Your Dog Ate Chocolate: Here’s How to Calculate How Much is Too Much

Oh no, your dog just got into some chocolate!  How do you know if the amount eaten is a danger to your pet which requires an emergency visit to the veterinarian’s office?

The PetMD website has created a chocolate toxicity meter for dogs.  You can quickly enter your dog’s weight, the type of chocolate, and the amount eaten to find out if your dog needs to get to the vet ASAP.

Sometimes a very small amount of chocolate eaten by a large dog requires nothing more than observing your dog for symptoms such as vomiting and restlessness.  However, a small dog that eats several ounces of chocolate might be in more danger and require immediate veterinary attention.

Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, which are toxic to dogs.  Dark chocolate poses a higher risk than milk chocolate.

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, seizures, and even cardiac failure and coma in severe cases.

In addition to the toxicity meter, check out PetMD for a handy guide on the theobromine and caffeine content of popular chocolate products, such as M&Ms and Peanut Butter Cups.

On the same page, you can also see a list of the types of chocolate that have the highest amount of theobromine (unsweetened cocoa and baking chocolate top the list).



ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Lists 10 Most Common Pet Toxins

In recognition of National Animal Poison Prevention Week, the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center has announced their list of the top 10 pet toxins of 2017.

The Poison Control Center got nearly 200,000 calls about possible poisoning from concerned pet owners last year.  Here are their top categories:

Human prescription medications

17.5% of last year’s calls were about prescription meds.  The most common?  Antidepressants, pain medications, and heart medications.  The Center notes that while most poisoning cases are accidental, you should never give any drug to your pet without talking to your vet.

Over-the-counter medications

OTC drugs accounted for 17.4% of calls to the Center in 2017.  They range from pain medications to vitamins and supplements to allergy and cold meds.  Like Rx drugs, most of these cases are accidental, and you should avoid giving human drugs to your pet (unless your vet says it’s OK).


People food accounted for over 10% of pet poison calls last year.  Sugar-free foods containing the artificial sweetener Xylitol continue to be a hazard, along with other foods like grapes, avocado, alcohol, and raw bread dough.

Veterinary products

Nearly 9% of pet poison cases were caused by veterinary products.  Of special concern are flavored and chewable pet meds that may entice your dog or cat to eat the whole package.


As a people food hazard, chocolate has a category of its very own.  8.8% of APCC cases involved chocolate.  Dogs in particular are at risk for getting into our chocolate treats and eating this toxic food…especially around the holidays.

Household items

8.6% of cases involved household items like paint, cleaning products, glue, and laundry detergent pods.  Yep, pets are getting into those pods too, and the ASPCA notes that they are an up and coming danger for our pets.


The Center reports that insecticide poisoning cases declined last year.  6.7% of calls involved insecticides (such as ant and roach killer).  Be sure to always store them away from pets and take pets out of any room in which they are being used.


6.3% of cases were linked to rodenticides in 2017.  The ASPCA notes that cold weather is linked to more rats and mice entering homes and increased use of these poisons.  Remember that they are as dangerous to your pets as they are to rodents.


Many plants are toxic to pets.  5.4% of cases involved common plants used in outdoor landscaping and indoor flower arrangements.  Lilies are a special danger to cats and both sago palm and oleander are toxic to both dogs and cats.

Garden products

2.6% of the Poison Control Center’s calls involved garden products like fertilizers, herbicides, and soil enhancers.  Some types of mulches can also pose a danger to pets if ingested.  Keep your pets away from areas that have been freshly treated.


Keep Your Pets Safe This Easter

Most responsible pet owners know that pets and chocolate don’t mix.  But there are a few other Easter related pet hazards that dog and cat owners should know about.  Here’s a quick rundown on the most common Easter items that could harm your pet.


Chocolate is toxic to our pets and should always be kept away from curious or hungry dogs, cats, and other animals.  Why is chocolate so dangerous?  Besides caffeine, chocolate contains another stimulant called theobromine.  These substances can cause rapid heart rate, agitation, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea in pets.


