ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Halloween is great, isn’t it? You can go incognito and so can your dog. And the snacks, oooh, they’re to die for, aren’t they? But if it’s a dog who indulges – even a little – chocolate can be fatal.
Of the vast array of goodies consumed in mass quantities during the holidays, chocolate is certainly the most dangerous for dogs. Whether they devour one piece of candy at a time or raid the whole bag, you have a medical emergency. Chocolate and cocoa products contain caffeine and methylxanthines, substances we humans handle with no problem. Dogs can die.
Swallowed chocolate tends to form a big gooey ball in a dog’s stomach, making it slow to absorb. Symptoms may not appear for six to 12 hours. Most dogs vomit and have an increased thirst. Diarrhea, bloating and restlessness are common. Signs of real danger are hyperactivity, excess urine output, staggering, tremors and seizures. Advanced cases have rapid, abnormal heart rhythms leading to coma and death.
Ingestion of any amount of chocolate warrants emergency care, starting with medication to induce vomiting. Activated charcoal and irrigation of the stomach are essential to halt further absorption. Intravenous fluids and ECG monitoring are also important. Treatment for trembling, convulsions and abnormal heart rhythms are needed for the sickest dogs.
It doesn’t take much. Less than 1 ounce of milk chocolate per pound of body weight is potentially lethal for dogs. Baking (unsweetened) chocolate is far more potent; 0.1 ounce per pound of body weight can cause seizures and death.
All that yelling and doorbell ringing on the big night is a serious cause of stress for lots of dogs. But they too can enjoy a safe and sane Halloween even if their person, disguised as a political figure, is behaving strangely. The antianxiety gel Sileo can make a big difference.
First, squirrel your dog away in another room before the trick or treaters begin their assault. Then, to help calm your dog, deposit a measured amount of Sileo between her lower lip and gum. Your veterinarian can prescribe Sileo. A food dispensing toy or puzzle can focus your calmer dog’s brain on extracting safe dog snacks.
Each week, Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video or podcast to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109.