(434) 202-1616
Open nights, weekends & holidays. Open 365 days a year.
Call ahead if possible!
Blog banner

All Posts in Category: Digestive

Tremorgenic Mycotoxin Toxicity: The Moldy Shakes

The compost pile, a seemingly innocuous feature of your outside garden, can seem like a great idea, for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, this kind of eco-friendly heap of decomposing organic matter can also look like a free meal to your dog. As food in a compost pile starts to decay, a variety of molds can grow on it — molds that won’t always deter a dog from wanting to enjoy an outside feast. Many of these molds (at least 20 varieties are known to inhabit compost piles) produce mycotoxins that can have negative health effects. Ingesting even a small amount of mold can cause small muscle tremors and ataxia (which will cause your pet to look like he/she is drunk or having trouble walking) for a period of hours or days. A large amount of mold exposure can cause severe tremors, seizures and even death.

Spoiled food and fats in the compost pile can also cause gastrointestinal problems, including vomiting and diarrhea (sometimes bloody). Moldy dairy products such as cheese, moldy nuts such as walnuts or peanuts, moldy grains, and pastas are often the culprits behind these kinds of issues.

Apart from food found in compost piles, moldy refrigerator food thrown outside or in the trash can also potentially expose your dog to toxic molds. If you suspect that your pet has gotten into a compost pile or moldy trash, please take him/her to a vet immediately. Depending on whether the pet is showing signs of toxicity, your dog may be made to vomit. We never recommend the inducing of vomiting at home, due to possible complications. For instance, if your pet isn’t stable, he/she could inhale their own vomit or bloat. At the vet, a dose of activated charcoal is also often given to help absorb toxins from the GI tract.

Most dogs with this kind of mold toxicity likely will be kept in the hospital on IV fluids and given muscle relaxants to address any tremors, until the tremors cease. Antibiotics are also sometimes used to treat any diarrhea. A hospital stay can range from one day to several days, depending on how much mold your pet consumed and how quickly they were treated by a veterinarian.

Just like anything else, with mold toxicity, prevention is key. Keep compost piles in areas out of reach of your pet, or keep the material in a secure composting container. Also, don’t throw food away in inside trash cans. Most outside trash cans are much sturdier, and some are made to be difficult for a dog to open — even if the can is overturned. Finally, avoid throwing moldy food from your refrigerator in your backyard.

© 2012 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

Read More

Food Bloat (Overeating) in Dogs

With the holiday season right around the corner, the thought of eating oversized, high-calorie meals is probably on a lot of people’s minds (for better or worse). But for most dogs, eating a large meal is probably on their mind all the time, holiday season or not. Yes, dogs love to get into food, beyond what’s given to them in their doggie dishes, and recently Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital has seen an above-average number of dogs that have done just that. From getting into the cat’s free feeder, to eating human party food left on a counter, to breaking into a cabinet where 8 pounds of dog food was stored, to entering a neighbor’s doggie door and gobbling up another pup’s food, we have seen quite a variety of overeaters lately. And while for people, apart from a bit of indigestion, eating a big feast might not seem that much of a problem, going on a food binge can become very serious very quickly for our canine counterparts.

When a dog has overeaten, many owners will notice their dogs acting restless and unable to lie down in a comfortable position. They may also start panting, drooling or even acting like they want to vomit (including frequent retching, with little to no food being brought up). The most telltale sign, however, is a distended abdomen that is hard to the touch. If you observe any of these symptoms, act quickly and bring your dog to your regular veterinarian during the day or Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital after hours. These symptoms can also be signs of an even more serious problem called GDV, in which the stomach can twist in your pet’s abdomen.

Overeating causes the pain receptors in a dog’s stomach to stretch, which in turn causes the discomfort they experience. The majority of ingested food is usually very dry in the stomach, so fluids from other parts of the body are often absorbed into the stomach, potentially causing your pet to become dehydrated quickly. The GI tract is also considered a shock organ, so any compromise to blood flow or fluid volumes is a serious concern.

