Holiday Info: Why Dogs & Table Scraps Don’t Mix

It’s a common experience for animal lovers: We’re about to take our first bite of a meal and notice a dog sitting ever-so-politely next to us, possibly drooling, with eyes focused like tractor beams, willing us to share our food. “Aww, how cute!” we think, and give the pooch a little morsel.

It’s hard to withstand those puppy dog eyes any time of year, and can seem next to impossible at holiday meals during the season of giving. But for the good of our dogs, we need to resist the temptation to feed them table scraps—and so do our guests.

In fact, most veterinary practices see an influx of dogs with gastrointestinal upset after any holiday.

“We tend to think food is love for our pets, and that is not always the case,” Dr. Hechko says. “Abrupt changes in diet or feeding little scraps of food, particularly when they’re not used to getting those types of food, can really create a lot of problems for the gastrointestinal tract.”

One common and potentially serious issue is pancreatitis, which causes inflammation of the pancreas, the organ responsible for digestive enzymes and insulin production. In fact, pancreatitis can lead to organ damage, diabetes, or in the worst case scenario, death.

Feeding a high-fat diet or foods your dog is not used to eating increases his risk of developing pancreatitis. Once he has it, treatment focuses on supportive care, such as controlling nausea and vomiting, preventing further dehydration or imbalances in the blood, and feeding a low-fat, nutritious diet.

Never feed these foods to dogs:

  • Chocolate
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Grapes or raisins
  • High-fat foods, like bacon
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Any foods containing the artificial sweetener, xylitol
  • Salty snacks
  • Rising bread dough or raw yeast

Also remember to keep medications, nicotine, marijuana, alcohol, and caffeinated drinks out of reach of pets.

If the pet is experiencing severe signs, he may also have to be hospitalized for a few days, or even longer in serious cases. The challenge is that many of the signs, including vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and abdominal pain, can be seen with other diseases as well.

This is why it’s so important to go to the veterinarian and get appropriate diagnostics so that it can be diagnosed early and treated quickly to help prevent further complications, such as dehydration or more systemic diseases.

While pancreatitis in cats is not typically caused by changes in diet alone, consuming table scraps or other unusual foods can still cause gastric upset.

Pets can also develop an intolerance for certain foods as they age, just like people. It is best to feed quality pet food with little variance and allowing healthy pet treats—or even fresh fruits and vegetables—in moderation.

Of course, sticking to a normal diet around the holidays can be complicated by visiting guests. In fact, many sick patients are dogs who weren’t fed by their owners; rather, a relative gave them all the trimmings off the turkey or let them finish their plate because they couldn’t resist.  They have the best intentions, but can create big issues.

To that end, we suggests the following precautions during the holidays:

  • Ask guests not to feed your pet table scraps
  • Put your pet into a quiet room at meal time
  • If guests cannot resist the urge to feed the dog, leave out a bag of low-calorie treats or a small plate of plain vegetables (but keep in mind they still shouldn’t have too many treats)
  • Keep pets out of garbage bags

Holidays are all about celebrating family, and pets are a huge part of our family, so we want to celebrate them as well.  Setting up some basic ground rules and making our guests aware of what restrictions we have for our pets can make it a safe and happy holiday for everybody.

Source: Pancreatitis: Why dogs and holiday table scraps don’t mix by Jen Reeder.

Is My Pet Overweight?

An estimated 45 percent of all U.S. pets are overweight or obese, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.  While the best treatment is prevention, it’s never too late to help your pet stay in better shape.

Obesity is the most common nutritional disease in dogs and cats. It’s more common with advancing age and in females.

Obese animals—those with a 15 percent increase over optimum body weight—have much higher incidence of arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and greater risks with surgery and anesthesia. Most research in both humans and animals suggests that increased weight shortens life.

How do I know whether my pet’s overweight?

If you’re unsure what your pet’s optimum weight should be, perform this simple test: Place your hands on your pet’s rib cage with your thumbs on the back.

  • If you feel the ribs easily, your pet is considered to be normal weight.
  • If you can feel fat between the skin and ribs or the ribs are difficult to feel, your pet is overweight.
  • If you can’t feel the ribs, your pet is definitely obese.

Your pet is overweight if:

  • You have difficulty feeling its ribs.
  • It has a sagging stomach, and you can grab a handful of fat.
  • It has a broad, flat back and no visible waist.

Your pet is a healthy weight if:

  • You can easily feel its ribs.
  • It has a tucked abdomen and no sagging stomach.
  • You can see its waist from above.

In some pets, particularly cats, a large abdomen that hangs down may indicate obesity. It’s important to have this judgment confirmed by your veterinarian; he or she can rule out other diseases that look like obesity such as heart, kidney or glandular disease.

