Archive for Thursday, March 13, 2008

Chocolate not for pets

March 13, 2008

Last Saturday morning as I was seeing patient's non-stop in the exam room, my wife fielded a call from a concerned dog owner. The caller explained her year-old Lab had wolfed down 20 to 30 chocolate Easter eggs.

Mrs. Concerned Caller wondered what to do next. "Should Wolfie's stomach be pumped? Would she die?"

My wife knew the routine. She told the desperate woman stay calm. The dog's stomach wouldn't have to be pumped but that the animal needed to get the chocolate out of her tummy as soon as possible.

"Do you have any hydrogen peroxide?" my wife asked. It will make Wolfie vomit before the chemicals in the chocolate can do the dog harm, she advised. Pour half a cup down the dog, my wife instructed. And take the dog outside, because it's likely to get messy, she added.

My wife's a real pro at counseling concerned pet owners and I truly thanked God she was there to answer the phone so that I could remain in the exam room - not that this wasn't a potentially serious situation brewing at Mrs. Concerned Caller's household.

Later that morning, Mrs. Concerned Caller phoned in a progress report. Wolfie had vomited two to three times, bringing up the chocolate and various wrappers. She wondered how much longer this would go on. It would take another hour outside for Wolfie to end the potentially toxic episode.

I really love this time of year for the reenactment of the Easter story and for bunnies, chicks and chocolates. I'm a confessed chocoholic and start every Lenten season swearing off the delicious stuff. But I always give to temptation. Thank God I stop short of my own chocolate poisoning.

On the other hand, dogs and cats are prone to chocolate poisoning depending on the type of chocolate and amount eaten. Many of you may have experienced your pet sneaking a candy bar or chocolate egg. Small amounts of milk chocolates or pastries are usually not harmful. Real problems develop when the pet eats large quantities of the stuff or eats dark or cooking chocolates. Obviously, the smaller the pet, the bigger the problem.

The active ingredients are methyl xanthene, theo bromine and caffeine. They can cause vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, hyperthermia, stiffness, muscle rigidity and seizures. Too much chocolate can cause coma and death from cardiac failure. Treatment is referred to emergency clinics that handle the problem. If an animal is caught in the act, the hydrogen peroxide treatment described above can work. It should be stressed the measure should be taken with consult of a veterinarian so that the right amount is administered for your pet. And hydrogen peroxide should not be given to a comatose pet or one suffering from seizures.

Normally, the biggest problems we face post-chocolate consumption is a really, really upset tummy. Vomiting and diarrhea are common for a few days. Pet owners may want to visit a vet to guard against gastrointestinal troubles that could lead to the pet's dehydration.

This chocoholic finds it a shame to see all that sweetness going to waste. The moral of the story is store your stash of chocolate well out of reach of Fido or Pussinboots. Don't tempt your pet with chocolate Easter bunnies or trust them around the stuff. Just think of your own temptations when chocolate is in abundant supply.

Have a safe and blessed Easter. I am going to see if I can roll a stone away or color a few eggs - anything to keep my mind off chocolate.

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