In the fall, many Minnesota hunters take to the woods for that trophy buck or some venison for the freezer. Archery, rifle, and muzzleloader seasons span from mid-September to the end of December. During this time, we will likely see many cases of what we call “garbage gut” in dogs. Dogs find and eat the unwanted parts left over when the hunter field dresses the deer. When ingested, these items can lead to troublesome gastrointestinal upset.
The unwanted parts after field dressing are often left in the woods where the deer was harvested. These tend to be very aromatic and appealing for the roaming dog. After sitting for a while, they begin to rot. They also contain a large number of bacteria. After ingestion, this combination can cause diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and abdominal pain.
Gnawing on the bones of the deer can cause smaller pieces of bone to break off and be ingested. These pieces can be sharp and irritate the gastrointestinal system as they pass through. This can cause pain, diarrhea, and in severe cases can puncture the patient’s intestines causing serious complications.
During processing, the fatty pieces of the deer are often removed and discarded. For dogs, eating a large amount of fat can lead to not only an upset stomach, but a more serious condition called Pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is the condition of inflammation of the pancreas, an organ adjacent to the stomach the helps with digestion and blood sugar management. Symptoms of pancreatitis include lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
A diagnosis can be reached based on the pet’s history and physical exam, but radiographs and blood work may also be required to determine the severity of the issue.
Treatment depends on the severity of the case. A mild case may require withholding food for 24 hours followed by a bland diet for a few days to recover. Oral antibiotics may be prescribed to reduce the overgrowth of bacteria in the gut. More severe cases may require hospitalization with IV fluids if the patient is dehydrated and injectable antibiotics and anti-nausea medications if the patient is vomiting.
On another note, deer season can be dangerous for dogs who are allowed to roam free. Keep your pets leashed or inside fence if possible. Have them wear an orange collar, bandana, or vest when out walking. You should also wear orange when walking your dog. Your safety, and the safety of your pet, is important to us at Northern Veterinary Clinic. Have a safe and successful hunting season.