Holiday Digestive Issues In Dogs
By Dr. Jeannie Thomason, co-founder of the American Council of Animal Naturopathy
Way back when, while working as a veterinary technician in a conventional veterinary clinic, I witnessed first hand, far too many dogs being rushed in during the holidays with different digestive issues ranging from vomiting, and diarrhea, to impactions, pancreatitis and even bloat.
The dog’s owners were so distraught, they had thought they had been showing their canine companions how much they loved them by sharing their holiday meals with them. Cooked and seasoned ham, turkey, dressing, duck and prime rib along with gravy, rolls, creamed vegetables, etc. Some had even thought nothing of giving their dogs the cooked poultry leg bones or carcass.
Holiday Feeding 101
Cooked bones (of any animal) should never be fed to dogs. All COOKED bones splinter easily, and, whether splintered or whole, they can lodge inside the digestive tract to cause an impaction or can perforate a dog’s intestines.
Cooked skin, drippings or gravy, whether from pig, cow,turkey, duck, etc. is something dogs LOVE to eat and many humans love to feed them. However, consuming fatty food like COOKED skin or gravy, can and often does lead to gastric distress and pancreatitis, a serious inflammatory condition of the pancreas that can cause severe vomiting and dehydration.
Remember, dogs truly are carnivores and their digestive tracts designed to eat and easily digest RAW meat, bones and organs. Heating/cooking meat, bone, etc. alters the molecular structure and makes it extremely difficult for our dogs to digest.
The pancreas produces digestive enzymes designed to break down food so the body can better digest it. These enzymes are carefully handled by the pancreas in order to prevent them from damaging the pancreas itself or the surrounding tissue. If they break down for any reason, the result is leakage of enzymes, which damage the pancreas and any surrounding tissue they reach. This breakdown is called pancreatitis. Symptoms include loss of appetite, severe and frequent vomiting, diarrhea that may contain blood, reluctance to walk, weakness, pain, crying, restlessness, irritability, or even refusing to eat.
Pancreatitis may occur only once in a dog’s life or it can become chronic, a condition that returns over and over again. It can quickly become fatal or just be a mild attack of pain that is over in a few hours or a day or so. It can cause serious side effects including shock, blood clotting disorders, heart arrhythmias, and liver or kidney damage. So if your dog should exhibit ANY of these signs, even if only mild at first, please get him to your veterinarian immediately! Of course with it being a holiday, many animal clinics may be closed – another VERY valid reason to not be so sharing of your holiday meals with your dogs. And just in case, make sure you have an emergency number for your vet or the emergency vet clinic number handy for when your veterinarian’s office is closed.
One last word of caution on holiday meals and your dog, is “bloat.”
Bloat is a gastric condition that can be deadly and is an EMERGENCY for you and your dog. Bloat is most commonly caused by too much gas or fluid in the stomach. This gas extends the stomach causing gastric dilation. If the stomach partially rotates it is called gastric torsion. If it fully rotates it’s called gastric volvolus. Each can be a life threatening problem. Usually, large, deep-chested dogs are the most common victims, but it has occurred in some smaller breeds and puppies that have been allowed to eat too fast or drink a lot of water after having eaten a cooked meal or dry kibble. The causes of bloat are varied, it can even be caused by the gulping of food and water – taking in too much air, heavy exercise after a meal, too much cooked fats, etc., etc.
Bloat is a deadly condition that gives you a very limited amount of time to act. Symptoms include abdominal distention, salivating, retching, restlessness, depression, lethargy, anorexia, weakness, pain, and/or a rapid heart rate. Any of these symptoms, even if mild at first, should IMMEDIATELY be attended to by your veterinarian.
Other Holiday Food Dangers
Most you all know of the many dangerous things your dogs should not ever eat so I am just touching on two of them to keep this blog post brief.
Most of you are or should be aware that another danger to dogs is chocolate. It contains a xanthine compound called theobromine. Theobromine is highest in dark chocolate, but even milk chocolate contains theobromine. Chocolate can be fatal to your dog! Bowls of candy, or pieces dropped by guests or children, may go unnoticed by you for hours, but pose a real risk to your pets.
Onions contain an ingredient called thiosulphate which is said to be toxic to dogs (and cats). The ingestion of onions may cause a condition called hemolytic anemia, which is characterized by damage to the red blood cells. Onion toxicity can cause the red blood cells circulating through your pet’s body to burst.
Onions are not something that a wild dog or cat, wolf or lion would ever seek out, dig up and eat – they are carnivores and their digestive system, simply is not designed to eat any vegtables -root or cruciferous.
Safe Treats and Food
If you want to give your dogs a special holiday treat while you eat or party, here are a couple of safe ideas:
- Give them a special new safe, puzzle toy that you put some dehydrated, raw liver or jerky treats in or a fill a Kong Toy with raw ground turkey that you have frozen ahead of time that he can work at while you are enjoying your meal.
- Give them the raw turkey neck, heart, gizzard and a little of the raw liver as a meal.
It is important that you make sure that your guests and family have been told a head of time that you don’t want anyone sharing any of their food with the dog and if your dog is the cute, wide-eyed begging kind, you may want to feed him his meal while you eat and then let him or her stay in another room until the family finish their meal and have things cleaned up.