Pet Care Information
One of the most common toxicologic emergencies veterinarians see is chocolate toxicity. Chocolate is a popular treat all year round. Care must be taken when animals are present, though. Chocolate can be toxic, and sometimes even fatal, for animals. Though most common in dogs, it is important to remember that cats and other species are susceptible to its toxic effects as well. Chocolate is made from cacao beans and contains a naturally occurring stimulant called theobromine, which is the toxic compound in chocolate. (Caffeine is also present in chocolate, but in much smaller amounts than theobromine.)
Theobromine, not only leads to severe gastrointestinal upset, but also can cause heart arrhythmias and potent central nervous system stimulation; which can manifest in the form of potentially fatal epileptic seizures. Different types of chocolate contain different amounts of theobromine, however. Unsweetened (baker’s) chocolate contains 8-10 times the amount of theobromine as milk chocolate. Semi-sweet chocolate falls roughly in between the two for theobromine content. White chocolate contains theobromine, but in such small amounts that poisoning is unlikely. If your pet ingests any chocolate, it is important to call your veterinarian. Who will calculate, based on the amount and type of chocolate eaten and your pet’s weight, whether or not your pet ate a toxic amount.
Your pet may need to be seen right away!
Xylitol is a common sugar substitute found in gum, sugar-free candy, baked goods, and drinks. Humans have no severe complications from overconsumption of xylitol, however xylitol can be toxic to dogs causing hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and liver damage.
In dogs, xylitol is rapidly absorbed causing insulin release and subsequent hypoglycemia. Low blood sugar may lead to weakness, disorientation, tremors, seizures, and coma. At high doses xylitol can also cause damage to the liver. Signs typically appear 8-12 hours after ingestion and may include lethargy, vomiting, anorexia, and collapse. Many dogs with mild signs recover with treatment, however, liver failure and death may occur.
Xylitol toxicity is dose dependant. One or two sticks of gum may be enough to cause hypoglycemia in a 10 lb dog. Liver damage becomes a concern at five to ten times this dose.
If you believe your dog has ingested a xylitol containing product contact a veterinarian immediately. If seen quickly, vomiting may be induced to decrease the amount of xylitol absorbed. Your veterinarian will want to monitor blood glucose levels and liver values for any toxic effects.
To date, there have been no reports of xylitol toxicity in cats.
Canine Influenza is a newly emerging infectious disease in dogs. It is highly contagious, and since the virus in relatively new, 100% of dogs are susceptible and 80% will show symptoms. Even dogs with no symptoms can spread the disease to other dogs. Infected dogs spread the virus by direct contact, in their respiratory secretions (coughing/sneezing) for 7-10 days as well as through contaminated surfaces.
The flu is usually mild but has been known to be serious in some cases. Approximately 20% of cases had severe fever of 104-106 degrees and/or escalated to pneumonia.
In May 2009 the USDA approved the canine influenza vaccine which reduces the severity of the flu and length of time the dog is sick. This means that vaccinated dogs who still become infected have less illness and are not as contagious to other dogs. There were no side effects or safety issues in field trials including more than 700 dogs when evaluations of the vaccine’s performance were conducted.