Monday, January 25, 2016

The lesser known holiday hazards for dogs

Jasper knows a thing or two about holiday hazards.

Usually around Australia Day we post a friendly warning to dog owners about the potential hazards of BBQs and fireworks. To avoid sounding like a broken record, I’m going to recount a few lesser-known barbie-and-firework related risks, based on cases I’ve seen.

The dog that ate the hot sausage

We often warn of the dangers of barbeque food to dogs – kebabs have kebab sticks which can be swallowed along with the kebab; onions can cause haemolytic anaemia; fat (even from a small piece of a single sausage) can trigger an episode of pancreatitis. But the heat itself is a hazard, and dogs aren’t always patient enough to wait for food to cool down. I treated a dog for severe oesophagitis after he pinched a scalding hot sausage direct from the BBQ plate. He was trying to cut out the middle man and avoid alerting the chef, who had briefly turned away. But the sausage burned on the way down, causing the poor dog to regurgitate. Moral of the story: don’t leave the barbie unsupervised around dogs. Or, possibly more accurately, don't leave dogs unsupervised around the barbie.

The dog that ate the fence

Some dogs are petrified of fireworks. So much so that in the lead up to any major holiday, vets and others remind everyone (via just about any channel we can) to take steps to ensure your dog does not escape. Dogs with noise phobias like this are often fearful for their lives, and will risk self-harm to avoid the source of stress. I have treated dogs that have injured themselves climbing fences, running through fences and breaking down doors. Even jumping through (closed) windows. Last month, a noise phobic dog presented “unable to drink” following a loud thunderstorm (which sounded exactly like fireworks). The dog had panicked and chewed a hole in the fence, scoring a bleeding nose in the process. An examination of his oral cavity revealed a big, fat piece of fence jammed up between the teeth, preventing the dog from properly closing his mouth. Happily, it was easily removed with forceps. Moral of the story: if your dog is the type to eat the fence, confinement in the backyard is not enough. 

The dog that ate the bucket of nuts

One of my clients was having a casual party at her house. Someone gave her a bucket of macadamia nuts, as you do (luckily not the chocolate covered ones). She was busy playing hostess so popped the bucket onto the back step next to her kelpie. The dog placed her head in the bucket and began to eat. Several hours later she had a wobbly gait (ataxia), appeared to be blind, and seemed incredibly painful just about everywhere. Macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs, but fortunately this toxicity carries a good prognosis. Moral of the story: keep treats out of reach of dogs, even if they appear innocuous.

All of the dogs I’ve described made full recoveries, largely because their owners acted quickly and they received excellent care. Moral of the story: celebrate with your best mate, but make sure you keep an eye on them.