Sure, spread the holiday love but not with food, it can be dangerous
With Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, you may be thinking about the delicious spread of turkey, ham, fruit cake, buttery biscuits, and pies placed generously across your dining room table as you bask in the company of your family, friends, and furry friends.
While other veterinarians and I are getting prepared for the day after the wonderful holiday feast, when those furry friends show up with cases of pancreatitis.
Pancreatitis stands for inflammation of the pancreas, the organ that releases digestive enzymes into the digestive tract.
The pancreas sits just under the stomach and follows along to the first part of the small intestine. When the pancreas is inflamed, its digestive enzymes can’t be released into the intestine; instead, they leak back into the pancreas causing even more inflammation, damage, and pain. A small amount of high fat food can trigger vomiting and diarrhea, the classic signs for pancreatitis. Other signs of pancreatitis include poor appetite, lethargy (weak/tired), abdominal (belly) pain, and fever. Some dogs are especially prone to having an inflamed pancreas, most especially schnauzers, female dogs, and overweight/obese dogs.
Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for pancreatitis as dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea can set in very rapidly.
Pancreatitis can even cause an abscess or multiple abscesses in the pancreas and lead to secondary complications such as liver disease and diabetes since the pancreas is the organ that also produces insulin. Diabetes can become an extremely serious secondary effect since it requires daily, lifelong treatment and is potentially life-threatening.
The passage of food through the intestine is a strong stimulus to the pancreas, which should be avoided to treat pancreatitis.
Essentially, the pancreas needs to rest. This generally means no food or water for 12-24 hours and using intravenous fluid support to prevent dehydration. Most patients with pancreatitis are hospitalized and also treated with anti-vomiting medication, pain relievers, and antibiotics.
If a patient is lucky, the pancreatitis resolves without complications and low fat foods, or specific diets such as Hill’s Science Diet ID or Nestle Purina EN, will be recommended.
So now that slipping your beloved pet a simple piece of turkey trimmings under the table seems scary enough, let’s discuss what can be done to prevent pancreatitis.
1) Do NOT feed your dog high fat people food including that delicious piece of Thanksgiving turkey skin, fat trimmings, gravy, pie, and even bones
2) Again, Do NOT feed table scraps or leftovers
3) Third time’s a charm, Do NOT feed table scraps or leftovers
4) Take out the trash immediately to avoid your pet getting into it later
5) Remember that even raw or undercooked turkey can harbor bacteria and toxins that can cause serious gastrointestinal side effects
6) Onions and garlic have a supporting role in stuffing and other side dishes, but can also be dangerous when ingested by our pet
7) Keep your pet at a healthy body weight and discuss it with your veterinarian.
It’s understandable that during the holiday season we all want to spread cheer, even to our beloved pets. Remember that it doesn’t have to come in the shape of food. Pampering is a mutual affection that can replace food and protect our pets from the harm of feeding the wrong thing or even too much of the right thing.
Have a safe and healthy holiday season.