The holidays tend to be a busy and joyful time of year for most people, but they can become dangerous for your pets. There are always lots of people buzzing around leaving doors open for animals to escape. Delicious food and seasonal plants tempts them and there are plenty of presents, decorations and toys to explore.
During the holiday season, we enjoy indulging in all the rich, yummy foods. Owners feeling the holiday spirit may feel the urge to let their pets share the feast, but even a little gravy or a scrap of ham can lead to pancreatitis.
Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas.
The pancreas is a gland located behind the stomach. It releases hormones, insulin and glucose as well as digestive enzymes that help to digest and absorb food. Pancreatitis causes severe abdominal pain in cats and dogs. Pets may tuck their abdomens when standing and be reluctant to participate in their normal activities. Vomiting and diarrhea is common, more in dogs than with cats. Cats are less likely to show many of the outward signs an owner would notice immediately, instead your cats are more likely to appear lethargic and show a loss in appetite.
This disease can be fatal in severe forms. There can be permanent damage to the pancreas which can lead to diabetes and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI). EPI is a disease caused by a failure of the pancreas to secrete adequate levels of pancreatic enzymes, which results in an inability to properly digest food. It is seen more commonly in dogs and is, in fact, quite rare in cats. Most importantly, any pet who has suffered from pancreatitis in the past, is at risk and vulnerable to a reoccurrence, especially if given scraps from the table.
Treatments may vary with the severity of the disease. Most acute cases will require intravenous fluid support in the hospital to correct or prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Antibiotics may be used for the treatment of any secondary infection which can occur with pancreatitis. Pain control is a must, as this disease can become very painful for your pet.
One of other the most common problems for pets over the holiday season is Gastrointestinal (GI) upset.
Symptoms include: abdominal noises and pains, grass eating, vomiting, diarrhea, refusal to eat and excessive drinking. Your pet can get GI upset by eating any type of human food. Turkey, ham, gravy and chocolates are common ‘treats’ we feed our pets over the holidays. They are also likely to be found chewing on holiday plants, such as mistletoe, holly, poinsettias and lilies. Make sure you tell your holiday guests not to give your pets any of these ‘treats’ or leave out their leftover food! It doesn’t take much to make our pets sick. When a pet has a problem with their GI system they can get very dehydrated and often need hospitalization. Also, try not to give your pets any new animal treats just because it is the holidays. Getting food they aren’t used to can cause irritations avoided if you continue to give them their regular treats.
Pets are known to get into and eat things they shouldn’t. Sometimes these things are too large to pass through their intestines causing an obstruction. Obstructions in the GI tract most often need to be surgically removed. During the holidays, there are more things around for our pets to gobble up. Dogs most commonly get obstructed with bones, corn cobs, BBQ brushes and toys. Cats tend to like eating string, tinsel, ribbons, and ornament hooks. Foreign body surgery can be quite pricey and require your beloved pet to be hospitalized for a few days.
Be sure to keep an eye on your pets this holiday and keep the human food to the humans and let's keep our furry friends happy and healthy this year.
Happy Holidays from us all!
Breanna, RVT and Savanna, RVT Assistant - November 2012