A holiday hazard: how to help your pet’s stomach upset

Digestive upsets are common around the holidays

With the Thanksgiving holiday come and gone, and the arrival of the Christmas holiday season, this is a time of year when we see lots of pets in the veterinary clinic with digestive upsets and varying amounts of diarrhea and vomiting. Probably the biggest reason for this is the feeding of inappropriate fatty and/or sweet table foods to pets and/or dietary indiscretion, where pets have access to inappropriate food items, toys, Christmas decorations, party goods, ornaments, etc. While mild cases of digestive upset often transiently pass on their own, when loss of appetite, diarrhea and vomiting become severe or intense, a veterinary exam and evaluation is recommended.

During any case of diarrhea or vomiting, it is important to maintain a pet’s hydration and electrolyte status. While this can sometimes be accomplished by giving oral liquids and electrolyte solutions like Gatorade, if digestive upset is too severe, fasting the animal will be needed for 12 to 24 hours. Veterinarians may treat such pets symptomatically with injectable fluids under the skin (known as subcutaneous or “SubQ” fluids), as well as give injections to combat nausea and/or slow intestinal motility to lessen diarrhea.

Bland prescription diets and/or homemade white meat chicken, turkey or lean hamburger, mixed with white rice or cooked sweet potatoes, may be suggested depending on the individual case. If symptoms are severe, a medical workup, which may include stool check for parasites, as well as CBC/chemistry blood and urine testing, as well as possibly x rays, may be needed to rule out metabolic causes of diarrhea and vomiting, such as pancreatitis (which is very common during the holiday seasons), hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (known as HGE), hepatitis, and digestive tract foreign bodies.

Since this is a time of year when lots of new puppies and kittens are being purchased or adopted, viral diseases such as canine parvovirus and feline panleukopenia also must be considered, particularly in young pets under the age of one year. For my holistic-minded clients, I will sometimes suggest the mild and soothing herb slippery elm administered 3 to 4 times daily, as well as adding probiotics to the meals, in order to restore the gut immune system and intestinal health after bouts of diarrhea and/or vomiting.

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