Sunday, November 9, 2008

Common Thanksgiving Food Pitfalls and Hazards

Coastal Animal Hospital-Kitty Hawk
Thanksgiving is a wonderful time where family and friends join together in a festive spirit. It is also a time to eat some great food and often lots of it! It is also a time for many food-induced pet emergencies. It is critical to realize that your beloved pet can have some serious side effects from eating human food.

Gastritis/Enteritis- this is inflammation of the stomach and intestines. This can be caused by a variety of foods and not all pets will react to the same ones. The prominent signs of this condition are usually vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and a painful abdomen. Treatment of these can be done by your veterinarian usually on an outpatient basis and resolves fairly quickly.

Pancreatitis- this is when the pancreas becomes inflamed and can become a potentially life-threatening condition. Greasy or fatty foods, such as steak, ham or chicken skin are common culprits. Clinical signs of this condition are usually similar to gastritis with pronounced vomiting, diarrhea and extreme abdominal discomfort and lethargy. Bloodwork to check the pancreatic enzymes confirms this diagnosis and since the clinical signs are so similar to gastritis/enteritis it is imperative that you seek medical attention when these signs first occur so appropriate treatment can occur promptly. Treatment usually consists of intravenous fluids and a stay at the veterinarian’s office until these enzymes return to normal which can take up to several days and in some severe cases can be fatal.

Foreign Body Ingestion- This is when your pet ingests something, which can become entrapped in the stomach or intestines. This can include meat bones, plastic wrappers or toys. It is important to not let your pet chew on bones that can splinter or be readily broken, which include most bones except some large cow bones. Even these bones must be cooked properly so as to not allow fatty residues, which can lead to either gastritis or pancreatitis. As a rule we usually recommend only feeding bones, which are commercially sold for chewing purposes and even those, carry some risk and are not for all pets and temperaments. The prominent clinical signs are again severe vomiting and diarrhea, straining to defecate and severe abdominal discomfort. Treatment for foreign body ingestion involves identification of and removal of the foreign body. This is a major surgical procedure in many instances and left untreated can be fatal.

These are the most common holiday food hazards and while many of these conditions are serious they can usually be avoided by simply not feeding your pets from the table. It is acceptable to feed them most raw fruits and vegetables as long as they are not prepared in butter or sauces. Also, boiled, skinless, boneless chicken breast is suitable for most dogs in small portions. Some additional foods, which should never be fed, are raisins and grapes, onions, chocolate and Macadamia nuts.

Now with that being said enjoy this wonderful time of year and be thankful for all of the blessings the Lord has bestowed upon you including your wonderful four legged friends! And the next time your pet looks up at you with those irresistible large, round eyes as you dig in, simply say to them, "Sorry, but I love you too much." You will be happy you did!

Stephen M. Samson DVM 
Coastal Animal Hospital
Kitty Hawk, NC

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