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All Posts in Category: General Emergencies

Vomiting in Pets: What Does It Mean?

Vomiting can have numerous causes
Here at Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital, vomiting is one of our most commonly presented complaints. “Doc, my pet is vomiting. What’s causing it, and what can we do about it?” are questions we hear on an almost nightly basis. Unfortunately, the answers are not always simple. Just like in people, vomiting can be caused by a variety of problems.

Sometimes, vomiting is caused by nothing more than inflammation of the stomach or intestines, resulting when your pet ingests something upsetting to the stomach. This kind of case can be treated supportively with subcutaneous fluids (injected under the skin), anti-nausea medication and antacid medication.

Other causes of vomiting include parasitic, bacterial and viral infections; congenital abnormalities (abnormalities patients are born with) and structural abnormalities, including structures in the gastrointestinal tract or masses that prevent food from passing through appropriately; ulcers; and food allergies.

Sometimes, vomiting is directly related to something your pet has eaten — and this kind of situation can be very serious! Some of the most common vomit-inducing toxins we see here at Greenbrier include antifreeze; rat poison (if it can kill rats, it can kill your pet!); drugs (including over-the-counter medications, herbal medications, medications prescribed to the owner, medications prescribed to the dog, and illicit drugs); household plants; cleaning supplies; grapes; raisins; onions; chocolate; and moldy food, which can also produce tremors, seizures and even death.

Occasionally, something your pet has eaten will create an obstruction, which in turn causes vomiting. Some common items that produce obstructions when eaten by pets include underwear; socks; towels; hair ties; string (which may be attached to buttons or a needle); ribbon, including balloon ribbon; tampons and other feminine hygiene products; baby bottle nipples; pacifiers; baby toys; fishing line; dental floss; holiday ornaments and tinsel; rocks; and dog or cat chew toys.

Vomiting can be caused by systemic problems as well, including fever, kidney and liver disease; inflammation of the pancreas (commonly called pancreatitis); vestibular disease; inner ear infections; and seizures. Uncontrolled diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and Addison’s disease can also cause vomiting. In older patients, cancer can cause vomiting. Even medications like antibiotics, chemotherapeutic drugs and anti-inflammatories can cause vomiting in some patients.

So my pet is vomiting — what should I do now?
First, stop feeding your pet. Second, make an appointment with your veterinarian or bring your pet into Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital right away. As the cause of the vomiting can be almost anything and a diagnosis usually cannot be made over the phone, you’ll need to seek medical treatment for your pet quickly. Discuss with your veterinarian what the vomit looks like, how much there is, how many times your pet has vomited, your pet’s energy level, and whether the vomit is associated with anything specific (e.g., right after your pet eats, right after running, after a seizure, etc.).

After a physical examination, your veterinarian or the doctors here at Greenbrier will make recommendations for diagnostics and treatment. Diagnostics often include fecal examination, blood work and radiographs. Sometimes patients will need gastroscopy (during which a camera is used to look inside the stomach).

Treatment for vomiting can include withholding food for a specific time period, keeping the pet on a bland diet, administering fluid therapy (subcutaneous or, in more serious cases, IV fluid therapy), antibiotics, oral medications, anti-nausea medications, antacids, and plasma transfusions. Occasionally — especially when a foreign object is involved — patients will require surgery.

If you see your pet eat something he/she is not supposed to, be sure to bring your pet to a veterinarian or Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital IMMEDIATELY. Quick treatment can often reduce or completely eliminate the problems caused by some of the most commonly ingested items.

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Sock Snacks Can Be Dangerous for Your Dog!

They say things come in threes, and for me lately it’s been dogs who eat socks. In one month, I have had three such cases. While it might seem rather harmless for a dog to eat a sock, it can actually cause serious problems if the sock passes from the stomach into the small intestines. One of my patients came into the clinic in shock from vomiting. He was in terrible shape when he arrived, so we gave him shock doses of fluids and took a radiograph, which showed that he had an obstruction in his small intestines. We prepped for surgery, and as we were moving him in, he postured for a bowel movement and pooped a sock out! We were all so happy, but imagine how happy the owner was to get the phone call that we did not have to go into surgery!

My second case was not so lucky and had to have a red knee-high sock surgically removed — but he recovered well.

The third case was a bit more of a mystery. An owner came in with a pup who was, apparently, a chronic sock eater. The owner had seen the dog run down the stairs with something in its mouth, and then the dog rapidly swallowed whatever the object was. Since the dog had a history with snacking on socks, thankfully the owner reacted quickly and brought him into the clinic. The dog was stable and acting fine, but to find out what he’d ingested, we decided to give him an injection to make him throw up — and up came a blue sock!

We would come to learn that all three of these dogs had actually eaten socks on prior occasions, but had been lucky enough to throw them up without treatment. So dogs can be repeat offenders when it comes to sock snacking. The moral of the story is: Don’t leave socks lying around where your dog can get to them. Something as simple as a wayward sock can actually get your pup into a dangerous situation. But if you do suspect that your dog has eaten a sock, be sure to get them to the veterinary hospital as quickly as possible.