The popular Easter lily poses a serous health risk to cats.  Other types of lilies you may bring into your home at Easter are also toxic.  These include tiger and stargazer lilies.  While the exact toxin in lilies hasn’t been identified, a cat that ingests even a small bite of any part of a lily plant (leaf, flower, stem, pollen) can develop severe, sometimes fatal, kidney failure.

Easter Grass

Those thin strands of plastic grass used to line Easter baskets can pose a health risk to pets.  If ingested by dogs, cats, or other animals, they can become lodged in your pet’s gastrointestinal tract and cause an obstruction.  Surgery may be required to remove the blockage and repair intestinal damage.

Easter Dinner

In addition to chocolate, it’s important to keep an eye on your pets as you prepare Easter dinner and serve it at the table.  Remember that common human foods can be harmful to pets.  Here’s a partial list:

  • Alcohol
  • Bread dough
  • Grapes
  • Raisins
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Raw poultry and poultry bones

You can refer to the Pet Poison Helpline’s complete list of pet toxins for more information.


Why Euthanasia Drugs are Being Found in Pet Food

You may have seen some stories in the news lately about small amounts of euthanasia drugs getting detected in some popular pet food brands.  How does this type of drug end up in dog and cat food?  The answer is obvious but may come as a surprise to many pet owners.

A recent article on the website Gizmodo explains why the sedative pentobarbital, which is commonly used in euthanasia, has been found in at least 27 brands of pet food.  No, pet food companies are not deliberately adding it to their food, but it is ending up in food via third-party suppliers of ingredients used in the food.

Veterinary experts explain that the pentobarbital is coming from euthanized animals, usually horses, that go from farms to animal rendering operations, and eventually, to pet food manufacturers.  The FDA has been aware of this issue since the 1990s, so pentobarbital in pet food is not new.

This recent spotlight on the issue has caused many pet owners to wonder where the meat used in their animals’ food is actually coming from.  The pet food industry says that most makers source meat from livestock slaughtered in the same facilities used for human food.

The problem occurs when some of their suppliers use cheap ingredients as a way to cut expenses, such as euthanized and rendered farm animals like horses, as evidenced by the pentobarbital.

The drug amounts in the food are very small, and although there is a new awareness of the issue, it is unlikely that it will ever completely disappear from all pet foods, given the economic realities of the pet food industry.

What can you do to ensure that your pet is eating quality food?  Talk to your vet about the best pet food options for your individual pets, educate yourself on how to read and understand pet food labels, and be sure to keep track of all pet food recalls and withdrawals via the FDA’s pet food recall webpage.


The Many Scientific Reasons that Explain Why Cats are Finicky Eaters

A recent article in The New York Times outlined the different biological and behavioral reasons that explain why many cats are such discriminating eaters.  Turns out your cat isn’t being difficult, she’s just being a cat!

Here are some underlying reasons why your cat may be turning his nose up at dinner:

  • As solitary hunters and eaters, cats tend to eat more slowly and carefully than dogs.  Dog are pack animals and group competition for food makes them eat quickly.
  • Even though a cat’s sense of smell is weaker than a dog’s, it is still very keen, and an unappealing smell can turn your cat off to his food.
  • A cat’s teeth are more well-suited to ripping and tearing meat, not grinding, so wet food is easier to eat than dry food.  Many cats swallow pieces of dry kibble whole, which can then be vomited back up.

  • Cats are true carnivores, so their taste receptors are not geared towards a wide variety of food types, like ours.  Cats naturally prefer protein and are indifferent to sweets and carbohydrates.
  • Cats do have very sensitive taste receptors for bitter foods, however, as anyone who’s ever eaten citrus around a cat can tell you!

Interested in learning more about proper feline feeding and nutrition?  Check out this article from Cornell’s Feline Health Center.