Veterinarians tend to see a lot of gastrointestinal problems in pets this time of year. Our pets tend to indulge just like we do over the holidays. Rich and fatty foods, table scraps and holiday foods like chocolate, cookies and bones from the feast can cause havoc with the digestive tract of dogs and cats. Sometimes pets will get into the Christmas cheer. Alcohol is very dangerous for dogs and cats and will cause severe vomiting and diarrhea. Anything spicy, greasy or out of the ordinary from the normal diet can trigger gastroenteritis or even pancreatitis. Holiday stress from all the changes in the household can trigger a bout of diarrhea in a susceptible pet. Chocolate, particularly baker’s chocolate is toxic to dogs and cats. Small amounts of “regular” Christmas chocolate does not contain enough cocoa to trigger toxicity but can trigger diarrhea.
Gastroenteritis is vomiting and diarrhea that is not life threatening but does require veterinary attention. Pancreatitis, however, can be a life threatening condition that requires hospitalization, intravenous fluids and medication. The symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs include vomiting, diarrhea often with blood, dehydration, depression, fever and can cause death. Cats with pancreatitis may have decreased appetite, vomiting and depression. The treatment for this may be hospitalization and medication. Herbal therapies and probiotics along with conventional therapies speed recovery and help prevent further attacks of pancreatitis.
So what should you do if your dog develops simple diarrhea from over indulgence?
First, if YOUR dog has diarrhea, it is never simple! If he or she is still happy and active but has diarrhea you can treat this at home for 24 hours. Withhold food for 24 hours but give water, broth, or pedialyte. After 24 hours feed boiled rice cooked in chicken broth, and after that gradually get your dog back to his regular diet. If the diarrhea lasts longer than 24 hours, is getting worse or if your pet is lethargic or vomiting, you need to make a trip to your vet. For uncomplicated diarrhea Slippery Elm is a great herbal medication. Probiotics for pets also work well. Yogurt can be used instead but check with your veterinarian first.
The holidays can be a busy and stressful time, but it’s also a time to reconnect with your family, friends, and of course, pets. So be sure to take the proper precautions to ensure everyone has a safe and happy holiday season.