Pancreatitis… Holiday Indulgence Is A Risk To Your Dog

This time of year veterinarians see a spike in cases of canine acute pancreatitis.  People aren’t the only ones who overdue it on the holidays.

If your dog has consumed more fatty table scraps than usual, or maybe got into the garbage and devoured the fatty remains of the carved turkey this Thanksgiving, they may find themselves with a case of this very painful condition.

The pancreas is an organ in the body that produces and secretes enzymes that aid in digestion. This organ also makes insulin, which controls blood sugar levels and metabolism.

Acute pancreatitis is the sudden (acute) onset of inflammation in the pancreas.  The inflammation makes the digestive enzymes start working in the pancreas instead of waiting until the enzymes reach the small intestine where they normally get to work.  As a result, the enzymes start digesting the pancreas.

In severe cases of pancreatitis, the enzymes leak into the abdomen causing the digestion of other organs too.  This can seriously damage the organs and result in death if not treated quickly.

Causes

There are things besides overdoing the fatty table scraps that can cause the sudden onset of pancreatitis.  Other contributors are:

Obesity

High-fat diets

Endocrine diseases

Medications

Toxins

Trauma to the abdomen

Scorpion stings (not a problem for most dogs in most of the country)

 

Sometimes, the cause is unknown.

Pancreatitis can occur in any dog but it’s more common in miniature schnauzers, miniature poodles and cocker spaniels.  It’s also more common in older dogs that are overweight and female.

Symptoms

The most common signs of pancreatitis are the same things you’d see if your dog was suffering from a thousand other illnesses: loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

But some other more concerning symptoms can occur like a swollen abdomen, an arched back, lethargy, restlessness, gagging, difficulty breathing, dehydration, and an increased heart rate.  In some cases, your dog may run a fever too.

If you suspect your dog has overloaded on too many table scraps passed under the table by doting relatives and they are exhibiting these symptoms, call your vet immediately.

Diagnosis and treatment

Your vet will take a full medical history and do a complete physical exam.  In addition, they’ll run blood work and may also do imaging, like ultrasound or x-rays.

Treatment will mostly consist of managing symptoms.  Meds to relieve pain and reduce vomiting and nausea.  IV hydration and nutritional supplementation. And maybe antibiotics if there’s a secondary infection.

Your vet may also restrict food and fluid intake to allow for healing.  Depending on the severity of your dog’s symptoms, treatment may mean hospitalization.

Once the symptoms are under control and your dog can be at home, your vet may limit activity and recommend a low fat, high carb diet.  This diet may be temporary until the pancreas heals, or permanent if pancreatitis is recurring or chronic.

Most healthy dogs will recover from acute pancreatitis.  A dog that has other health problems may have a harder time getting over it.

And severe cases can be fatal.

Prevention

Although you can’t completely prevent pancreatitis, you can most definitely reduce the risk of your dog getting it.  Manage your dog’s weight, avoid high-fat diets and table scraps, and keep the garbage pail out of your dog’s reach.

Feeding a well-balanced premium dog food like Husse can help prevent this condition.  Husse formulates their foods to provide the right balance between protein, fat and carbohydrates.

Husse Pro Limited, Prima Plus, Senior and Optimal Limited are all specially formulated for weight management and contain 9% or less fat.

Risks

Pancreatitis is unpredictable.  If the case is mild, and it’s your dog’s first episode, they will likely recover fine.  You may only need to watch their diet to prevent recurrence.  But sometimes what seems like a mild case can recur and be serious.

A dog with chronic (recurring) pancreatitis can develop serious complications.  The digestive enzymes can destroy the insulin producing cells in the pancreas resulting in diabetes.

And a condition called pancreatic insufficiency or maldigestion syndrome can result when the nutrients in your dog’s food aren’t absorbed.  They’re pooped out instead. This can cause malnutrition.

Your dog will be ravenous, have diarrhea and lose weight if they are suffering from maldigestion syndrome.  And although they are eating, they are starving to death because their body isn’t getting the nutrients it needs.

It’s best to manage your dog’s overall health to avoid pancreatitis, and these serious and life-threatening complications.  Like with most other illnesses, early diagnosis of pancreatitis will improve your dog’s long-term prognosis.

Is your dog suffering from holiday overeating?  Has your dog ever had pancreatitis?  Share your experience in the comment section above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coconut Oil… The Risks And Benefits To Our Pets

If you’re keeping up with the latest human health trends, you may feel like I do…  every wellness recommendation includes coconut oil.  It seems to be the panacea of the 2010s.

Many animal health sites tout the benefits of coconut oil too.  I was with a friend recently who told me her holistic vet prescribed it for several of her dog’s ailments.

