Danville Express

Living - January 12, 2007

The Pet Vet says ...

by Dr. Heidi Strand

Q. Our dog got into some chocolate fudge over the holidays. When I called our vet, he said the amount the dog ate wasn't going to be a problem (he's an 80-pound black lab). But isn't all chocolate toxic to dogs?

A. A lot of people know that chocolate is toxic to dogs, but do you know why? The culprits are caffeine and theobromine, both classified as methylxanthines. Dogs are very sensitive to methylxanthines, which can cause hyperactivity, increased heart rate, tremors and even death at high doses. (Dogs can also be affected by the sugar and milk in chocolate, which may cause vomiting and diarrhea.) The amount of methyxanthines varies by the type of chocolate - in general, the more bitter the chocolate, the more methylxanthines and the more potential for toxicity. Milk chocolate can be fatal at a dose of approximately one ounce per pound of your dog's body weight. Baking chocolate, because it contains so much more theobromine, can be fatal at less than 1/10 of an ounce per pound of your dog's body weight! Pet birds are also sensitive to methylxanthines and can be affected by even the tiniest amount of chocolate.

It's always a good idea to call your Veterinarian immediately if you suspect your dog has ingested chocolate. It's important to try to determine how much he has eaten, what kind of chocolate it was, and how long ago it happened. Based on your dog's weight, your veterinarian can help you determine if it is necessary to seek emergency treatment. Treatment can include inducing vomiting, giving activated charcoal, and supportive treatment for symptoms such as seizures.

You were very fortunate this time! But here's a phone number you should keep next to your veterinarian's. It's the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435. They charge $55 per call - worth every penny when your pet's life is in danger. For more information, visit www.aspca.org.

Q. I live in an apartment complex where semi-feral cats hang out, no doubt encouraged by food and water set out by other tenants who otherwise take no responsibility for the cats. The cats frequently climb and lie on the hood and roof of my parked car, leaving scratches, muddy paw prints and other evidence of their presence. Is there something I can do to prevent or discourage the cats from this behavior that won't harm the cats or my car?

A. One thing that can keep cats off your car is aluminum foil. While there are some more aggressive tactics (products such as the scat mat come to mind), I would hate for you to buy something to leave on the car that might get stolen. You could leave the aluminum foil in the car and put it on after you park. You could also try leaving orange peels on the car - cats generally avoid them. However other critters are likely to run off with them. Another more labor-intensive tactic is to leave upside down mousetraps on the car. The noise and motion when they are sprung really scares cats, and as long as they are upside down they will not hurt the cats.

If the cats really are feral, there are several organizations that will help you have them spayed or neutered to cut down on the population, including our East Bay Feral Fix. However, these apartment cats are often owned animals that people just let run around outside. I've never been able to figure out why they are so obsessed with climbing on cars. I guess they just like the footprints!

--Dr. Heidi Strand is a veterinarian for the East Bay SPCA in Dublin. She has lived in the Tri-Valley for 10 years with her family and an assortment of four-legged friends. Her column appears every other week. Questions can be mailed to 315 Diablo Road, Suite 100, Danville 94526; or e-mailed to petvet@DanvilleWeekly.com.


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