The holidays are a time for celebrating, and these celebrations usually include sharing food with our loved ones. When our furry family members look longingly at our festive meals with those big, beautiful eyes (and possibly with some drool), we naturally want to allow them to have a treat with us.

However, even small bites can have serious consequences, especially with seasonal fatty foods such as turkey, gravy, and roasts. These snacks can cause “pancreatitis”, which is an inflammation of the pancreas that can result in illness or even death.

The pancreas is a small organ located close to the stomach that does double duty: it creates both insulin and digestive enzymes. In a healthy pancreas, the digestive enzymes are sent to the small intestine where they are then activated and begin digestion. With pancreatitis, the enzymes are activated before they are deployed, which then begin digestion of the pancreas itself.

The inflammation associated with pancreatitis allows the digestive enzymes to spill into the abdominal cavity, which may affect other organs as well. In cats particularly, the liver and intestines are at risk.

A pet with pancreatitis may experience nausea, vomiting, fever, lethargy, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and/or decreased appetite. The challenge is that these symptoms can be signs of other illnesses, so it’s recommended to seek veterinary help immediately to begin diagnostics and rule out other possible causes, such as bowel obstructions (which are also common around the holidays).

Treatment of pancreatitis usually involves supportive care so that the body can heal itself. Often this translates to several days of hospitalization, pain and nausea management, intravenous fluids, and a low-fat, highly digestible diet during recovery.

Food seems to be the universal language between species, so we often use it to show our love to our pets. However, even if pancreatitis does not occur, scraps of food (especially if the pet is not used to that particular food) are known to cause gastrointestinal upset.

This holiday season, stick to pet-friendly treats instead, whether kibble or even baby carrots! Also, don’t forget to keep food garbage, such as chicken carcasses, out of reach from curious noses and to warn children or guests who may innocently try to share a bite of their meals with their furry friends.

After all, an emergency vet visit is certainly not on anyone’s holiday wish list!

Dr. I. Wonder is here to answer your questions regarding your furry family members. If you have a question, email it to us at  Our team at Neighbourhood Pet Clinic will tap into their collective experience to answer your various questions.