|Topper has his own Treats for Tricks|
Question: This is that scary time of year again, full of ghosts, witches, pumpkins -- and sugary bags of trick-or-treat candy. A fun time for kids and adults can be a disastrous time for pets who share those bags of treats, landing them at the vet's office or emergency clinic. What kind of health emergencies do see most often during the Halloween holiday?
Answer: Around the trick-or-treating time, we see many dogs that eat chocolate and other Halloween candy.
Pet ingestion of Halloween treats can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, pancreatitis, heart arrhythmias, seizures, liver disease, kidney disease, gastrointestinal obstruction and even death.
Dangerous or even fatal chocolate toxicity is rare because knowledgeable owners usually get their chocolate-eating pets into the clinic within a few hours of ingestion. Once the pet arrives, we do what is called "decontamination" -- vomiting is induced and then activated charcoal is administered.
We also see pets with general vomiting and diarrhea from gastrointestinal upset after they've eaten candy, wrappers and holiday decorations. This can be very serious if the pet develops pancreatitis or if the pet becomes very dehydrated.
A quick and timely response makes the treatment much easier on your pet and your wallet.
Question: Why is chocolate dangerous? Is some chocolate -- dark or bittersweet chocolate -- worse than others, such as milk or white chocolate?
Answer: Chocolate contains an active ingredient called theobromine, which is toxic to pets. Theobromine is a stimulant that pets are more sensitive to than people and can cause hyperactivity, elevated heart rate, twitching and tremoring, vomiting and diarrhea and, worst of all, seizures.
Dark chocolate is more potent, having a higher concentration of theobromine, and, therefore, is more toxic. All chocolate (cakes or brownies, milk chocolate, white chocolate, chocolate syrup, cocoa powder) is considered "rich." Although not as serious as theobromine toxicity, foods with high sugar and fat contents can cause serious stomach and bowel problems. Decontamination and quick treatment is key.
Question: What harm can one little candy bar do?
Answer: It depends on the size of your pet, the presence of any underlying conditions and the amount of chocolate your pet has ingested.
A Hershey's Kiss is safe for a 70-pound Labrador retriever to eat but harmful to a 3-pound Chihuahua.
Another problem with "just one little treat" is that dogs can develop a liking to chocolate and soon may be climbing on the table to help themselves to that whole bowl of Halloween candy.
The power of the dog nose can also help them find that wrapped box of chocolates under the Christmas tree or hidden away for Valentine's Day. I know one Beagle who learned to open the pantry, and he loved to eat the brownie mix.
Question: What should I do if my pet accidentally eats chocolate? What symptoms should I watch for?
Answer: Call your regular veterinarian or local emergency/referral veterinary hospital for recommendations.
It helps to have the candy wrapper with the list of ingredients and percentage of cacao or cocoa in the product.
Monitor your pet for hyperactivity, elevated heart rate, vomiting/diarrhea, tremors, twitches and seizures although preventive treatment long before any of these symptoms is the best approach.
If you have access to the Internet, check out www.veterinarypartner.com and look up chocolate toxicity. The website has an excellent chart comparing the number of ounces of chocolate a pet would need to ingest for toxicity.
Consider calling the National Animal Poison Control Center (1-800-548-2423; $65/call) or the Pet Poison Helpline (1-800-213-6680; $50/call) to speak directly with a veterinary poison specialist.
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