In an overeating situation, when your pet arrives at our Charlottesville vet hospital, baseline radiographs are taken to see the size of the stomach, and additional radiographs are usually taken at 12 hours and 24 hours after presentation. An IV catheter is placed, and your dog is started on IV fluids and pain medications. We also tape-measure your dog’s abdomen to monitor changes in size and walk them every hour to help increase blood flow to the GI tract. Your dog’s heart rate and pulse are also monitored every hour. Inducing your dog to vomit when their abdomen is distended is usually contraindicated, as it could potentially rupture the stomach. In addition, with the stomach so distended, it can be difficult for them to vomit.

In more severe cases, depending on how your pet is doing, he/she may be sedated to have the stomach lavaged (which is sort of like stomach pumping) to help remove food. If foreign material is suspected or the food cannot be removed with tubing, surgery may be warranted. Thankfully, with aggressive fluid therapy and support care, most dogs do well after 24 hours.

In any case, be sure to take appropriate measures to keep your dog from getting into unintended food sources, and take caution the next time your pet overeats — as a “food bloat” can be far more serious than it looks.

© 2011 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

Read More

Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis in Dogs — Severe Bloody Diarrhea

Recently we’ve had quite a few cases of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE) at Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. The good news with HGE is that, seeing blood in their dog’s stool, many owners will bring them in immediately, allowing us to start treatment right away, greatly improving the survival rate and minimizing hospitalization time. HGE sometimes can be mistaken for colitis, an inflammation of the colon that presents with mucousy, blood-tinged stool. Patients with colitis — which we also see a lot of at Greenbrier — usually are bright and alert and can be treated as outpatients. Dogs with HGE, however, usually present with lethargy and very bloody, watery or mucoid diarrhea, and in severe cases can present in shock from dehydration. The diarrhea in cases of HGE has often been described as “strawberry jam-like”. Occasionally HGE causes vomiting as well.

The etiology or cause of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis is unknown but is thought to involve any one of the following: allergy, stress, parasites, or bacteria. Small breed dogs are affected most often, but any dog can get HGE. It is believed that when the condition is present, the permeability of the GI tract is increased, allowing protein and plasma to leak into the bowels and causing the dog to become severely dehydrated. The diagnosis usually is made based on the description of the diarrhea and a simple blood test that looks at the levels of protein and red blood cells. A very high level of red blood cells, low levels of protein and very bloody diarrhea is diagnostic for hemorrhagic gastroenteritis.

We treat HGE with high levels of IV fluids. Occasionally, dogs with low protein will need an additional type of IV fluid to boost the protein level. Other treatments might include antibiotics (since one theory holds that hemorrhagic gastroenteritis is caused by Clostridium, a form of bacteria), GI protectants, and antiemetics or antinausea medication. If untreated, HGE can be a life-threatening disease. Once placed on IV fluids, most dogs will need to be hospitalized for 1-3 days and then will be fine. But it is extremely important to seek veterinary care immediately if your dog has a bloody stool.

© 2011 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

Read More

Parvovirus: Make sure your dog is protected!

A lot of you have probably heard of parvovirus, commonly referred to as just “parvo.” This disease is characterized by weakness, vomiting and extreme diarrhea (often with blood in it). Parvo is mostly found in young dogs, aged 6 weeks to 6 months, but it can be found in older adult dogs as well. Younger dogs are often more severely affected. Predisposed breeds include Rottweilers, Labradors, American Staffordshire Terriers and “pit bulls,” although any dog can be affected (I diagnosed this disease in a Shih Tzu earlier this year). Parvo is shed in the stool and has fecal-oral transmission — meaning that dogs become infected by eating infected substances (e.g., feces or grass with feces on it) or grooming other dogs with feces on their rears. And this little virus is hard to get rid of — once it is in your yard, it can last for up to a year.

What effects does Parvo have on your dog? In addition to the above-mentioned lethargy, vomiting and extreme diarrhea, this virus can do some truly awful things to your pup. Parvo is so debilitating that many pets have to be hospitalized for several days — if not weeks — with intravenous fluid support, antibiotics, anti-nausea injections, antacid injections and plasma transfusions. The virus can also severely decrease your pet’s white blood cell count and protein levels. And in rare instances, Parvo can even have effects on your pet’s heart or can create an obstruction in your pet’s intestines, causing the intestines to “fold in on themselves” and close off — an obstruction that requires surgery to fix. Although not all pets are this severely affected and some can be managed on an outpatient basis, some pets do die from this disease.

