A Message from the Vet - December 2009

During the holiday season we see an increase in gastroenteritis (inflammation in the stomach and intestinal tract) resulting in vomiting and/or diarrhea. Most of these cases can be prevented. It is our recommendation to feed your pet a well-balanced commercial pet food that has been tested and proven effective.

This time of year it is tempting to sweeten our pet's meal with a turkey leg or other tasty treats. However, it is important to remember that some food will upset the tummies of our furry friends and may even be toxic. While most cases of dietary indiscretion can be managed with conservative supportive care, some cases require hospitalization and intensive treatment to resolve.

Just 1 oz of baker's chocolate can cause gastrointestinal upset (vomiting,diarrhea), heart arrhythmias, seizures/tremors, and possibly death. The chemicals responsible for the toxic effects of chocolate are theobromine and caffeine, theobromine being the worst. Toxic doses of theobromine range from 9 mg per pound (dog's weight) resulting in mild signs, up to 18 mg per pound resulting in severe signs. Milk chocolate contains 44 mg per ounce of theobromine, while semisweet chocolate contains 150 mg per ounce and baking chocolate contains 390 mg per ounce. The more chocolate liquor there is in a product, the more theobromine is present. This makes baking chocolate the worst for pets, followed by semisweet and dark chocolate, followed by milk chocolate, followed by chocolate-flavored cakes or cookies.

If your pet has an accidental ingestion, please contact your veterinarian. Early treatment may improve the outcome. A few of the other foods that are considered toxic or harmful to your pet are grapes or raisins, macadamia nuts, and xylitol, a common sweetener found in sugar-free gum or candies. Remember that just because these foods are safe for humans does not mean that they are safe for your pets. So stick with the dog biscuits or kitty treats, and have a safe and wonderful holiday season!

Candice Denham, DVM

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Last updated 2014 May 10.