These are some of the common poisons and toxins that we commonly encounter and treat at PERC. We will be covering the main highlights regarding these common toxins in the coming months in our "Featured Poison" section below and then archiving the articles so they can always be accessed for your reference. If your pet ever ingests or contacts any of these substances and you are ever in any doubt about what to do, call us immediately for further assistance at 561-691-9999.
Common household toxins: Chocolate, onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, alcohol, anti-freeze, rat poisons, insecticides, cleaners and other chemicals, certain wild mushrooms, certain plants, some sugar free gums (xylitol), marijuana and other illicit drugs, many medications and supplements (OTC or prescription), Advil, Motrin, Aspirin, Tylenol, and Aleve. This list is not exhaustive but contains some of the most common toxins we see.
Chocolate, as sweet and delicious we think it is, is a toxic substance to dogs and cats. It can cause problems with multiple organ systems including the gastrointestinal tract, the heart, and the central nervous system. Not all chocolate is created equal. There are different purities of it; and the toxic substance, along with caffeine is a group of chemicals known as methylxanthines. Milk chocolate is the least toxic and pure cocoa is the most toxic because cocoa contains higher concentrations of these methylxanthines. That is not to say that milk chocolate is harmless. If enough milk chocolate is consumed then it can be just a dangerous as any other kind.
What does chocolate do to my pet?
Of course amount of chocolate ingested and type of chocolate ingested are going to alter what exactly can happen to any individual pet. In nearly any case of chocolate toxicity, the first signs are anxiety and agitation. The heart rate will increase and your dog will become restless, will likely pant, and will act out of the ordinary such as shaking, inability to get comfortable, pacing, hiding, or other "strange" behaviors. This can be followed by vomiting and/or diarrhea. Eventually, depending on the dose, very serious signs can ensue including ataxia, arrhythmias, tachycardia (fast heart rate), bradycardia (slow heart rate), seizures, coma, and even death. Gastroenteritis and/or pancreatitis can follow chocolate toxicity within 1-3 days after ingestion. Gastroenteritis and pancreatitis are characterized by one or multiple of the following: not eating, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
What to do if your dog eats chocolate.
If you find that your dog eats chocolate you should call your vet or the emergency hospital right away (561-691-9999). Have the type of chocolate, amount of chocolate (typically in ounces or grams), and approximate weight of your dog ready because with that information your veterinarian may be able to tell you if your dog received a dose that is problematic. Your vet may be able to tell you that your Great Dane will not get sick from 2 M&M’s. If the dose is unknown or if there is any question to the amount received, your vet will advise you to seek veterinary assistance. Typically, making your dog vomit will be the first step in treatment, even if ingestion occurred many hours ago, as we still may get significant amounts out of the stomach. This will get much of the chocolate out before it can be absorbed into the body. Inducing vomiting is best done in a controlled setting and not at home. There are risks when inducing vomiting depending on what substance is used and the current state of the dog. Some vets and other dog owners will tell you to give hydrogen peroxide orally to induce vomiting. This may be effective and has been standard practice for years but we are finding out that this can cause serious problems in its own right, such as GI ulcers and perforation, as well as hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, so know the risks before doing this. It is always are recommendation to have induction of emesis (vomiting) done by a veterinarian.
Once, and if your dog has vomited, activated charcoal will be administered orally or via gastric tube. This will hopefully bind any remaining toxin to prevent or lessen the effects and allow the toxin to pass through the GI tract without harm. If clinical signs, as discussed above (cardiac problems, seizures, etc.) have started, your dog will have to stay in the hospital and be treated for each of these problems accordingly. Unfortunately, there is no specific antidote for chocolate toxicity and treatment is supportive and symptomatic. Generally, the prognosis is good, but this is highly dependent on dose and on what clinical signs are present. Bottom line, it is best to get your pet into the vet as quickly as possible to avoid as many ill effects as possible.
Past featured poisons: