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Most people enjoy chocolate, and not surprisingly, most pets do too!  Unfortunately, chocolate can be toxic to pets and can lead to severe clinical signs including vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, hyperactivity, tremors, seizures, ataxia (‘drunkenness’), increased heart rate, heart arrhythmias, increased blood pressure, increased body temperature, difficulty breathing, and even death.

Why Is It Toxic?

The toxic compounds in chocolate are methylxanthines – this includes both theobromine and caffeine.  These compounds inhibit cellular receptors, stimulate the central nervous system, and enhance cardiac and skeletal muscle contractility.  In addition, the high fat content in chocolate leads to local gastrointestinal irritation (vomiting and diarrhea), and in severe cases, a serious disease called pancreatitis.  Clinical signs occur within 12 hours, but most pets will begin exhibiting signs within 1-4 hours of ingestion.

Different types of chocolate have different amounts of theobromine and caffeine.  Relative amounts of methylxanthines in chocolate are as follows:

Compound Theobromine (mg/oz) Caffeine (mg/oz)
     
White chocolate 0.25 0.85
Milk chocolate 58 6
Dark chocolate 130 20
Semi-sweet chocolate 138 22
Baker’s unsweetened chocolate 393 47
Dry cocoa powder 737 70

 

While we generally consider 100 mg/kg to be a toxic dose, some patients will exhibit clinical signs at a dose as low as 20 mg/kg.  However, often, we don’t know the type or amount of chocolate that was ingested, so it is best to proceed as if the ingestion was the worst-case scenario. 

Treatment

Treatment depends on the amount of methylxanthines ingested, the time of ingestion, and the patient’s clinical signs.  If recent ingestion occurred, vomiting is induced to evacuate the stomach.  In severe cases, sedation and gastric lavage with a stomach tube may be performed to evacuate the stomach contents.  Activated charcoal is administered to bind the toxins in the gastrointestinal tract.  Fluid therapy, anti-vomiting medications, gastrointestinal protectants, and a bland diet may be prescribed.  In severe cases, patients require intensive care including intravenous fluid therapy, continuous EKG monitoring, oxygen support, urinary catheterization, and intravenous medications to manage seizures, cardiac arrhythmias, and abnormal respirations. 

Prevention

If treated promptly, most patients with chocolate toxicity recover, but it is important to understand that chocolate ingestion can lead to severe complications and even death.  It is best to avoid chocolate ingestion in your pet.  During the holidays (Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and Easter) when chocolate is abundant, make sure it is kept out of reach of your pet.  If you suspect ingestion, contact your veterinarian immediately.

 

Image credit:  Susan Schmitz | Shutterstock

We are very pleased to announce the addition of Dr. Charlie Cosimini to St Francis Animal & Bird Hospital.

Dr. Charlie Cosimini received his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine in 2015. His professional interests include dentistry, dermatology, medicine, surgery, and avian/exotics. He loves working with all types of animals as he spent his childhood with dogs, cats, rabbits, and birds.

Charlie is a member of the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association (MVMA), American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians (AEMV), and Association of Avian Veterinarians (AAV).

Charlie lives with his wife, Amy, and their rambunctious cat, Cimorene. In his spare time, he enjoys painting, gardening, and cross country skiing.

We have every confidence that you will find him to be an excellent addition to your trusted St Francis veterinary team.

Canine influenza had received media attention recently and many pet owners have questions. Previously, this was a disease that had not affected the Midwest states, though in the past month, 34 cases have been confirmed in the Chicago area. To date, we have had five cases in Minnesota.

The following information is provided courtesy of Veterinary Information Network: VP Client Information Sheets:

Influenza A virus in dogs (canine influenza virus, CIV, canine flu) is a respiratory tract disease that mimics bordetellosis (Bordetella bronchiseptica infection, kennel cough, infectious tracheobronchitis). However, unlike many cases of bordetellosis, the dog needs veterinary care.

Canine influenza is caused by a highly contagious virus that was identified in Florida in 2005 when it caused several severe respiratory outbreaks in racing greyhounds. The disease appears to occur most frequently in high-density dog populations: dogs who are housed with numerous other dogs in places such as shelters, boarding facilities, breeding kennels, pet stores, rescue groups, dog shows, and greyhound racing tracks. The disease is thought to have originated as a mutation of an influenza strain that affects horses and is not related to typical human influenza strains or the avian flu.

We are excited to announce that Christine Severance, one of our Certified Veterinary Technicians (CVT), has recently completed training through the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement (APLB) to become a Certified Pet Bereavement Counselor. She has a special interest in hospice and palliative care as well as pet loss and grief counseling. With this certification, she will be able to provide our clients with valuable resources during these difficult times. To learn more about the APLB, please visit their website at: http://www.aplb.org. Congratulations, Chris!

HEARTWORM TEST: $39.75

Every dog should have a Heartworm Test performed every year. Heartworms are carried by mosquitoes and live in your dog’s heart and vessels of the lungs. This simple blood test will tell us if your dog has heartworm disease and allows us to initiate appropriate treatment.

HEARTWORM TEST / MINI PANEL: $81.50

If your dog is over 8 years of age or has never had a baseline chemistry panel, this is an excellent panel to perform. It provides us with a basic Heartworm Test as well as valuable screening information about your dog’s liver, kidneys, blood glucose, and protein level.

The Companion Animal Parasite Council has developed important guidelines for protecting pets and pet owners from parasitic infections. St. Francis Animal & Bird Hospital is committed to providing you with these important guidelines and helping you make choices that will protect your loved ones.

Roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms are intestinal parasites found in both dogs and cats. A nationwide study revealed that more than 1 out of 3 untreated dogs were infected by at least one of these intestinal parasites. While pets infected with intestinal parasites may exhibit vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, malnutrition, blood loss, and even death, many infected pets show no clinical signs of illness, yet can be shedding up to 200,000 parasite eggs in the feces every day!

HOSPITAL POLICY REGARDING PRESCRIPTIONS
FOR 1-800-PETMEDS®, INTERNET WAREHOUSES,
AND HUMAN PHARMACIES

To our valued clients,

Our hospital currently does not authorize fax or phone prescriptions to 1-800-PetMeds® or other pharmaceutical warehouses for prescription products. We have thoughtfully chosen this policy for the following reasons:

  • Novartis, Zoetis, Bayer, Merial, Merck and other veterinary drug companies have informed the veterinary community that they do not sell their products to these warehouses nor do they sell the majority of their veterinary products to human pharmacies such as Target, Walgreen’s or Costco. Since they cannot be sure of the origin and handling of these medications, veterinary drug companies will not honor product guarantees on veterinary medications purchased from Internet warehouses or human pharmacies. They will only guarantee medications that are dispensed by licensed veterinarians.
  • Some of these companies fail to employ licensed pharmacists or veterinarians trained in drug storage, handling, or pharmacology. Instead, they are simply large warehouses staffed with customer service personnel. Therefore, there are no trained professionals to discuss side effects, adverse reactions, or appropriate medication selection and administration. Unfortunately, this appears to be true even in our trusted human pharmacies such as Target, Walmart, and Walgreen’s.
  • Federal and state regulatory agencies have taken legal action against some of these companies for fraud, illegal distribution of drugs, and selling misbranded products.

It is springtime – and time to think about protecting your pet against heartworms, fleas, ticks, and other parasites. Each year, we strive to make prevention of these diseases affordable for you. In 2015, we bring you amazing promotions to help you keep your pet healthy.

Our St. Francis Animal & Bird Hospital Promotion