Dr. Elvira Hoskins

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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The Dangers of Summertime Heat Stroke in Dogs

As the heat and humidity of the summer months are approaching quickly here in Central Virginia, pet owners should be aware of the dangers of heat stroke, one of the more common summer pet emergencies in dogs. Heat stroke is a situation in which a pet’s body temperature has risen way above normal and needs immediate veterinary attention. Unfortunately, our domestic pets don’t sweat the way we do to dissipate excess heat, so they aren’t as efficient at cooling their bodies as we are — and heat stroke can result. The condition can become fatal rapidly if left untreated, but is easily preventable with some common-sense measures.

Most dogs love to go for rides in the car. While this is fine in cooler months, the most common cause of heat stroke for dogs is being left in cars during the summertime. Even with the windows cracked or partially down, a car parked in the sun can get up to 140° within minutes — so leaving your pup in the car for even a quick errand is very risky and and can potentially have tragic consequences. Pets riding in the bed of a truck can also develop heat stroke.

Heat stroke can also result from overexertion, and when dogs are confined to concrete runs or chained up without shade or water. Dogs should never be left outdoors without access to shade. And even if a water bowl is left out for them, the bowl can easily be overturned — leaving the dog without water for the rest of the day. Also, plan to make trips to the dog park or exercise with your dog in the morning or evening, rather than during the heat of the day.

Heat stroke is more common in dogs that have a decreased ability to cool themselves. Since a dog’s primary method of cooling itself is panting, overweight dogs; geriatric dogs; dogs with short faces (e.g., Old English bulldogs and pugs); and dogs that have compromised airways or medical conditions like heart disease, laryngeal paralysis or seizure disorders are also at increased risk of developing heat stroke. So it’s very important to keep these dogs in a cool environment.

What are the signs of heat stroke?
Heavy, excessive panting is the first sign, followed by salivation and listlessness. Other signs include vomiting, diarrhea and muscle tremors. And in severe cases, dogs may collapse, lose consciousness, experience seizures or die. The sequence of events can be very rapid, and death can occur within 24 hours, so pets displaying these signs need to be brought in to a veterinary hospital immediately.

What should you do if you suspect heat stroke in your dog?
Call a veterinarian right away, begin cooling your pet, and get them to a veterinary hospital immediately. Before leaving for the hospital, spray your dog down with cool water and place a fan in front of them. You can also place damp cloths on their stomachs or paws. You may also offer them cool water to drink, but some pets will not be able to drink appropriately and may breathe in some of the water. Do not place them in ice or an ice bath, as cooling them too quickly can result in a dangerous condition. Another important thing you can do as an owner is to keep your pet calm — the more stressed he/she gets, the higher his/her temperature may get.

What will happen at the veterinary hospital?
Once the patient is admitted, your dog may need to be cooled and given intravenous fluid therapy and other medications. They will likely need to be hospitalized for several days, as many serious conditions can develop from heat stroke, including bloody diarrhea; heart, liver, kidney and neurologic abnormalities; and bleeding disorders. The most critical time period is the first 24-48 hours after incident. Although pets may still be sick and require treatment after this time period, most that live through this first initial phase will survive.

So this summer, have fun with your pets! But be safe, make sure they have plenty of cool water to drink and plenty of shade and rest, and do not leave them in your car unattended. If you notice any signs of heat stroke in your pet, call your veterinarian or veterinary hospital ASAP!

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Welcome to Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital!

What to Expect During Your Visit
If you find yourself and your four-legged friend at Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital, it’s either late in the evening or during a weekend, and likely your pet is suffering from an emergency. Within minutes of your arrival, your pet will be assessed for critical or life-threatening injuries. Any animal suffering from these types of injuries will immediately be taken to the treatment room, and supportive care will be initiated. If your animal is stable and a more serious case comes in, please be aware that you may be seen out of the order of your arrival, to accommodate the most serious cases in order of medical priority. However, our goal is to minimize waiting time and have all patients seen by a doctor within 20 minutes of admission.

Once you are welcomed into an exam room, a veterinary technician will perform a brief physical exam on your pet and take a history of the problem. This pertinent information will be relayed to our doctors, who will then examine your pet and determine the best course of action for diagnosis and treatment. An estimate of the proposed plan will be presented to you for your approval, and any questions you may have will be discussed. We may ask that you leave your animal with us for a few hours, or through the night, depending on the seriousness of the problem.

If your animal needs to stay overnight at Greenbrier, we ask that all clients leave a deposit based on the low end of our cost estimate, to ensure that we can continue to provide life-saving care for your animals. It’s important to note that emergency care can often carry a higher cost than at your family veterinarian, since much of the state-of-the-art medical equipment and care at Greenbrier, which help us diagnose and treat your animals, are the same as those used in human hospitals. And since most pets don’t have health insurance, many owners are not financially prepared to deal with an animal in an emergency situation. The staff at Greenbrier understands this, and for that reason we are proud to offer Care Credit (www.carecredit.com), a no-interest payment plan for qualifying applicants.

When your pet is discharged, a technician or a veterinarian will meet with you to go over any medication or bandage instructions. If X-rays were taken, you will receive them in digital format on a CD. As well, all of your animal’s records will be faxed to your family veterinarian, so that they are up to speed on your pet’s status.

We understand how stressful it can be when your pet is involved in an emergency. At Greenbrier, we strive to make your visit as comfortable as possible and to keep you well informed on the status of your pet. Above all, the care for your animal comes first, and we will do everything possible to make sure your pet is safe, supported and stable during their stay at Greenbrier.

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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