Chocolate Not a Treat for Your Pets

Trixie Astronaut

Trixie the Astronaut getting ready to blast off  on a fun and safe Trick-Or-Treating adventure.

With fall’s arrival and the holidays right around the corner, we at Longs Peak Animal Hospital, PC wanted to send out a friendly reminder to keep those chocolatey treats out of reach of your furry family members. If your pets happen to ingest some chocolate or a dessert containing chocolate or caffeine, below are some helpful guidelines so that you know what to do in the case of just such an emergency.

High volumes of milk chocolate and even smaller volumes of dark or baker’s chocolate can cause severe illness in dogs and cats, though dogs are more common offenders. Pure cocoa, cocoa beans, and coffee can cause severe illness as well. A list of commonly ingested foods containing chocolate or caffeine follows this article.

If your dog gets into your or your child’s secret stash of chocolate, you should contact your veterinarian immediately. It is helpful to keep the wrapper (if Fluffy didn’t eat that too) and to have an idea of how much of the chocolate the pet ate. If you no longer have the wrapper, knowing the type and the approximate size of the chocolate can be helpful to figure out the risk of toxicity.

Depending on the amount and type of chocolate ingested, clinical signs range from mild (gastrointestinal) to moderate (cardiovascular, respiratory) to severe (neurologic, death). Gastrointestinal signs include vomiting and diarrhea and are usually self-limiting, meaning they last for just a few hours to as much as a few days. Cardiovascular signs include a high heart rate and abnormal heart rhythm and can be life-threatening. Respiratory signs include rapid respiratory rate and respiratory failure leading to death. Neurologic signs can include seizures and, in more severe cases, even death.

Treatment for chocolate ingestion usually begins with ridding the gastrointestinal tract of the offending substance, provided the patient presents within a few hours of ingestion. This usually involves making the pet vomit. If a small amount of chocolate was ingested and we are satisfied that the majority was obtained with vomiting, treatment may end here. Rarely, pumping the stomach may be required to remove a large amount of chocolate. In moderate to severe cases, we may recommend treatment with activated charcoal to prevent absorption of the toxins in the chocolate. We may also recommend hospitalization for intravenous fluids and monitoring of the heart.

Going into this holiday season, it is important to be careful about unwanted treats for our furry family members. If you have little ones, educate them about the dangers to your pets with regard to all human food, particularly the chocolatey ones. Make sure you store dangerous foods and toxins out of reach of your pets. If an accident does happen, as they always will, don’t panic and seek immediate veterinary care.

Commonly ingested foods containing chocolate or caffeine:

  • Chocolate candy
  • Brownies and other chocolate or cocoa-containing baked goods
  • Cocoa powder
  • Chocolate-covered espresso beans
  • White chocolate
  • Caffeine pills
  • Energy drinks, powder, and gels
  • Coffee (even decaffeinated)
  • Tea

If you have any specific questions about foods that are potentially harmful to your pets, ask your veterinarian or veterinary technician. Visit longspeakah.com for more information about our hospital and services and on Facebook.

  • Joseph Conrad
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Marijuana Toxicity in Pets

 

DrHrenchir

Since the passage of two amendments to the state constitution in Colorado (Amendment 20 in 2000, allowing medical use of marijuana and Amendment 64 in 2012, allowing recreational use), exposure of pets to marijuana in our area has increased, and toxicity from these products can be serious in animals.

Pet exposure occurs most frequently in dogs, but cats and other pets are also at risk. Different forms of marijuana can contain drastically variable levels of THC (short for tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive component in marijuana and other cannabinoids). Exposure can occur to marijuana plants, loose leaf marijuana, edibles, oils, or second-hand smoke.

For pets who have ingested items containing THC or inhaled marijuana smoke, signs of toxicity can include nervous system changes, such as stumbling, sleepiness, mental dullness, and disorientation; rarely, an affected pet may show signs of CNS stimulation. Severely affected pets may go into a coma. Dogs usually display urine dribbling as a sign, and their third eyelids are usually prominent. Affected pets may also show an extreme sensitivity to stimuli such as touch or sound. Cannabinoids can cause vomiting, but this is rarely seen as they usually produce profound anti-nausea effects.

If a pet has consumed a large amount of edible product (i.e. – brownies, candy, cookies, etc.) or plant material, gastric lavage (aka “stomach pumping”) may be necessary, and it is important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible. Activated charcoal may be administered orally to minimize further absorption of THC. In more severely affected cases the pet may need to be hospitalized for supportive care, which can include warming, oxygen, IV fluids, and sedation if needed. There is no specific antidote for THC toxicity.

While marijuana toxicity is rarely fatal, it can indeed be serious, and immediate veterinary care is always best. Recovery time for pets is highly variable, but most pets are back to normal within 12 to 24 hours. If you have any specific questions about marijuana toxicity, ask your veterinarian or veterinary technician.

Please visit longspeakah.com for more information about our hospital and services.

  • Kristin Hrenchir, DVM

Leptospirosis: To Vaccinate or Not To Vaccinate…

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Earlier in 2015, you may have read about a perceived uptick in cases of leptospirosis, especially in urban and suburban dogs. You might have asked yourself, what is leptospirosis? And then, is there anything I can do to help protect my dog? The good news is, yes, there is! And now is an important time to review the facts.

Leptospirosis is a species of spiral or corkscrew-shaped bacteria, known as spirochetes. The bacteria are transmitted through contact with mucous membranes, such as the mouth or eyes, or with damaged skin. The bacteria are often passed in the urine of wildlife, such as deer, foxes, and raccoons and are sometimes found in standing water on trails or in greenspaces or backyards.  An unsuspecting dog may then drink from a puddle contaminated with urine containing the bacteria and contract the disease.

Almost all mammals, including humans, are susceptible to the disease, which can cause liver and kidney failure, eye problems, and anemia, among other things. Cats, however, appear to be relatively resistant to the negative effects of the disease, but can remain carriers after infection.

Clinical signs of the disease include fever, decreased appetite, increased urination and water consumption, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea. If you notice these in your dog, you should seek immediate veterinary care. Recommended diagnostics may include a general blood panel, x-rays, a urinalysis, urine culture, and/or leptospirosis testing.

Prevention of the disease is aimed at informing pet owners of the risks and vaccinating at-risk patients.  Traditionally, vaccination efforts have focused on those patients most at risk of contracting the disease like hunting dogs, dogs who hike or camp with their owners, or dogs who live on farms or in other rural areas. In Colorado, however, we can find wildlife in almost any place, even suburban or urban areas. As such, if you think your pet is at risk, you should have them vaccinated immediately.

Initially, your dog will need a booster vaccination at 4 weeks after the first vaccination. From then on, vaccination is performed annually. Unfortunately, the vaccine only protects against 4 of the 8 serovars, or strains, of leptospirosis that effect dogs, so it is not 100% effective. The vaccine may also carry a slightly higher risk of vaccine reactions, similar to a reaction from a bee sting for someone who is allergic to bees. These reactions are rarely, if ever, life-threatening when treated appropriately, as opposed to the disease, which is often fatal to dogs. Despite these 2 potential drawbacks of the vaccine, it is the best protection currently available and is strongly recommended for at-risk patients living in Colorado.

As always, if you have any other specific questions about leptospirosis, your dog’s risk, or the vaccine, ask your veterinarian or veterinary technician. Visit longspeakah.com for more information about our hospital and services.

  • Joseph Conrad