I know Thanksgiving is coming up (as if the rows of 30 lb turkeys at the store weren’t a subtle hint), and we all like to indulge our pets, but before you make up a special plate for your four-legged friends, you may want to consider a few things.
For pets who are used to the “same old, same old” when it comes to their diet, that special holiday plate of yummy scraps can really backfire. Dog bowls piled high with turkey, gravy and stuffing can cause major gastrointestinal upset and in some cases, can ignite a case of pancreatitis in our pets.
Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, the organ responsible for producing digestive enzymes and insulin. When the pancreas becomes inflamed, it can cause symptoms ranging from mild nausea and vomiting to life threatening systemic organ failure. Frequently, a high fat meal is all the pancreas needs to begin a downward spiral into an inflamed state. I have seen quite a few dogs pay the price for holiday overindulgence and end up hospitalized for several days (or sometimes weeks) due to pancreatitis.
When a dog who has feasted his way in to trouble is brought in to the clinic, we diagnose their condition based on history (although a diet change doesn’t always precipitate the inflammation), clinical signs, imaging studies and blood work. There is a blood test, the Spec cPL, that is specific for pancreatitis in dogs. Once we have a diagnosis, treatment is generally based on the severity of the clinical signs.
Dogs who are vomiting often require hospitalization (the last place you want to be with your little pilgrim on Thanksgiving) and intravenous fluids. Other treatment consists of antibiotics, pain management, and medications to control vomiting. Animals who are severely ill can run up bills into the thousands of dollars, so it is a relief to their owners if they have pet insurance to help defray some of their medical expenses. And while most dogs recover from this condition, in severe cases it can be life-threatening.
So… this Thanksgiving… remember that a small bite of plain turkey is okay, but gravy, turkey skin and buttery potatoes are all a no-no (for the dog that is!).