If your dog ate grease, either animal or vegetable fat, you may be wondering if it can be harmful to him and whether you should see the veterinarian. You may also wonder "if my dog ate grease, is he in any danger of developing high cholesterol? And what about arteriosclerosis? These are all good questions considering that many dogs are attracted to the foods we eat, and the greasier, the better. The good news is that not all dogs necessarily get sick after eating grease, however, it can turn being potentially problematic when large or frequent amounts are consumed. Veterinarian Dr. Ivana Crnec provides insights on the topic of dogs eating grease and what complications may arise from its consumption.
Help, My Dog Ate Grease!
It is no secret that dogs are voracious eaters. They will eat just about anything as long as it smells good. And to be honest, for the average dog, almost everything smells good. Greasy food is one of those good smelling and even better tasting things.
Big burgers, tasty French fries, crispy bacon…you name it and your dog will eat it, but is it OK to give greasy food to our canine babies? After all, we eat greasy food on a daily basis. Well, although greasy food (in moderation) is safe for us, it is not safe for dogs. The digestive tract of dogs is not designed to deal with grease.
Some dog owners are not aware of the risks associated with greasy food and regularly feed their dogs with table scraps. Dogs may also eat too much grease if licking pans or stealing food.
Regardless of how the dog came in contact with greasy food, once it ingests enough of it, its stomach will be upset.
If your dog ate grease, consider that eating a single greasy meal lead to stomach and intestinal distress and irritation manifested with:
- Stomach ache
- Lack of focus
- Sweaty paws
- Howling or whimpering
If a dog eats greasy food on a regular basis, the pancreas (gland responsible for secreting fat-digesting enzymes) enlarges. The enlargement is due to the increased demand for fat-digesting enzymes.
Simply put, a touch of grease (now and then) is not harmful, but frequent greasy indulgences can cause serious digestive issues. So the next time you eat something greasy and your beloved pouch looks at you with its big eyes do not fall for its begging tricks.
Can Dogs Develop Pancreatitis From Eating Grease?
Yes, just like us humans, dogs can develop pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). The exact causes of pancreatitis remain a mystery. However, there is a direct relationship between the severity of attacks and high-fat, low-protein diet. There is also evidence that certain drugs, including corticosteroids, diuretics, and some ulcer-healing drugs (such as cimetidine), are associated with it.
In addition, damage to the pancreatic duct may cause enzyme seepage and painful inflammation in surrounding tissues. While the true incidence of pancreatic disease is unknown, on routine post mortems (inspection of a body following death) about one percent of dogs have signs of pancreatitis.
Acute pancreatitis in dogs is a very painful condition typically affecting overweight, middle-aged females. It causes extreme pain – the dog tucks up its belly, vomits and even develops signs of shock. In less severe instances, the dog drops its front half into a position like a play-bow, but is reluctant to drop its hind quarters. Milder pancreatitis causes lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea and a fever. Acute pancreatitis occurs most commonly in Miniature Poodles, Miniature Schnauzers, Cocker Spaniels and West Highland Terriers. Chronic pancreatitis is more difficult to detect and most of the clinical signs involve the intestines.
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How is pancreatitis diagnosed? X-rays and ultrasound may show anatomical changes to the duodenum. Blood analysis show higher levels of white blood cells and increased activity of liver and pancreas enzymes – a result of the inflammation.
The goals of treatment are to control pain, overcome the effects of shock and reduce the pancreatic activity. The latter is achieved by withholding food for a short period of time. The dog may be fed intravenously as a safe alternative. Unlike in people, antibiotics are rarely used in dogs with pancreatitis. Corticosteroids are used only if there is clinical shock. Once vomiting has been controlled, a low-fat maintenance diet is given, usually in small, frequent meals.
Diet is vital when caring for a dog that has had a bout of pancreatitis. Small amounts of water are offered frequently, but food is initially withheld for 3 to 5 days, until the clinical signs have abated. Reintroduce food, starting with small amounts of carbohydrates, such as boiled rice, followed by predigested food such as cottage cheese. Avoid high-protein or high-fat foods because they simulate pancreatic secretions. Low-fat veterinary diets are useful.
Did you know? There is a great variation in a dog's tolerance to high fat meals and this may vary from individual to individual. Some dogs are capable of eating 1/2 pound of bacon and be perfectly fine, while others can eat one piece of bacon and develop severe pancreatitis, explains veterinarian Dr. James Henry. For dogs who ate grease such as bacon fat, he suggests feeding four small meals of a bland diet for dogs and immediately seeing the vet at the first sign of vomiting or diarrhea
Can Dogs Get High Cholesterol?
Yes, although not as commonly as people, dogs can get high cholesterol. Certain dog breeds like the Miniature Schnauzer are predisposed to developing high cholesterol levels.
Normally, when a dog eats, the fat content of the food splits (into triglycerides and cholesterol) and it is absorbed. If the splitting and absorption processes are impaired, fats accumulate. Dogs with high cholesterol levels may show the following signs and symptoms: abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal swelling and development of fat lumps on the skin.
A simple blood analysis is enough to detect elevated cholesterol levels. The number one rule when dealing with high cholesterol is switching to low-fat food. If the dietary changes are not enough, there are medicines and therapies that can be introduced. Healthy diet and maintaining an ideal body weight are the best prevention methods.
Can Dogs Develop Atherosclerosis?
Yes, dogs can develop atherosclerosis. Cholesterol is a greasy substance necessary for certain cellular activities. However, when accumulated at the wrong places, it can be problematic. One of those wrong accumulation places are the arteries.
Cholesterol accumulations in the arteries (condition known as atherosclerosis) leads to reduced blood flow which can potentially result in severe and even life-threatening conditions such as heart attacks, circulatory issues and hemorrhages. Doberman Pinschers, Poodles, Miniature Schnauzers and Labradors are predisposed to developing atherosclerosis.
Affected dogs show poor appetite, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, generalized weakness, fainting, difficult breathing and disorientation. In more severe cases, heart attacks are a possible consequence.
The diagnosis is set based on the findings of the physical examination, ultrasound, x-rays, electrocardiography and blood results. The treatment needs to address both the atherosclerosis and its underlying cause. Cholesterol-lowering drugs are routinely prescribed.
About the Author
Dr. Ivana Crnec is a graduate of the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia.