Friday, December 16, 2005

Tis the Season

Today at work I saw 2 schnauzers. While their owners were out looking at Christmas lights last night, they got into a bag of Hershey's Miniature Mint Chocolates. They were very excited and smelled minty fresh.

Chocolate contains a chemical called Theobromine. Fortunately for humans, we have an enzyme in our liver which metabolizes it. Dogs and cats don't have the enzyme, but they still love chocolate. Too much theobromine can cause hyperexcitability and rapid heart rate. In severe cases (small dogs eating very dark chocolate) it can progress to heart arrhythmias, seizures, even death.

Baker's chocolate has the most theobromine, dark chocolate has a lot, milk chocolate a little, and white chocolate none. The bag - that the owner brought in with the incriminating torn open foil wrappers - contained mostly milk and some white chocolate. But these guys were little. Their heart rates were slightly elevated, but they did fine, and did not need treatment other than observation today.

Because chocolate is also high in fat, these guys are also prone to pancreatitis, a severe inflammation of the pancreas which can be caused by the pancreas being overstimulated by a high fat meal. Remember, these guys were schnauzers (this is the part where all the vets in the audience roll their eyes and groan), a breed with a particular propensity for this disease.

In fact, this owner lost a schnauzer to pancreatitis about 18 months ago, but not after the little guy put up a brave fight, spent 6 weeks in the hospital, had TPN (intravenous feedings) and a major abdominal surgery by a board-certified surgeon. These poor people spent $10,000 on that dog, and he still died. It was a black day for all of us.

Fortunately, though, these 2 little rascals seem fine so far, and have been sent home. It seems I see chocolate toxicity every holiday season, so remember -- enjoy your hot chocolate and other treats, but make sure your 4-legged creatures just get carob (or even better, greenies!)

PS Thanks everyone for your encouraging comments. Things are about the same, but at least I feel better, getting it out there and knowing I was heard!

5 comments:

EdamameMommy said...

good thing our chocolate-hoarding toddlers are human not canine!

Leigh-Ann said...

I didn't know this was a problem with cats -- I thought it only affected dogs. Is it just more common in dogs because of their tendency to eat everything they can get their mitts on?

Aunty Norma said...

Well I thank you for that info,Jennifer..Jessy loves fruit but somewhere in the back of my mind told me NOT to give her chocolate..now you have confirmed it for me...can I ask you something about the 'taking' of chocs etc that are easy for the Dogs to reach..how (if possible) can one train a Dog NOT to touch goodies? can it be done? Jessy loves cardboard!! and the other day she had Uncle Noels' gold watch on the floor..I think we must have just caught her about to chew!!so before we 'show her the road' any ideas? xxxx

paula said...

Thank goodness they were ok, what a nightmare for the poor owners. Isn't it always the way that the things one enjoys are usually bad for you! Our Border Collie "Ben" loved all things chocolately and could sniff out a Cadburys Fudge Bar from miles away (or so it seemed)! Luke unfortunately seems to have the same problem - oh yes, the chocolate radar is certainly working, I can see all my good work slowly glugging down the plughole!!

Anonymous said...

I've heard that about animals, that chocolate is REALLY bad for them - I just didn't know exactly how...

Thanks for the insightful post, Jenn!

Love-Bevie-