So what can you do to prevent this disease in your pet? Vaccines are available and are, for the most part, very effective. Occasionally a vaccinated pet can still get parvo, but in those cases the disease is often less severe than if they had not received the vaccine. Talk to your veterinarian about when to vaccinate and how many vaccines your pet needs — predisposed breeds often need more vaccines than other breeds. Also, do not take your pet to a place where there has been parvovirus within the last year. And if you yourself come into contact with a dog that has parvovirus, take care not to become a “fomite” &mash; when exposed, people can act as carriers and spread the disease to their own pets. After contact with an infected dog, Parvo can be found on your hands, clothes or shoes — so wash your hands, change your clothes and take off your shoes to help avoid bringing this disease home to your pet. Bleach in a 1:30 dilution with water can kill parvovirus on your floor and other surfaces, if you allow the solution to sit for approximately 10 minutes.

If you suspect your dog may have parvovirus, keep him/her away from all other dogs and take your pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Your veterinarian can perform a “snap test” to check for the virus. If your dog has been diagnosed with this disease, be sure to clean up all of his/her stool immediately, do not allow your pet to be around other dogs, and do not introduce another dog into your house without consulting your veterinarian first.

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

Read More

Grape toxicity and pets: Delicious but deadly

Grapes may be one of people’s favorite fruit-based snacks, but they are not a safe snack for our pets. While grapes don’t cause humans any harm, they can cause acute kidney failure in dogs, and even possibly in cats. Despite recent research, the exact agent in grapes that causes the toxicity is still unknown. It was previously thought that perhaps something related to pesticides or heavy metals in grapes was causing the problem, but that hypothesis has since been disproven. Current theories suggest that the fleshy portion of the grape, rather than the seed, is the toxic culprit. Thompson seedless grapes, the common green ones from the supermarket, statistically seem to create the highest number of problems in animals — however, this could just be because that variety of grape is the most commonly purchased. Other products made from real grapes, such as raisins, grape juice and grape jelly, have also shown to cause problems. And heated and fermented grape products, like those used in baked cookies and cakes with raisins, can also be toxic to pets. One notable exception is grape seed extract, which is found in some pet products and synthetic grape-flavored medications, and is not currently thought to be a pet hazard.

One of the most frustrating things for owners is just how small an amount of grape ingestion can be toxic. I have had people tell me, “Well, he only ate 2 or 3 grapes,” or “Well, he got into some trail mix with raisins, but there weren’t many in it.” Unfortunately, any known grape ingestion — regardless of the amount — could potentially cause a problem.

People also tell me, “I have been giving my pet grapes for years without a problem.” Regardless of what you may have given your pet in the past, that doesn’t ensure that your pooch won’t react badly to grapes in the future. In fact, some dogs that have eaten grapes in the past with no signs of toxicity ultimately may run into trouble with them. The consequences of grape toxicity can be severe, so why take the risk? To avoid these kinds of problems, we highly recommend not giving your pet grapes in any amount.

Like many other products that are toxic to animals, your pet may appear normal for up to 24 hours after they eat grapes or a grape product. Within 24 hours or so, you might start seeing them not wanting to eat, vomiting, acting like their abdomen is in pain or experiencing diarrhea. Within 48 hours after ingestion, they can start experiencing more serious problems, such as showing a decrease in the amount of urine they produce — or not producing urine at all. These are some of the signs of acute kidney failure.

And just like any toxicity, early treatment is the key. If you suspect your pet has eaten grapes, raisins or products containing them, bring your pet to Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital or to your regular vet as quickly as possible. Grapes can sit in the stomach for hours after being ingested, so your vet will most likely give your pet an injection to make them vomit. They may also be given what is known as activated charcoal to help bind up any additional grape products in the GI tract. Your pet will also likely be placed on intravenous fluids for 48 hours and have their kidney function checked daily for 72 hours via a blood test. The prognosis of any given case usually corresponds with how soon you realize that your pet has eaten the grapes — and how fast you react to get them the proper treatment.

