Chocolate Ingestion

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Chocolate Season is Upon Us


Evidently there IS a “Chocolate Season” and Halloween is where it begins.  Several holidays involve chocolate. Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter, are holidays when we commonly give, receive, or simply have candy dishes filled with chocolate.   As Halloween approaches, veterinarians everywhere prepare for the start of “Chocolate Season.”  Chocolate is in such abundant supply some dogs can’t resist the temptation and may find or steal chocolate.

Eating a piece of chocolate does not mean your pet is in a life-threatening situation.  Three factors will determine whether a dog will get ill or not.  The type of chocolate eaten, the amount consumed, and the weight of your dog all play a factor.  Different varieties of chocolate contain different amounts of cocoa and theobromine, the toxic ingredient in chocolate.  Dark chocolate contains the highest amount of cocoa, so a dog will need to eat less of it to cause problems.  A large dog and a small dog can eat the same amount of chocolate however; the small dog is more likely to become ill.

As the toxins are processed, multiple body systems are affected.  Vomiting and diarrhea are generally the first symptoms, often occurring 2-4 hours after ingestion.  In advanced stages a dog may be stiff, hyperactive, experience seizures, and have over exaggerated responses.  Internally a dog can experience an increase in respiratory and heart rates, and low blood pressure.  Toxic doses without treatment can lead to cardiac failure, coma, even death.

If your dog ingests chocolate you should call your veterinarian, an animal emergency hospital, or Animal Poison Control right away.  Be ready with your dog’s weight, type of chocolate ingested (baker’s, dark, or milk), and amount of chocolate eaten.  If you do not know the amount your dog ate, we commonly round up the amount of the full size package for safer calculation.  We would approximate higher for things such as an Easter bunny partially eaten by child when the dog gets a hold of the rest of the bunny.  Treatment of chocolate ingestion is based upon the dose eaten by the dog and the symptoms shown.  Advanced toxicity cases require hospitalization for IV fluids, injections, and blood work.

The most common scenarios of dogs getting into chocolate is from counters, sniffing out a child’s stash of candy in their room, and eating out of the garbage.  Candy dishes should always be on high tables beyond the dog’s reach.  Talk to children about where to put their candy away.  Under the bed maybe a safe place to hide candy from a sibling, but it’s not safe from the family dog.

Veterinary General is located in Shelby Township, Michigan.  We offer traditional and alternative therapies such as Acupuncture, Chinese Herbals, and Cold Laser Therapy. More information can be found at        


Pets As Gifts

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When we think of Christmas, we think of giving and we generally have the best intentions when trying to pick out the perfect gift for those we love but considering a pet as a gift, can be a big mistake.  Too many pets find their way into shelters or on the streets for a variety of reasons.  We’ve heard them all; too busy, new baby, allergic, high maintenance, moving, divorce, peeing on the floor – the list goes on and on.

Hollywood movies paint a pretty picture of puppies at Christmas. We’ve all seen it. Perhaps it’s just impulse or people caught up in the spirit of the season or simply the cuteness of the little critter at the time.  None of these are the right reason to add a new pet to the family.  Bringing a pet into the house is a long-term commitment that affects the entire household so it should be a family decision and a family commitment.

Responsible pet ownership is a lifetime commitment and one that we certainly cannot make for others.  Canidae describes responsible pet ownership as a promise to take care of the pet through sickness and health – in good times and bad – for the life of the pet.  The AVMA states, “Owning a pet is a privilege, but the benefits of pet ownership come with responsibilities”.  AKC has a list of 75 ways to be a responsible pet owner.

I decided to see what others thought of “pets as gifts”, so I put the question out on a social media sight.  Here is a small snippet of the comments:

  • “Nope, never”
  • “Pets are part of the family and should not be a gift”.
  • “Not a good thing. You don’t know if they’ll have a connection”.
  • “Choosing the right pet should be a family decision”.
  • “Horrible idea!”
  • “No! You’re just setting the pet up for disaster”.
  • “It should be a family decision and not one made lightly”.

Not one person welcomed this idea and many identified a pet as a family member. One person actually said she received a bunny from her uncle when she was five and mainly remembers how it liked to bite and scratch her.

If you are considering pet ownership, please do your homework.  Consider “where” you will get your pet and keep in mind that puppy mills are a huge business.  While you may rationalize and tell yourself that you’re saving a pet, you’re really investing in the future of puppy mills and deplorable breeding standards and care.  Consider adoption – It really is the best way to bring a new family member into your home.  But wait until the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is over.  The bond between a family and their pet is the best gift imaginable – let’s just reflect on that for a moment.