Can I help my pet lose weight?

If your animal is overweight, there are usually painless methods for losing those unhealthy pounds. With careful dietary management and oversight by your veterinarian, changes in diet and lifestyle can lead to a much more productive life.  There are prescription diet formulations available from your veterinarian that can make dieting easy for you and your pet. Routine walks and playtime combined with sensible feedings can avert the need for medical intervention. As your pet ages, we recommend changing to a low-fat, high-fiber senior maintenance diet. Contact your veterinarian at Rita Ranch Pet Hospital for professional recommendations.

Go to to see how many calories per can/cup are in your pet’s wet or dry food!

Stress-Free Vet Visits for Your Cat

Do you dread trying to catch your cat for trips to the vet? Are you overlooking subtle signs of concern, or are your cats vaccinations outdated, because you so dread the struggle? Here are a few tips to help make your next visit to the vet less traumatizing for you and your cat:

— ALWAYS transport your cat in a carrier. This helps them to feel secure and protected, and is safer for both the cat and driver in a moving car. It also protects the cat from other pets that may be in the waiting room.
— Introduce your cat to its carrier and traveling in advance, and starting with kittenhood.
— If you have the space, leave the carrier out and open at home for your cat to explore.
— Do fun and positive things in, on, or around the carrier, like feeding, playing, and petting.
— If possible, take your cat for short car trips so she will not associate car rides only with visits to the vet.
— If your cat is prone to motion sickness when it travels, withholding food the day of travel. This may also help make the cat more receptive to treats at the clinic, and is beneficial if blood tests need to be run.
— Place something familiar in your cat’s carrier before travel. This could be a t-shirt of their favorite person or a blanket or rug they like to lay on at home.
— Provide a place for your cat to hide either in the carrier or drape a blanket on the carrier during transport.
— Consider owning a cat carrier that has a removable top. Rather than having to eject your cat from the carrier, the vet will be able to simply remove the top and conduct the majority of the exam with the cat feeling secure in his/her carrier.

It is important to for your cat’s health & happiness to make each visit to the vet as pleasant as possible. We hope these tips help make the next visit to the veterinary office less stressful for everyone involved, especially your cat.


Common Intestinal Parasites & Symptoms

The threat of parasites and worms are a reality for your dog and cat. Affecting particular breeds and pets that have access to the outdoors, parasites and worms can cause small ailments like stomach upset, up to extreme cases of death. The most common type of parasites and worms that affect pet dogs and cats are hookworms, whipworms, roundworms, and tapeworms. The effects of worms are particularly pervasive, as they can lay dormant in your pet’s system for quite some time before physical symptoms manifest. If your pet is experiencing rapid and random weight loss, diarrhea that isn’t remedied via diet modification, anemia, scratching of the anal opening, unexplained vomiting, severe bad breath that can’t be cured by regular brushing, or severe coughing, then it is recommended that you take your pet to a veterinarian – it is a very real possibility that your pet is experiencing some sort of parasitic invasion.

Why Is a Stool Sample Required?

Some parasites are very evident, with adult roundworm and tapeworm being very visible in stools. However, once they are observable with the naked human eye, then usually your dog or cat is experiencing advanced stages sickness. A stool sample will be able to analyze feces to check for worms as well as for disconnected segments. A stool sample is also required to discover eggs, which tend to be microscopic in size.

Learning about the Common the Parasites and Worms That Affect Your Pets

Whipworms tend to affect dogs, but it is not unnatural for cats to be infected by whipworms. Looking like small pieces of thread, whipworms tend to occupy your pet’s intestine. Whipworms do not lay many eggs, so several stool samples need to be examined to determine if whipworms are the potential culprit. Stool that is encased in mucus or extreme weight loss is usually attributed to whipworm infestation. Fortunately, whipworms hardly cause deaths.

Roundworms tend to affect puppies, especially puppies living in close quarters. Puppies that come from puppy mills and pet shops tend to be inundated with this parasite. Roundworms tend to be very common in puppies and kittens due to the way it is spread. The roundworm larva can migrate between the mother and the developing fetus. It can also be spread during nursing time. Once the larva migrates, they grow up to 5 inches in the dogs or cats intestine. There they start to absorb nutrients from the intestinal tract, then it will start laying eggs. Roundworms can lay up to 1 million eggs over the span of a couple of weeks. Due to this number, many kittens and puppies with advanced stages of infestation tend to have large bellies and mid sections. Severe infestations can cause a blockage, killing the host. Not only are puppies and kittens in danger of roundworm infestation, but an adult can be exposed as well.

