, Newburyport, MA


April 11, 2014

Paw Prints: Keeping your pets healthy this spring


Chocolate is dangerous for pets because it contains caffeine-like substances. Animals cannot metabolize these substances like humans do. Factors that influence chocolate poisoning are the size of the pet, the amount of chocolate consumed and the darkness of the chocolate.

In this respect, the most potent form of chocolate is baking chocolate. Its toxicity is about threefold that of semisweet chocolate, which in turn is about threefold that of milk chocolate. A 20-pound dog that eats 3 or 4 ounces of milk chocolate could show mild signs of toxicity. That same amount of semisweet chocolate could be lethal. And a deadly dose of baking chocolate in the same dog could be as little as 1 ounce.

Chocolate harms your pet by overstimulating his brain and heart. Chocolate also affects other organs. Clinical signs occur within six to 12 hours. They include increased thirst and urination, vomiting and diarrhea, restlessness, seizures, heart abnormalities, coma, and death.

If your pet eats chocolate, call your veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center. They can determine if a toxic dose has been consumed, given your pet’s weight and the amount and kind of chocolate eaten. When chocolate poisoning is a concern, prompt veterinary treatment is important.

Another pet alert this month is for those creepy-crawly parasites.

Deer ticks flourish in our area. They have a two-year life cycle and have been eagerly waiting for this mild weather. Adult deer ticks are actively seeking blood meals this month. To avoid starvation, their sanguineous hunt is frantic. Juvenile deer ticks, or nymphs, are abundant in the spring. Because they are only the size of a poppy seed, nymphs are usually overlooked on pets’ coats.

Deer ticks spread several diseases, the most common in dogs in our area being Lyme disease and anaplasmosis. Both can be transmitted during a single bite. Cats are also susceptible to various tick diseases, although they appear to be resistant to Lyme disease.

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