Society

Death by chocolate?

Could be a reality for pets

Heard of ‘death by chocolate’? Don’t snicker — for Fluffy and Fido, it could be a gruesome real-ity. Dogs and cats can suffer severe reactions from eating chocolate, and just a few of those Hershey kisses could be a real kiss of death, said Dr. Mark Stickney, director of general sur-gery services at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Scienc-es.

Talk about a St. Valentine’s Day Massacre — pets and choco-late may be the closest thing to it, experts contend. Chocolate contains a sub-stance called theobromine, a natural stimulant found in the cocoa bean. While humans can’t seem to get enough of the stuff, it can cause serious harm and may even be fatal to cats and dogs.

“Dogs especially seem to like chocolate and they are usually the most likely to be affected by chocolate,” Stickney said. “Cats tend to be more picky eaters, but they can be affected, too. Dogs tend to consume more chocolate and if they eat enough, it can be a very serious problem.” Once eaten, the chocolate can cause the animal to go into a nervous-like condition, with twitch-ing or even seizures follow-ing.

Vomiting and hyperactivity may soon follow and the animal’s heart rate increases dramatically, so much so that heart failure can occur. Dogs and cats usually show the same symptoms, Stickney noted. “If the animal has eaten enough chocolate, about the only way to solve the problem is to pump its stomach,” he added.

“And this needs to be done imme-diately. “Not all animals react the same, and larger dogs may not be affected as much as smaller ones. The weight of the animal is a key factor here. Also, not all choco-late is the same. Gener-ally, the darker the chocolate, the more toxic it usually is to the animal.” Stickney said chocolate poi-soning is not an uncommon problem seen by caregivers. “The average veterinarian probably sees several or more cases every year,” he said.

“And the time of year when these happen is usually easy to pinpoint — at Halloween, Christ-mas, Valentine’s Day and Easter, times when candy is often found in a household. The bottom line is that chocolate may be a treat for pet owners, but it’s one treat to keep away from a pet.”


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2009-12-10 digital edition



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