Prevent Holiday Gastrointestinal Illness In Dogs And Cats

Thanksgiving Day is rapidly approaching.

Thursday night, Friday and through the holiday weekend veterinarians will be treating cases of acute gastrointestinal (GI) inflammation and pancreatitis all over the country. Indeed, all over the world in areas where Thanksgiving is celebrated.

Good for you, NOT good for your pets.
Good for you, NOT good for your pets.

Why? Because pet owners will be feeding leftover people food to them, thinking it is a great treat. Some cases will be less intentional, with failure to properly control garbage containers leading to inappropriate ingestion.

Today’s domesticated dogs and cats are creatures who require consistency in their diets. Day to day they should eat the same thing. Be careful not to anthropomorphize. You and I like variety in our diets. Pets really don’t care! Trust me on this.

Another factor in the holiday period of increased pet GI problems is the amount of fat they take in. Fat trimmed from ham, turkey and roast may intentionally end up in a pet’s bowl or may be “stolen” from the refuse container. Large quantities of fat are difficult to digest.

Also, fat in a meal stimulates the pancreas to release digestive enzymes into the small intestine. If the pancreas is overly exuberant in its enzyme release it can actually begin to digest itself. Thus begins the very painful and potentially deadly process of pancreatitis.

Mild cases of GI upset can be treated symptomatically. Such patients typically recover within a week’s time.

More severe cases, however, not only take longer to improve, but require more involved diagnostic testing, including fecal flotation, CBC, Chemistry Profile, Urinalysis, radiographs and abdominal ultrasound. A new diagnostic tool available only for the last few years allows us to test specifically for pancreatic inflammation. Therapy may include intestinal and systemic antibiotics, intravenous (IV) fluids and treatment for shock during extended hospitalization, usually in the intensive care department of an emergency hospital.

The cost for such treatment can quickly run into thousands of dollars.

As always, when children are eating pets must be confined to non-eating areas. Babies cannot control where their crumbs go and older children often can’t resist the urge to feed pets from the table.

Make this Thanksgiving a happy, healthy time with family, friends and pets. Limit food intake to each pet’s regular diet and regular treats. Commit to extra care with garbage. Most importantly, we want you and your pet to stay out of the veterinarian’s emergency room.

See you tomorrow, Dr. Randolph.

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