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

Read More

Winter Hazards for your Pet

Now that the holidays are upon us, I thought it would be a good time to remind pet owners of the many common household items that can be hazards to pets during the winter season. I’ll start with a list of common food items that can present serious problems for pets. Many of these items have their very own blog entries, so please search our blog after you read this post if you’d like more detail. I am constantly surprised by how many people aren’t aware that these foods are potentially toxic to pets, so I don’t think we can list them too often.

Foods
Yeast bread dough: converts to alcohol, causes bloating
Moldy foods: contain toxins that can cause tremors
Macadamia nuts: can lead to weakness, depression, vomiting
Chocolate: GI and cardiac signs, can make pets hyper excitable
Onions, garlic, leeks, onion powder: can lead to anemia
Xylitol (contained in sugarless gum): causes low blood sugar, liver toxicity and blood clotting disorders
Grapes/raisins: can lead to kidney failure. For some dogs, it only takes a few.
Fatty foods: can cause pancreatitis

Plants
The following plants are toxic to pets:
Lilies: can cause kidney failure in cats
Holly: can cause gastrointestinal problems, lethargy
Mistletoe: can cause gastrointestinal problems and is a cardiotoxin
Poinsettia: can cause irritation to the mouth and gastrointestinal problems and is a mild toxin

Holiday-related items
Since many of the items below only come out seasonally, they can be a novelty — especially for those curious cats or puppies. Take care to pet-proof your holiday decorations!
Christmas tree water: can be laden with bacteria and/or pesticides; causes gastrointestinal signs
Ribbons/tinsel: cats especially love these, and they can cause linear foreign bodies requiring surgery
Liquid potpourri: can cause severe oral, ocular and dermal damage
Electric cords: can lead to electrocution, fluid in lungs

Other toxic items
Antifreeze: Extremely toxic to animals!! Lethargy, “drunk” behavior, kidney failure
Ice melt: irritating to skin, paws and mouth

Please keep your pets safe this holiday season. If you think your pet has ingested any of the above, please seek veterinary attention immediately. Many of these toxins can be mitigated with early veterinary intervention.

Dr. Elvira Hoskins

Read More

Diarrhea…cha cha cha…

No one wants to talk about it, but sometimes our pets get diarrhea. Diarrhea can range in consistency from soft to very watery, and in color from black to brown to bright red and bloody. Your pet may have large amounts of diarrhea, or small amounts with more frequent trips to the bathroom.

Two of the most common causes of diarrhea are parasites and dietary indiscretion, otherwise known as “eating something they’re not supposed to.” However, there are a lot of other causes, including bacterial overgrowths; viral diseases such as parvovirus; abrupt diet changes; food allergies; abnormal digestion and absorption diseases; stress; toxins; drugs; metabolic diseases such as diabetes and Addison’s disease; kidney, liver and pancreatic abnormalities; inflammatory diseases; and in our older patients, cancer. (This is by no means an all-inclusive list, however!)

If your pet has diarrhea, your veterinarian will likely want to start by running a “fecal,” which tests the stool for parasites. When you go to your veterinarian, you can bring a sample of the stool with you, if it is fresh, for them to test. Be sure to wear gloves when handling stool, and wash your hands directly after, as some parasites can be transmitted from pets to people! Depending on the age of your pet and the severity of the diarrhea, other tests that may be run include parvovirus tests and blood work. Chronic diarrhea may require further testing and colonoscopy with biopsy samples.

Treatment for diarrhea depends on its severity, cause and duration. Your veterinarian may put your pet on a bland diet. Parasite infections are often treated with deworming medication. Sometimes your pet will need antibiotics or fluids. For severe cases, your pet may need to be hospitalized and given intravenous fluids and injectable medications.

If your pet has developed diarrhea, bring him/her to your local veterinarian, or to Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital if it is after hours. They can decide on the appropriate treatment to help your pet feel better.

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

Read More