That got me thinking… is coconut oil everything it’s cracked up to be?  Are there benefits to using this oil with our pets?  And are there risks?

Well, there are some definite benefits to using coconut oil.  But also many unfounded claims about its effectiveness. And there can be risks.

The truth

Coconut oil comes from mature coconuts.  It is edible, so it’s used in food.  And these days you can find coconut oil in many beauty products.

This oil is high in saturated fat and is made up mostly of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). That’s where the supposed health benefits are.

The fatty acids that make up MCTs travel directly to the liver.  The liver absorbs those fatty acids and uses them for energy.  They’re not stored in the body.

MCTs contain lauric acid, which is antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral.  They also contain capric and caprylic acids, which are antifungal.

So how can coconut oil help your pet?  It can be very beneficial when used topically.

If your pet has dry, itchy skin, cracked paw pads or a dry nose, you can rub coconut oil into the skin. It’s great for elbow calluses too.   Here’s a link to a recipe for paw balm you can make yourself.

But you don’t have to get fancy.  You can use the oil straight up with no additions.  If you’re using it on dry flaky skin, rub the oil directly into the skin.

You can also use it for a shinier coat.  Take a small amount of oil in your hands.  Rub them together and pat the coat.  Run your fingers through the fur.  Not only will coconut oil improve the look and feel of your pet’s coat, some say it will also help if your pet smells.

Coconut oil is often touted for its antibacterial use on sores and minor cuts.  Be careful with this one.  If your dog has hotspots, using coconut oil can make the problem worse.  Hotspots are self-inflicted when a dog licks obsessively.  If they like the taste of coconut oil, using it on their skin can exacerbate the licking and worsen the hotspots.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that coconut oil has antibacterial benefits but no studies have yet been done on animals.

If your pet has a skin problem, be sure to talk with your vet before using coconut oil to be certain you’re treating the underlying problem.  They may recommend you use the oil as part of a treatment plan that includes other medications.

Coconut oil may be helpful as a parasite repellent.  A small study in 2004 found that a coconut oil-based remedy was effective for repelling sand fleas and reduced inflammation from fleabites. But tests have not been done on the cat and dog flea… the ones that love your pet.

Most veterinarians suggest, if using coconut oil, combining it with traditional repellents.

A 2015 human study found rinsing the mouth with coconut oil every day reduced plaque and plaque-caused gingivitis.  You could make the leap and say it would help your dog’s dental health too.  But the study involved swishing the coconut oil around the mouth and it’s hard to get a dog to swish.

Many dogs like the taste of coconut oil and it may help with dental hygiene… and bad breath too. So if you’d like to brush your dog’s teeth with coconut oil, it probably won’t hurt.

Does your pet have a hard time swallowing a pill?  Here’s another use.  Coat the pill with coconut oil.  It will be easier for them to swallow and they generally like the flavor.

The unsubstantiated claims

Coconut oil is promoted as a cure or prevention for everything from digestive problems to cancer.  Some say it improves cognitive function in older dogs.  Others say it helps with allergies and weight loss.  None of these claims are supported by science.  There have been no studies.

That’s not to say coconut oil can’t be helpful for some of these ailments. But there just isn’t scientific proof yet.

The risks

If the anecdotal evidence is enough for you and you want to try coconut oil with your pet, speak to your vet first.  They can monitor the effects and educate you to the downside.  Because the high saturated fat content can make some conditions worse.  Pancreatitis for example.

The high fat content is also a problem if your dog is overweight.  Some veterinarians say it adds a lot of calories with little nutritional value.  And there’s concern this oil can raise cholesterol levels and block the arteries too.

Although coconut oil is well tolerated by most pets, some may have an allergic reaction. And too much can cause diarrhea.

Remember too that coconut oil does not provide the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids your pet needs in their diet.  So be sure you’re still giving your pet salmon or flaxseed oil, besides the coconut oil.

How much and what kind?

If you give your pet coconut oil, use only the organic virgin cold-pressed kind. Easy to find at any health food store.

Start slow to be sure your pet isn’t allergic and to avoid diarrhea.

Start with ¼ teaspoon a day for small dogs and 1 teaspoon a day for big dogs.  Work up to 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight per day.

If you have a cat, start with 1/8 teaspoon a day for an average size cat.  Work up to ¼ to ½ teaspoon once or twice a day.

What I’ve learned about coconut oil is that it has some proven benefits.  And it may even have greater benefits yet to be studied.  But I would proceed with caution.

Coconut oil is not a cure-all. Take the advice of your veterinarian before adding any supplement to your pet’s diet.

Do you use coconut oil for your pets?  How have they benefitted? Have they had any adverse reactions?  Share your experience with us at the top of the page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9 Autumn Risks To Your Pets

Halloween may be behind us but scary things still lurk.

