Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue
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Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue

Yeasty Beasties

by User Not Found | Jan 24, 2015

One of the things I love most about being a part of the rescue family is the opportunity to be able to reach out and help other pet owners.  It's that whole six degrees of separation, only instead of Kevin Bacon, its dogs....and not just golden retrievers but all breeds.  We all need that person to call in the middle of the night or on Sunday afternoon to ask "what would you do?"  I love to share a story that we can all learn something from. Not only can it save a life in an emergency, better yet, it can help you prevent those situations from happening! Here is one such story about a hungry boy named Blu.

One evening a foster received a frantic text from a friend whose dog had swallowed some raw bread dough.  Blu had eaten about 1-2 tablespoons of raw, unrisen bread dough and Blu’s mom wondered what she should do.  Unrisen bread dough is extremely dangerous.  Not only is yeast toxic to dogs in general, but unrisen bread dough has a sinister array of serious side effects.  Hang tight Blu, it’s time for our science lesson.

Yeast are pretty cool.  They are microorganisms found in the fungus family that are used in baked goods (yum!) to increase their volume and to improve the texture, grain and flavor of those tasty pastries.  In order to grow they must have three things, moisture, food and warmth. They are temperature sensitive and much like me, are inactive at temperatures below 50F.  Where they really thrive is between 90 and 100F or around 32 to 37C.  These ideal conditions activate the yeast and they begin chowing down on the sugar in the bread dough, producing carbon dioxide, which causes dough to "rise".  In addition to producing carbon dioxide, they also create alcohol as a waste product in a process called fermentation.

If your dog has eaten something poisonous or potentially toxic, your first question should always be, when?  Timing of ingestion will help you and your vet decide if too much time has passed to effectively “bring up” whatever they have eaten.  Also if too much time has passed or depending on what they have eaten, vomiting may cause more damage.  Blu has provided us with a great example.  Just like humans, a dog’s body temperature lies squarely in the middle of happy active yeast growth.  As soon as that dough is subjected to the warmth and moisture of Blu’s body (90-100F), yeast will become active and cause the dough to expand.  So when Blu’s mom estimated that he had eaten about a golf ball sized piece of dough, we can expect that to grow to something about the size of a baseball within an hour.  This is the main reason that you should not induce vomiting in a dog that has consumed raw bread dough.  If Blu were to vomit, an expanding dough ball can get lodged in the esophagus on the way back up.  If you have caught your dog immediately, there is a possibility of getting it back up before it begins to rise, but if a period of time has passed or you are unsure when your dog got in to the dough, you should never induce vomiting.

Problem number two:

I was thrilled when mom was keen enough to observe how much Blu ate. Deciding what to do next has everything to do with whether your dog has eaten a small or large amount of a toxic substance. Mom estimated that Blu had consumed about 1-2 tablespoons of yeast and weighs 60 lbs. Completely empty, Blu’s stomach is probably about the size of a human fist, so imagine trying to inflate a golf ball sized object to a baseball sized object within that space. Doubling and sometimes tripling in size, the dough can distend the stomach mimicking the causes of bloat or gastric dilation.  Once the stomach inflates, he also runs the risk of the stomach twisting on itself and cutting off blood flow to major organs like the spleen, stomach, intestine, etc.  Giving your dog cold water can sometimes slow the yeast down (lower temperature, inactive yeast), but it is no substitution for taking your dog to an emergency vet for proper care if he/she is showing symptoms very similar to those in bloat, like unproductive vomiting, gas and a distended belly, retching and inability to get comfortable. And just when you think your dog might be out of the woods…

Problem number three.

If the yeast hasn't plugged exit routes to the stomach, after about two hours, it starts to move into the small intestine. Remember that the yeast has been feeding which means it has been producing both carbon dioxide and ethanol (alcohol).  The alcohol that is released from the stomach is readily absorbed by the small intestine and by every inch of your dog's digestive tract. In some dogs, these symptoms can appear within 30 minutes, but peak symptoms appear around 2 hours. Your dog will basically be suffering from alcohol poisoning and the first signs are usually loss of coordination, loss of bladder control, vocalization and other behavior changes. If the alcohol level continues to rise, it can cause respiratory distress, cardiac arrest and ultimately death.

Now you know why I call them Yeasty Beasties.

So what to do if your dog eats bread dough? Your vet may want to induce vomiting if your dog isn't showing any symptoms, however it must be supervised because of the possibility of blockage in the esophagus that can cause the stomach to rupture. If your dog already has symptoms, you must get him/her to a vet right away. They will likely want to take x-rays to find out where the dough is causing problems and how much gas is present in the digestive tract and stomach. Tubes can be inserted to remove the gas and prevent bloat and sometimes, cold water is pumped in to the stomach to break down the dough and slow the yeast so that it can pass on its own. The vet will need to monitor your dog and provide supportive care including IV fluids that are necessary to keep blood and electrolyte levels corrected. Fortunately with prompt treatment, most dogs make a full recovery.

By the time I caught up to Blu, it had been at least an hour since he opted for a late night snack. He was currently experiencing no symptoms and luckily mom had not induced vomiting.  I told her what to look for and to keep a very close eye on him for bloat and signs of alcohol poisoning.  Once the two hour mark had passed, Blu remained free of symptoms and I reiterated to mom to keep an out for symptoms of alcohol poisoning.  By the next morning, Blu’s dietary indiscretion was just a bad memory, he’s a very lucky boy.



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