Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Treats and seizures in pets

However, local veterinarians say they may not be doing their pets any favors. Not only could the treats contribute to a weight problem, but they could also cause mild to severe medical complications.

"There's a tendency to slip Fido that extra treat, typically a human treat. But that's really not wise," said Dr. William Kimble, a veterinarian at the Animal Medical Center. "We don't see as much of cats getting the extra food as we do dogs because they're far more finicky." "We want our pets to enjoy Christmas with us, but let's keep it in moderation," he urged . "It is much easier to prevent obesity than to treat obesity."

Pets, like humans, tend to tack on the pounds during the holiday season because of the treats. However, pets that put on worrisome pounds are generally already obese, Kimble said. That's because they're not just getting treats during the holidays. "Obesity is not just external. It's also an internal problem, but that's not as obvious," he said. "Fat gets deposited around the heart and other organs and that's where many of their medical problems arise." Dr. Linda Farris-Guy, a veterinarian at the Animal Health Center, agreed.

"Most of the extra calories will come from the table scraps," she said. There are several ways people can help their pets shed those unwanted pounds and they will all be familiar to those who have dieted before. Obviously, Kimble said, reducing the number of snacks to a minimum is the first step. Playing with or walking the pet will also help. "We need to promote exercise and encourage some activity," Kimble said. "Anything that gets him moving." In addition, he said, weight reduction diets for pets can be found at most retailers.

It's typically not the volume of the treats during the holidays that contribute to the weight, but the richness of the food and the change of diet. "It's not so much that it was bad for them, but it's the major change in diet that causes it. It changes the digestive processes," Kimble said. Major diet changes can sometimes cause pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas. "Once the pancreas gets inflamed they can get real sick and require hospitalization. They can even die," Farris-Guy said. Then there's the temptation to treat the dog to those juicy ham or turkey bones, she said. "If a dog can chew up a bone, they don't need to eat it because it can cause serious problems," Farris-Guy said.

"Bone splinters can cause internal bleeding or obstructions. We have had to surgically go in and remove bone and bone fragments." Although any food in excess can become dangerous to pets, certain foods can be lethal in much smaller amounts, Farris-Guy said. Most people are aware chocolate is poisonous to dogs, she said. "It really only takes a very small amount of that," the veterinarian said. "Some dogs can die within 12 to 36 hours if they consume enough of it." Gastrointestinal upsets that cause vomiting or diarrhea can occur within two to four hours after a dog consumes chocolate.

Major consumption of chocolate leads to restlessness, stiffness and excitement and could progress to seizures after 12 to 36 hours. "The seizures are at the end stage. When they start having seizures they're in trouble and need a vet immediately," Farris-Guy said. Pets are also drawn to alcoholic beverages and those should be placed well out of reach of lapping tongues, she said. The smell of beer is especially attractive to dogs.

Even some holiday plants could pose a danger to pets, she said. Cats are especially attracted to new plants and susceptible to their poisons. "One leaf off of a poinsettia can kill a child or pet," Farris-Guy said. "It's part of the nightshade family. Mistletoe is also bad."


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