Many pet owners consider their pets a part of the family and like to include and share their holiday dinners with them.
It is important to know that some foods that are very healthy to humans actually bare risk to pets.
Onion and garlic are the best example. Onions and garlic in any form may cause anemia in dogs.
Whether raw or cooked, fresh or dehydrated, in seasoning or in powder, onion and garlic contain substances which are highly toxic to pets and may cause anemia.
Anemia is the condition where the number of red blood cells and/or hemoglobin is unusually low.
The blood’s red cells are special cells that have a flexible consistency.
These cells contain hemoglobin, a molecule that is responsible for carrying oxygen to the body tissues, enabling all normal physiologic functions.
Since red blood cells carry much needed oxygen to the tissues and organs, lack of red blood cells can create a range of problems.
Onion and garlic toxicity in dogs can create a specific form of anemia that is called Heinz-body hemolytic anemia.
Heinz bodies are formed by damage to the hemoglobin and eventually rupture of the red cell.
The hallmark of hemolytic anemia is jaundice—yellowing discoloration of the tissues externally appearing on the skin, gums and eyes.
Other symptoms of onion and garlic toxicity in pets are general weakness, increased heart and respiratory rate, vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, lethargy and blood in the urine.
There is no specific antidote for this toxicity.
The treatment is a supportive treatment that includes gastric lavage/ vomiting induction along with IV fluids supplementation and blood transfusion if necessary.
As always, awareness and avoidance are the keys.
Onion and garlic are very common in human food and are often included in a variety of processed foods.
Human food manufacturers use them to make food tastier and they can often be found within the long list of ingredients.
Another common human food that may be harmful to dogs (not cats) is raw salmon.
The salmon itself is harmless to the dogs but it might contain an organism which is a sort of parasite that can even be deadly to dogs. Luckily this condition is treatable.
If your dog shows illness signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, fever and you suspect it may have ingested raw salmon, contact your vet ASAP.
Informing your vet of your suspicion is crucial for performing the right tests for diagnosing and treating the condition.
This is also a reminder of the importance of avoiding fatty food.
Consuming fatty food can cause an inflammation of the pancreas called pancreatitis.
The pancreas is an organ situated between the stomach and the intestine.
The pancreas’ function is to secrete digestive enzymes into the first part of the intestine to allow digestion of food.
The second function of the pancreas is to secrete hormones that are regulating the sugar in the blood, including insulin.
Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas.
The enzymes that are secreted from the pancreas are in inactive form.
When the enzymes reach the intestine they become active.
The active enzymes are breaking down the food and allow digestion and absorption of the nutrients.
Pancreatitis occurs when the enzymes are becoming active while still in the pancreas, which leads to “self digestion” of the pancreas.
Pancreatitis can be a severe and life threatening condition.
Chronic pancreatitis can lead to long term damages such as diabetes (impairment of insulin secretion).
Because the cause of pancreatitis is unknown it is hard to prevent it.
Keeping your pet at a good body weight and avoiding a high fat diet will decrease your pet’s chances of having pancreatitis.
Hopefully this information, along with my last column about chocolate toxicity, will help you decide on how to include your pet in the holiday’s festivities in a safe manner.
Dr. Moshe Oz operates the Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital in West Kelowna, 2476 Westlake Rd.