In my 40 years of practice, I have seen many changes both in medicine and in the relationships we have with our best friends. One thing that has not changed is my desire to prevent problems rather than to have to treat them. Just about every day in my practice life we encounter dogs with gastrointestinal problems. The most common causes of these problems have changed over the years. Some of the most common in the past were parasites, allergies, viruses like parvovirus, bacterial infection, poisons, and the ingestion of garbage and trash. Let me share with you what the most common problem is today. The most common problem (shared by people) is eating something they should never have put in their mouths. I am sure that every single day of my practice life I have told a few people not to feed rawhides to their dogs. More on rawhides later.
Ingestion of foreign material is probably one of the biggest sources of income for veterinarians. It may also be the most preventable problem that an owner of a pet can have. Owners have heard that puppies need to chew. Now our pets have laundry baskets full of toys. A pet’s need to chew has probably ended by the time they’re nine or ten months old. However, in our society, pets and children are given everything in order to coddle them with material love. These materials should be very carefully inspected by the pet owners. The easiest thing for an owner to do is to think, “Would I give that to a one- or two-year-old child?” Or, “Would I put that chew toy in my own mouth?” If the answer is “no,” then you should refrain from giving that to your pet. Pets are like two-year-old children that never grow up. They can hurt themselves. This also means that anything that they play with needs to be done with direct supervision. If you are like everyone else and you already have a laundry basket full of toys, please just take one or two toys out of a laundry basket at a time and rotate them. How would any dog be able to differentiate a toy from some other valuable personal belongings in your home? If your dog is chewing inappropriately in your home, it is probably because you have trained him that everything can be chewed. I could write about this all day and tell you numerous examples of dogs who have choked, died, had major surgery, and chronic lifelong gastrointestinal problems, all linked to ingestion of improper materials.
Let’s talk about poor Winston who just a couple of weeks ago stopped eating and had terrible diarrhea which was increasingly worse for over four days. When Winston was presented to our hospital, he was not feeling well. Winston was dehydrated and his small little your Yorkie body was in abdominal distress. I think it’s easy to interpret diarrhea in a couple of different ways. One way is that the body is trying to get rid of something. Another way is that the intestinal villi have been damaged and can’t appropriately reabsorb fluids. In Winston’s case we have been taking care of him since he was a puppy. He was on a special diet to keep his body from reforming bladder stones. We radiographed the GI system and checked for bladder stones at the same time. The Xray revealed no stones but revealed severe colitis. It also appeared that anterior to the inflamed colon that the intestines were full. We used Chinese herbs for the discomfort and diarrhea. Blood work revealed an infection and pancreatitis. Food enzymes and antibiotics were also given. After 4 days of diarrhea at home we brought it under control in 24 hours. Before we saw a normal stool a couple of undigested pieces looking like melon rind passed. We were unable to identify the pieces and we showed them to the owner when she picked up Winston. She couldn’t imagine what they were either but she returned a couple of days later with some additional bits of history. The night before Winston stopped eating and started the diarrhea all over the house, she had given him some rawhide. The owner acknowledged that she knew how I felt about Rawhides and swore it would never happen again.
Why would I be against such a big personal money maker? It is against my purpose in life to let animals get sick needlessly. But that is only part of the story. To be fair, many dogs receive one benefit of Rawhides, which is helping keep the teeth clean, without a near death experience. But what do we really know about rawhides, pigs’ ears, cow hoofs, bully parts, and other dead animal parts? I guess we know they don’t stink and they could originate from all over the world. They don’t stink because they are soaked or treated with chemicals. Human physicians have traced E. Coli and Salmonella infections in small children to rawhides in their homes. Once I purchased a pig’s ear at a major national chain pet store because it had the metal ear tag still attached. If someone will sell a metal ear tag for your pet to chew on, what might be in one of these chews that you cannot see? Do you think the increase in emergencies, chronic disease, immune problems, and even cancer could be influenced by what our pets eat or chew on? Even if the rawhide comes from the USA and has an American flag on the package, it is a dead animal part that is pulverized and put back together, called a bully something, and sold to unsuspecting pet owners. Think before you feed. I guess I should also say to myself “Think before you eat.” There is a lot of common sense that we can learn from having a dog or a cat. By the way, did you see the notice about chicken jerkys in December?
Do me a favor! IF YOU WOULD NOT PUT IT IN YOUR MOUTH, DON’T MAKE IT AVAILABLE TO YOUR PET!