As the holidays approach and we are pulled in so many different directions, it is easy to get distracted when it comes to the four-legged members of our family. Every year at Southern Colorado Veterinary Internal Medicine, we see pets for a variety of medical problems that are often avoidable. These are a few helpful tips that will help to ensure that your pet is home for the holiday season.
TROUBLE WITH TABLE SCRAPS
Pancreatitis is a condition in which the pancreas, an organ in the abdomen that produces insulin and enzymes that are necessary for the digestion of food, becomes inflamed. The inflammation that occurs can be quite severe and result in a lack of interest in food, vomiting, and abdominal discomfort in dogs.
We recognize that the most common cause of pancreatitis in dogs is “dietary indiscretion.” During the festivities, it is a natural desire to share some of the holiday meal with your pets. Often, owners will give their pets drippings or skin from meat to enjoy. If you give your pet these very fatty foods, they will often show the first signs of pancreatitis within 24-72 hours and can spend several days in the hospital. Although most cases of pancreatitis can be successfully treated, pets who recover will need to be fed a low-fat diet on a long-term basis and are at higher risk for developing the same condition later in life. In some cases, this condition can be life-threatening.
DANGERS OF CHEWING, SWALLOWING
Toys, treats, and bones often get stuck in the esophagus of small breed and sometimes larger breeds of dogs around the Holidays. Pets that experience an esophageal obstruction often exhibit an exaggerated swallowing reflex and may refuse to eat or drink. If they attempt to eat or drink, they may regurgitate the material very soon after consumption. The longer a foreign object remains in the esophagus, the more damage it can do by damaging the tissue due to pressure and a reduced blood supply. In many cases, an esophageal foreign body can be removed using specialized equipment and general anesthesia. If the object cannot be removed, surgery may be required along with a few days in the hospital.
Though it’s not common, cats are not immune when it comes to the holidays. New toys, tinsel, and the reflective icicles that you hang on your Christmas tree present similar dangers. Cats like to chew on these items and will sometimes try to swallow them. These materials can become lodged under the tongue, in the stomach, or even in the small intestine and cause an obstruction to the passage of food and or water. Signs can include lack of interest in food or water and the rapid onset of vomiting after eating or drinking. In a short period of time, these materials may result in damage to the tissue and leakage of stomach or intestinal contents into the abdominal cavity. Surgery is usually required to remove the material and if a hole develops, the prognosis is less favorable and the duration of hospitalization is prolonged.
CHANGES IN A CAT’S ROUTINE
We are all aware of the stressors that occur during the holidays. What we sometimes forget is that our pets are attuned to our moods and that these stressors can also affect them. I have always found cats to be very social eaters. They require the right food at the right temperature in the right setting. Anything that disrupts the mood may result in a lack of interest in food. When you are changing foods for your cat or when something changes in their world (work schedule, vacation, or an illness in your cat) they may stop eating. A condition called hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver can occur rapidly in cats that stop eating regardless of the cause. This condition is most common in cats who are considered to be overweight, but may occur in any cat.
The most commonly reported signs include cats that show an interest in food but refuse to eat (they may lick gravy), elevations in blood liver values, and yellowing of the gums, skin, or white portions of the eyes. Weight loss is also a common sign, but may take several days to be observed. The longer this condition persists, the more clinically ill your cat can become. There are several treatment options to remedy this condition including the use of appetite stimulants. However, in my experience, the best treatment option is the placement of a temporary feeding tube. Most cats with hepatic lipidosis will recover but the placement of a feeding tube requires a short period of hospitalization and at home care can take several weeks.
Chocolate is often present in most homes during the holiday season. Cats tend not to care for chocolate but dogs quite like it. Unfortunately, ingestion of chocolate in dogs has a greater affect on their gastrointestinal tract and nervous system instead of their waistline. There are substances in chocolate that are toxic to animals, like theobromine and caffeine, which are present in larger amounts in cocoa and dark chocolate, but still in milk chocolate. Dogs that are exposed may get diarrhea, begin to vomit and become progressively more agitated. If you notice that your pet has eaten chocolate and it has been less than two hours, consider inducing vomiting. If a longer period of time has elapsed, they may require hospitalization.
All of the doctors and staff and Southern Colorado Veterinary Internal Medicine wish you and your pets a happy and safe holiday season. For more information, or if you do need to make an emergency visit this winter, call 719-272-4004 or visit www.imvets.com.