Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard
Snow Leopard cub (7 mos old) - Cape May County Zoo

Monday, February 14, 2011

What NOT to Give Your Dog for Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day! 
There are several holidays during the year - such as this one - where there is more access for our dogs to chocolate and candy.  
Most of the chocolate we consume  - M&M’s, Snicker’s bars, Reese’s peanut butter cups, etc - are not going to contain enough of the stuff we worry about to cause a problem - esp in a large dog. AND of course, this is as long as they didn’t eat the whole bag or bags of it (then wrappers sometimes become a problem too = obstruction).   I am not advocating GIVING them any of this as it can still cause gastrointestinal upset and sometimes, pancreatitis (a potentially more serious medical problem) but if your dog gets into a few m&m’s don’t panic!  But do call your vet and let them know how much you know or think he got into and when you think it happened. They can best advise you on what to expect.
The compounds that cause the problem in chocolate are called methylxanthines. These include theobromine and caffeine. The affect the gastrointestinal, nervous and cardiovascular systems. 
The worst offender is the cocoa beans themselves, followed by baking chocolate. Here’s a breakdown of the mg of methylxanthines per gram of chocolate:
Cocoa bean 14-53
Baking chocolate     16
Semisweet chocolate       9
Milk chocolate               2
Hot chocolate                   0.4
White chocolate   0.05 (not really chocolate!)
  ---this has a lot of fat and sugar you have a better chance of pancreatitis  with  this “chocolate”
According to the ASPCA Animal Posion Control Center as little as 20 oz of milk chocolate or 2 oz of baking chocolate can cause problems in a 10 lb dog. Of course lower doses may not be fatal but still make the dog very sick!   
The most common signs are vomiting and diarrhea but in more severe cases, we see restlessness, hyperactivity, tremors and seizures. On exam, the dog will have an elevated heart and respiratory rate and a low blood pressure.  Death can occur from heart failure. 
Fortunately most of these cases respond to supportive care. If the dog has JUST eaten it, we can advise you on how to make him bring it back up - hopefully! If he doesn’t vomit or it’s been too long OR he’s already showing signs of toxicity, we’ll have you come in and we’ll administer activated charcoal and give IV fluids and gastrointestinal medications. 
Let me add another possible thing you MAY not think would tempt some dogs (unless you own a Lab and then you know that NOTHING is off limits!) - coffee beans or grounds. I recall a patient that ingested some around Christmas - they were flavored beans so they smelled like dessert! 

1 comment:

  1. And people should know that minimal chocolate intake does not necessarily require use of activated charcoal. AND, activated charcoal CANNOT be made at home by burning toast!