Garbage gut, also known as dietary indiscretion, occurs when dogs eat something they shouldn’t. You may also hear it referred to as food poisoning, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, or gastroenteritis. Dogs will eat too much of anything they find tasty at any time of the year, but this happens most often around the holidays.
Here’s what you need to know about toxic foods for dogs so that you can protect your pup this holiday season and all year round.
Signs of Garbage Gut in Dogs
The symptoms of garbage gut in dogs can include:
- Stomach pain and cramping (often associated with vomiting)
- Lethargy, decreased energy and loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Flatulence (gas)
- Heavy panting
Clinical symptoms can range widely in terms of severity. Many animals can get better in 24 to 72 hours, either on their own or with regular care from your vet. But some animals can experience potentially fatal problems when they eat the wrong foods, including:
- Pancreatitis: Inflammation of the pancreas
- GI obstruction: Ingestion of something like cooked turkey bones at Thanksgiving resulting in a blockage
- Sepsis: A potentially fatal condition caused by the body’s response to infection-causing tissue damage and organ failure
- Clinical signs specific to certain toxins, including organ failure to the consumption of onions or chocolate during the holidays
Toxic Thanksgiving Food for Dogs
There are a lot of foods that dogs can't eat. But many people don't realize there are some foods that dogs should avoid, too.
If you're planning to have Thanksgiving at your house and you want to make sure your dog stays safe, here are some things that he or she shouldn't eat:
- Cooked turkey bones are dangerous for dogs because they splinter easily and can cause choking or internal bleeding.
- Ham can cause upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea, and pancreatitis.
- Gravy, which contains salt and sometimes fat, can cause stomach upset if ingested by your dog.
- Cornbread stuffing is poisonous for dogs because it contains onions and garlic powder, which can be toxic in high doses (which is what happens when a dog eats this much).
- Mashed potatoes: Mashed potatoes typically contain butter and milk, which can cause diarrhea in dogs that are sensitive to lactose.
- Cranberry sauce: Although cranberries alone are healthy for your dog, especially for dogs with urinary tract infections, cranberry sauce contains large amounts of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.
- Chocolate, which contains theobromine, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, lethargy, seizures and even death. If your dog has eaten any chocolate, call your vet immediately.
Diagnosing Garbage Gut in Dogs
Most cases of garbage gut are mild, but there are some that could become serious, especially if your dog is small, young, or geriatric. If you suspect your dog has garbage gut, you should visit the veterinarian to determine what route to take.
The veterinarian will check your dog's reflexes, temperature, and breath sounds. They will also palpate your dog's abdomen to check for any abnormalities. The vet will also likely run some lab tests, including a CBC (routine blood test) and chemical analysis. Stool and urine samples may also be taken to determine the severity of the issue.
Depending on what your dog may have eaten, x-rays and ultrasounds may also be recommended to you so your vet can take a closer look at their stomach and intestinal tract.
How to Treat Garbage Gut in Dogs at Home
The dog's digestive system is a complex network of organs, glands and cells that work together to break down food and absorb nutrients. When your dog’s gut health is compromised, it can cause many problems with digestion and absorption. This can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, and other issues that can be painful and stressful for your pet.
First and foremost, if you suspect your dog has eaten something harmful, call your veterinarian (see below). Depending on your veterinarian’s recommendation, FullBucket has created a helpful system for preventing and handling garbage gut.
Daily Prevention: Probiotics, like those found in Daily Dog, are friendly bacteria that help your dog's body fight off harmful bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. They also help your dog's gut flora get back into balance by getting rid of harmful bacteria that can cause digestive problems like diarrhea or constipation.
During Stress: A higher concentrated formula, such as Probiotic Paste, can be helpful during times of stress. You can think of this like “urgent care,” when your dog needs a fast-acting solution.
- Critical Care: For emergency or extreme situations, BioClay + Paste is a clay-based formula that helps bring the dog’s digestive system back into balance after GI upset. With probiotics, prebiotics, L-glutamine, and bio-absorbent clay to help remove toxins, this can help improve fluid balance and restore health.
Veterinary Treatment of Garbage Gut in Dogs
Depending on the severity of your dog's condition, the vet may simply recommend a temporary bland diet. If your dog has a host of symptoms, the vet may also recommend:
- Antiemetics: To stop vomiting and nausea
- Gut protection: To treat irritation or ulceration of the lining of the stomach
- Probiotics: To replace normal ‘gut bacteria’ and reduce irritation to the lining of the gastrointestinal tract
- Antibiotics: These are rarely needed, but can be used in cases of infection or if the vet suspects infection
- IV fluids: If your dog is dehydrated
Dogs with more serious side effects may need special care, such as staying in the hospital for more medical care or surgery to remove swallowed objects that are causing an obstruction.
Ensuring Good Dog Gut Health
If your dog has garbage gut, you can help prevent it from happening again by being more careful about what you give him to eat. Don’t offer him food meant for humans or scraps from the table. The same goes for junk food; if it comes in a plastic wrapper or bag, don’t feed it to your dog.
Finally, if your dog is suffering from a serious case of garbage gut and needs medication to cure the condition, talk with your veterinarian about how best to proceed.
We hope that you’re able to recognize the symptoms of garbage gut in your dog and take steps to prevent it. If you suspect that your dog has this condition, talk to your vet right away. They may prescribe antibiotics or other medications in order to clear up the inflammation in his stomach and intestines.
You should also consider adding probiotics to his diet—they work wonders! Especially probiotics that can effectively be used with antibiotics, such as all of the FullBucket dog products.
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Photo by Jasmin Schuler on Unsplash