Autumn is a joyful season in so many ways.  Beautiful weather, changing leaves, the smell of a burning fireplace, pumpkin everything…

But for our pets, there are many hidden dangers.  Things that can make your pet sick and sometimes kill them. You may not have thought of these things as dangerous.  Awareness is the first step in keeping your pets safe.

  1. Costume remnants

Plastic light sabers, swords and masks can become chew toys for your dogs. Small pieces of plastic can be a choking hazard or cause a blockage.

The Halloween makeup that turns you into a zombie can be toxic to your pets if swallowed.

Glow necklaces and bracelets which may keep your kids safe in the dark aren’t safe for your pets to eat.  The liquid inside can irritate your pet’s gums if swallowed.  Drooling, foaming at the mouth, vomiting can all be signs.  Luckily, this is not usually fatal.

  1. Candy… particularly chocolate

If your house is overloaded with candy as mine is, be sure to keep it out of the reach of your pets.  All those gummy candies are choking hazards.

And chocolate can be deadly for both dogs and cats… though cats won’t usually be interested in eating it.

Theobromine in chocolate is poisonous.  How much of this substance is in the chocolate depends on the chocolate.  Dark chocolate has the most.

If your pet eats a sizeable amount, you’ll see the signs within 4 to 24 hours. Besides the usual signs of stomach distress, you may notice restlessness, hyperactivity, rapid breathing, and lack of coordination.  Ultimately, this can cause seizures and death.

  1. Candles

Fall ushers in the holiday season.  And cooler temps and holiday spirit set the tone for candle lighting.  Who doesn’t love the aroma of a pumpkin scented candle?

But a lit candle can injure your pets.  Never leave one within reach of your cat or dog.

And a curious pet can overturn a burning candle.  That’s a disaster!

  1. Parasites

Don’t let cooler weather lull you.  Ticks and fleas are out in full force this time of year.

These little pests aren’t just a nuisance.  They carry disease too.

  1. Raked leaves

In most parts of the country, the leaves are falling from the trees right now.

Maybe you enjoy letting your dog run through the piles after you rake them. It’s not a good idea.  Mold and bacteria grow in the leaves. If your dog ingests these pathogens, they can get sick.

And hidden sticks can injure a dog bounding through the piles.

  1. Acorns and buckeyes (conkers)

The gallotannin in acorns is toxic and can damage the liver and kidneys.

Vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy—common signs of many illnesses—are what you can expect if your dog eats some. Acorns can also cause an intestinal blockage.

Buckeyes—conkers in England—are the seed of the horse chestnut tree.  These are different than the chestnuts we eat. This hard brown nut in a prickly casing can be dangerous to a dog.  If you have a horse chestnut tree in your yard, be sure to clean up the fallen buckeyes before your pet can get to them.

  1. Mushrooms and toadstools

Mushrooms love to grow in damp environments.  The weather this time of year is optimal.  Thankfully, most mushrooms aren’t dangerous. But a few can be deadly.

It’s difficult to identify the dangerous ones so keep your pet away from all mushrooms.   If they’re in your yard, get rid of them.

  1. Shorter days/colder temps

With less sunlight and more unpredictable weather, it can be difficult for your dog to get the exercise they need.  It’s difficult for people too.

If you find your walks are shorter or less frequent, be sure your dog isn’t putting on weight.  Cut back on food and treats if their waistline is growing along with yours.

Remember too that it may be dark when you are walking in the early morning or evening.  It will be harder for cars to see you.  Be sure you and your dogs are visible.  Reflective collars and leashes are available online and in pet stores.

And if your dog is older or one with a compromised immune system, a warm sweater or coat might be a good idea.  This may be wise for smaller dogs as well.

If your dog is arthritic, the colder weather will make long walks more challenging. Keep that in mind if your dog is not eager to walk this time of year.

  1. Rodenticides

The less pleasant side of cooler temps is the need for our rodent friends to seek shelter indoors.  You may find rats and mice taking up residence in your home.

If you have a problem with vermin, hire a professional to help you get rid of them.

Rodenticides (rat poisoning) is deadly if consumed by your pet.  If not placed correctly, your pet could end up eating some when the rodents drop pieces as they’re moving throughout your house.  A horrible thought… I know.

A professional exterminator will know the most effective and safe way to get rid of your unwanted guests.

If your pet ingests rat poison, they will bleed internally.  You’ll see the signs in bloody feces, bruising, and black tar-like poop.  Get to the vet immediately!

If you suspect your pet has swallowed something toxic, the number for the ASPCA Poison Control Center is 888-426-4435.  The Pet Poison Helpline is 855-764-7661.

Has one of these autumn dangers injured your pet?  I hope not.  But if so, share your experience in the comment section at the top.  It may save another pets life.