Albuquerque Journal Article – Imposters and Monsters and Chocolate, Oh My!

Scared Dog

Halloween can be Scary and Dangerous

The idea of Halloween is rather appealing. It’s fully legal and socially acceptable to assume a different identity. If you are underage you can arrive uninvited on the doorsteps of total strangers and feign poverty or threaten to trick them if they don’t cough-up unhealthy snacks. Many dogs, being natural scavengers and thieves, are happy to lurk in the shadows waiting for their chance to filch junk food that shocks their digestive systems.

A belly ache is unpleasant for dogs; chocolate consumption is potentially fatal. Whether they devour one piece 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.

More than its toxicity chocolate tends to form a big gooey ball in a dog’s stomach making it slow to absorb. Symptoms may not appear for 6-12 hours. Most vomit and have an increased thirst. Diarrhea, bloating, and restlessness are common. Hyperactivity, excess urine output, staggering, tremors, and seizures indicate real trouble. Dogs with advanced chocolate poisoning have rapid, abnormal heart rhythms often leading to coma and death.

Ingestion of any amount of chocolate warrants immediate treatment, starting with medications 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.

Territorial behavior and outright fear are common problems for a lot of dogs and many cats on the big night. The antianxiety gel, Sileo, can make life better in just 20 minutes.

Create safety for your pets in another room before the hoards launch their assault. A food dispensing toy or puzzle like a Twist and Treat stuffed with canned food can focus a cat’s or dog’s brain on healthy foraging behavior while you happily cave to extortion at the hands of our nation’s future.

Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video, blog, or podcast to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at 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 or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.