine. Schmid cautioned that other toxic foods for dogs and cats include grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, chocolate and the sugar substitute xylitol, which is typically used in sugar-free gum and mints (and many other products).

“Even onion powder and garlic powder can be a concern because they’re more concentrated, so the animal doesn’t have to ingest as much,” she said. “And definitely we have to be careful with turkey bones and turkey grease potentially causing foreign body issues or pancreatitis.”

Dogs often have difficulty resisting temptation.  (Courtesy Pet Poison Helpline)
Dogs often have difficulty resisting temptation. (Courtesy Pet Poison Helpline)

Depending on their personality, pets might be more comfortable during Thanksgiving parties in a quiet room with water, toys and other comfort items — and away from temptations.

When social dogs are included in the celebration, Schmid recommends keeping food out of reach and asking guests to not feed table scraps (and that overnight guests secure their medications in a cabinet or up high on a dresser). You can even put out a bowl of dog treats for visitors who can’t resist the power of puppy dog eyes.

“Try to resist the temptation and just remember that you don’t want to end those celebrations because you have to take your pet to the veterinarian and end up with a hospital visit for your pet,” she said. “Be strong.”

Pippa survived eating rising bread dough but would do it again in a heartbeat if given the opportunity.  (Becky Collins)
Pippa survived eating rising bread dough but would do it again in a heartbeat if given the opportunity. (Becky Collins)

Ultimately, it’s our responsibility to keep our pets safe since they won’t do it themselves. For instance, even after her escapades with the rising bread dough last Thanksgiving, Pippa hasn’t learned her lesson. The Collins family still has to lock their trash cans to keep their counter-surfing dog out of harm’s way.

“If I bake bread, I let it rise on the top of the refrigerator now,” Collins said. “But this Thanksgiving, I think I’m going to let someone else bring the rolls.”

Pet Poison Helpline is open 24/7 at (855) 764-7661 and costs $75 per incident. For more information, visit: PetPoisonHelpline.com

This article was originally published on TODAY.com