By Dr. Al Townshend
Our pets, like their Guardians, are known to suffer from digestive issues. Causes can range from a simple digestive upset to serious medical conditions. According to statistics compiled by Embrace Pet Insurance in 2018, gastrointestinal issues were the most common reason why pets went to the veterinarian. The average cost was estimated to be approximately $790.00.
It is important to recognize that preventing problems and identifying the early signs of a problem are the keys to controlling the risk and reducing the recovery time and cost.
“Prevention is the Best Medicine”
- Prevention begins with providing a safe environment for your pets. Keeping dangerous household products out of harm’s way. Over the counter and prescription medications, sugar-free gum and breath mints, batteries, grapes and raisins, anti-freeze and many other potential toxins lurk in every home.
- Avoiding potentially dangerous plants in the home. Tulips, Azaleas, Poinsettias, and lilies are all potential hazards.
- Reducing the temptation to steal human food left unattended for too long. Providing a lid for trash cans in the home and yard.
- Regular inspection of the yard and avoiding toxic substances being applied to the grass if you have a dog or cat that is allowed outside.
- When walking your dog in areas away from the home, always have the pet under control (on a leash) to avoid unexpected exposure to potential dangers.
Recognizing the Signs
Knowing your pet and catching the signs of a problem early can avoid a visit to the veterinarian and help the pet recover sooner and with less discomfort.
- Vomiting is often the first sign of a digestive issue. It generally indicates that something has irritated the upper digestive tract. Always examine the contents of the vomit for a clue as to what may have caused the problem.
- Diarrhea occurs from irritation of the lower digestive tract and often is a secondary sign that develops after the pet has vomited. Be sure to look for any signs of blood which might suggest a more serious problem that would require a visit to the veterinarian.
- Drooling might suggest something is caught in the mouth or the pet has gotten something in the mouth that has irritated the tissues. Common inhabitants in the yard and sometimes in the home can be picked up by the unsuspecting pet. Spiders, bees, frogs and toads, and many insects that give off offensive substances can cause the pet to produces excess saliva.
- Excessive Thirst can be a digestive sign or an indication that there is a more serious internal issue.
- Straining to have a bowel movement can be a sign of both diarrhea and constipation. If you are accustomed to letting your dog out unattended into a closed-in yard, your pet may have had initial diarrhea and you were not aware. Later, you may see the pet straining and think it is constipation when, in fact, it is diarrhea.
- Abnormal Behavior is always a sign there may be a problem. Close observation and a home examination of the pet and the household may provide clues to the cause. This is often a situation that would be simple, “if the pet could only talk”.
- Discomfort is also a general sign there is a problem. It is a very general sign that can be as a result of a digestive issue but it can also be as a result of lameness or another cause. A close home examination may provide further clues.
It is always better to be safe than sorry. Be sure to have your veterinarian’s phone number and the nearest veterinary emergency facility close at hand. In addition, if you suspect your pet has been poisoned by some household item, the National Poison Control Help Line 1-800-222-1222 is another number that should be readily available. Create a list of these numbers and post them on the refrigerator to save precious time in case of an emergency.