Finding your Halloween spirit without visiting the Pet ER.
One of the many perils with Halloween for pets is chocolate (xylitol and costumed visitors being others and will be dealt with in following writings). Accidental chocolate ingestion not only occurs around Halloween (as well as Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter), but can happen any day when chocolates, chocolate bean mulch, or cocoa powder is present in your home, work, or on your daily walk.
Methylxanthines, which include theobromide and caffeine, are the means through which chocolate does its damage. Initially (within 6-12 hours), you might see drinking heavily, vomiting, diarrhea, bloating, and restlessness. Signs may progress to hyperactivity, urinating frequently, ataxia (uncoordinated walking), tremors, and seizures. Lots of other problems resulting from the heart being impacted can lead to coma and even death. 1-2 days later, we have to be wary of pancreatitis developing due to the fat content of most chocolate products.
The first step in treating chocolate toxicosis is normally “gastrointestinal decontamination” or getting your pet to vomit if it happened recently or to pass the chocolate quickly if it’s been a few hours. Repeated doses of activated charcoal (which can help the chocolate pass through the gastrointestinal system rapidly) is often given to bind and absorb the toxic chemicals. Further, chocolates in wrappers may delay the absorption of the methylxanthines by hours, so continued supervision is necessary. Fluid therapy should also be administered and electrolytes should be monitored in the blood due to imbalances caused by the methylxanthines as well as by vomiting.
Chocolate toxicity is real, dangerous, and potentially very expensive to treat! As your vet, we advise you be extra careful to keep your pup away from chocolate, cocoa powder, and candies of all sorts come Halloween!
Sandra J Platt VMD