Oz: Chocolate treats are hazardous for pets

With lots Halloween candy still around, pet owners need to be careful not to let their pets eat any.

In our hurried world today, sometimes we overlook the fact that our pets rely on us for survival.

We all know how diligent we have to be with our children’s safety, so my years in parenthood kept reiterating to me how much young children and pets are alike. They are curious, playful and gluttonous beings.

While people are becoming more and more aware of safety regulation for Halloween traditions, another aspect of the holiday to keep in mind is the potential hazards for pets.

Chocolate is probably the most popular treat given on Halloween.

Pets, dogs in particular, also share the “sweet tooth” that most people have. However, chocolate side effects in pets go beyond weight gain that most people are concerned about. For pets, eating chocolate can be toxic, even life threatening.

Chocolate is made from cacao beans, which  contain a toxic substance called Theobromine.

Cacao beans also contain caffeine but in much smaller amounts than Theobromine. Both Theobromine and caffeine are members of a drug class called Methylxanines. The reason why Theobromine is toxic for dogs is because they process it much more slowly than humans.

At 17 hours after the chocolate ingestion, half of the Theobromine is still in the dog’s system.

And while Theobromine is also toxic to cats, they are less likely to ingest chocolate than dogs.

Theobromine and caffeine can adversely affect the nervous system, and the heart. They can also lead to increase of the blood pressure.

The early signs of chocolate intoxication are nausea (manifested by drooling and smacking the lips) vomiting, and excessive urination. Truly toxic amounts can induce hyperactivity, rapid heart rate, tremors, seizures and eventually respiratory failure and cardiac arrest.

The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is to your pet.

Other candies and sweet foods, especially those containing poisonous xylitol, can also be poisonous to pets.

Large ingestion of sugary, high-fat candy and sweets can lead to pancreatitis in pets.

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, it is potentially fatal and very painful.

Pet owners should be aware that clinical signs of pancreatitis may not present for several days after ingestion. The most common signs for pancreatitis include a decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and abdominal pain

Today, with the increase of awareness for health treats, many people offer raisins to “trick or treaters.” But don’t share the raisins with the family pet, as raisins (and grapes) are toxic to pets.

Dogs can experience kidney failure after ingesting very small amounts of raisins as well as grapes and currants.

For this reason, any ingestion should be treated as a potential poisoning.

Signs of raisin or grape poisoning include vomiting, nausea, decreased appetite, lethargy, abdominal pain, excessive or decreased thirst and urination, bad breath, and rapid onset kidney failure.

When pets get into the candy they collected from trick-or-treating, they can also eat the wrappers too.

Ingestion of foil and cellophane wrappers can sometimes cause a life-threatening bowel obstruction.

Another potential hazard is fluffy parts of costumes that pets may mistaken for toys and chew on. Keep all of these in a non approachable place for your pet.

And make sure your pet has no access getting near a lit candle. This can cause a catastrophe that you don’t even want to think about.

Dr. Moshe Oz operates the Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital in West Kelowna.





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