Hookworms are also much more common in dogs and puppies. Hookworms secure themselves to the small intestines, sucking up blood for nourishment. Puppies and dogs get exposed to hookworms via stool that has been contaminated by it or ingesting the eggs by other means. Puppies can also be exposed to the parasite by nursing on an infected mother. Due to the loss of blood, advanced stages of hookworm infestation tend to cause anemia. Poor weight, loss of interest in favorite foods and treats and low energy are all hallmarks of a hookworm infestation.

Tapeworms come from fleas, putting dogs and cats in danger. Cats and dogs that have access to the outdoors – especially outdoor areas where tall grass tends to grow – are all exposed to fleas that are infected with tapeworms. Tapeworms look like several pieces of tape secured together, with distinct tiny brick like sections. Although tapeworms can grow up to 5 to 6 inches in length, the first visible signs of tapeworm infestations typically manifest in tiny segments attached to the fur around the pet’s anus. Looking like small pieces of rice, these tapeworm segments move when agitated. The segment also contains tapeworm eggs. Tapeworm infestations tend to be aggressive, and that most over-the-counter medications cannot help. It is important that you visit a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Preventing Parasites and Worms in Your Pets

The key to a long canine and feline life is prevention. Make sure that your cat and dog visits a veterinarian on a regular basis. Most seemingly healthy pets can go with yearly visits.

To reduce your pet’s exposure to fleas that may have parasites clinging to them, it is recommended that you do not allow them to wonder in marshes and areas with tall grass. These tend to be breeding grounds for parasites, worms, and bacteria that can infect your pets.

In many places, it is required by law that pets are vaccinated before they are able to go to dog parks and other places where dogs congregate. Even though most pet owners follow this rule, it is still important to be able to pinpoint symptoms. You do not want a sick dog to potentially expose your pets to illness. A dog that looks particularly lethargic, dirty, and look like they have excessive bloating around the midsection; are all potential signs of a dog that is infected. For outdoor cats, consider converting them to indoor cats. Outdoor cats are exposed to the elements, predators, aggressive cats, and parasites. An outdoor cat generally lives a much shorter life than an indoor cat.


Limber Tail in Dogs

My 10 year-old Labrador retriever suddenly stopped wagging his tail. It was really droopy, and my veterinarian says he has “limber tail.” What is that?

The term “limber tail” is one of several slang terms that apply to a condition that is technically called acute caudal myopathy. Some of the other terms you might hear that apply to this include:

  • Swimmer’s tail
  • Cold water tail
  • Dead tail
  • Broken tail
  • Limp tail
  • Rudder tail
  • Broken wag

Working dogs and active hunting dogs seem to be at greatest risk for developing this condition, but it can happen to any breed — to any dog with a tail!

Is this a true medical condition?

Yes. Acute caudal myopathy typically results from overuse of the tail, causing trauma to the bony vertebrae of the tail or the surrounding muscles and ligaments. Possible scenarios leading to limber tail include hard/vigorous play within the previous 24 hours, swimming in cold water, or active hunting within the past few days. Your dog may act fine immediately following activity but will wake up in pain the next day. The key risk factors appear to be overexertion and/or exposure to very cold water or cold weather.

“The key risk factors appear to be overexertion
and/or exposure to very cold water or cold weather.”


 How is limber tail diagnosed?

Typically, limber tail is diagnosed by connecting the dots between your dog’s symptoms and recent high activity, in addition to a careful evaluation of your dog’s tail by your veterinarian.

Your dog may have difficulty rising because dogs use their tails for balance. Likewise, your dog may have difficulty finding a comfortable position in which to sit and you may see him shifting his weight from side to side. The tail may droop limply between your dog’s rear legs, as though he is “ashamed.” or it may stick straight out behind him for a short distance before drooping. Your dog may be so distracted by his pain that he might not eat, and he could be reluctant to squat to defecate.

The veterinary examination will include a careful palpation of the tail starting at the base (up by the pelvis) and proceeding down the entire length. The goal is to locate the discomfort and rule out any other problems that might explain the symptoms.

What else can explain these symptoms?

Other medical problems that resemble limber tail include:

  • Tail fracture
  • Lower back pain from a diseased intervertebral disk or osteoarthritis
  • Infection or inflammation of the anal glands
  • Prostate disease

The fact that other medical problems can look similar to limber tail reinforces the need for a thorough examination by your veterinarian.

How is limber tail treated?

Uncomplicated acute caudal myopathy is treated with rest and anti-inflammatory medication.  There is nothing in the home medicine cabinet that is safe for you to give, so please only use medication that has been prescribed by your veterinarian. Most dogs are back to normal within a few days to a week. Just because your dog developed limber tail once does not mean that it will happen again when he returns to his favorite activities. You do not need to prevent your dog from doing the things he loves!

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Robin Downing, DVM, DAAPM, DACVSMR, CVPP, CRPP

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