It's October and that means it’s time for scary season......and I don't mean Halloween, I mean Chocolate! In the near future, little monsters will ring your doorbell and you have probably already started buying your Halloween stash of candy. Please, please, please, please, please, please, put it up and away somewhere where your dog can't get it! And when you find that spot, move it even further away because your dogs may develop climbing skills that you never knew they had when you leave the house. Chocolate ingestion is nothing to mess with and is a very serious situation with your dog so please be careful. We’ve all heard this before, but what exactly is it about chocolate that makes it so dangerous for our pets?
The ingredient in chocolate that causes toxicity is called theobromine. It causes the release of substances in the body like epinephrine and norepinephrine, which increase heart rate and can cause arrhythmias. It can also cause increased urination, vomiting, diarrhea or hyperactivity within hours. Eventually these symptoms can lead to hyperthermia, muscle tremors, seizures, coma and even death. As little as 100-200mg/kg can cause serious problems but levels near 250-500mg/kg is enough to kill your dog about 50% of the time. As you might have guessed, there are different levels of theobromine in different kinds of chocolate. For example:
Milk Chocolate 60mg/oz
Baking Chocolate 450mg/oz
Semi-sweet chocolate 260 mg/oz
Hot chocolate 12mg/oz
White chocolate 1mg/oz
Let’s put this in terms we can understand better. The average chocolate bar contains about 2-3oz of milk chocolate, so it would take 2-3 candy bar to produce toxicity in a 10lb dog. However, just one ounce of baking chocolate would produce severe toxicity in the same size dog. Within 2 hours of eating chocolate, the best course of action is to induce vomiting, however you should do so with help and advice from a veterinarian. If it’s been too long or you don’t know when your dog ingested the chocolate, you should go to a vet immediately. In most cases, they will use activated charcoal to block absorption of the theobromine. If your dog is showing other symptoms, like seizures or hypothermia, your vet will need to provide medications and supportive care too.
Like I said, scary stuff! Halloween can be a festive and fun time for children and families. But for pets, it can be a downright nightmare. Dogs don't understand costumes and can be scared. They can't read the body language of other canines if they are dressed up. A frozen kong filled with yogurt/peanut butter will keep them busy and happy in a crate or behind a gate. Older dogs have limited night vision so walking them around in the dark is scary. If the doorbell sets them off, disconnect for the night. It's an easy fix. There will also be more traffic and more chances for injuries, keep your dog safe while answering the door for trick or treaters. Here are some more great tips! Good luck and have fun, but be safe!
1. Trick-or-treat candies are not for pets.
All forms of chocolate -- especially baking or dark chocolate -- can be dangerous, even lethal, for dogs and cats. Symptoms of chocolate poisioning may include vomiting, diarrhea, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and seizures. Halloween candies containing the artificial sweetener Xylitol can also be poisonous to dogs. Even small amounts of Xylitol can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar and subsequent loss of coordination and seizures. And while xylitol toxicity in cats has yet to be established, it's better to be safe than sorry.
2. Don't leave pets out in the yard on Halloween.
Surprisingly, vicious pranksters have been known to tease, injure, steal, and even kill pets on Halloween night. Inexcusable? Yes! But preventable nonetheless.
3. Keep pets confined and away from the door.
Not only will your door be constantly opening and closing on Halloween, but strangers will be dressed in unusual costumes and yelling loudly for their candy. This, of course, is scary for our furry friends. Dogs are especially territorial and may become anxious and growl at innocent trick-or-treaters. Putting your dog or cat in a secure room away from the front door will also prevent them from darting outside into the night … a night when no one wants to be searching for a lost loved one.
4. Keep your outdoor cats inside several days before and several days after Halloween.
Black cats are especially at risk from pranks or other cruelty-related incidents. In fact, many shelters do not adopt out black cats during the month of October as a safety precaution.
5. Keep Halloween plants such as pumpkins and corn out of reach.
Although they are relatively nontoxic, such plants can induce gastrointestinal upset should your pets ingest them in large quantities. Intestinal blockage can even occur if large pieces are swallowed. And speaking of pumpkins.
6. Don't keep lit pumpkins around pets.
Should they get too close, they run the risk of burning themselves or knocking it over and causing a fire.
7. Keep wires and electric light cords out of reach.
If chewed, your pet could cut himself or herself on shards of glass or plastic, or receive a possibly life-threatening electric shock.
8. Don't dress your pet in a costume unless you know they'll love it.
If you do decide that Fido or Kitty needs a costume, make sure it isn't annoying or unsafe. It should not constrict movement, hearing, or the ability to breathe or bark and meow.
9. Try on pet costumes before the big night.
If they seem distressed, allergic, or show abnormal behavior, consider letting them go in their “birthday suit”. Festive bandanas usually work for party poopers, too.
10. IDs, please!
If your dog or cat should escape and become lost, having the proper identification will increase the chances that they will be returned. Just make sure the information is up-to-date, even if your pet does have one of those fancy-schmancy embedded microchips.