Friday, October 31, 2014

Chocolate Toxicity

Holiday Special - Chocolate
I got a call from a client that came home after being away from the house for a few hours. She found an empty 12 oz. bag of chocolate chips eaten and cocoa spilled all over the floor. She wanted to know if “Ava”, her 60 pound dog, was going to die. I asked to see her dog immediately.
Yes, chocolate is toxic to dogs. Chocolate is toxic because it contains the methylxanthine theobromine. Theobromine is similar to caffeine and is used medicinally as a diuretic, heart stimulant, blood vessel dilator, and a smooth muscle relaxant. Theobromine can be poisonous and result in severe clinical signs, especially if untreated. Yes, trick or treat is right around the corner. Be especially alert to dogs or cats getting into the kids trick or treat bags! There is lots of chocolate stuff in there.
The amount of toxic theobromine varies with the type of chocolate. The darker and the more bitter the chocolate, the more dangerous it is to your pets. Cooking or baking chocolate and high quality dark chocolate contains between 130-450 mg of theobromine per ounce of the product, while common milk chocolate only contains about 44-58 mg/ounce. White chocolate barely poses any threat of chocolate poisoning, with only 0.25 mg of theobromine per ounce of chocolate (that said, dogs can still get sick from all that fat and sugar, resulting in pancreatitis!). This means that for a medium size dog, weighing 50 pounds it would take only 1 ounce of baker's chocolate or 8 ounces of milk chocolate to potentially show signs of poisoning.
Yes, “Ava” ate 12 oz. of semi-sweet dark chocolate.
I saw “Ava” in about 10-15 minutes. I gave her my secret recipe to make her vomit whatever was in her stomach (hydrogen peroxide at a rate of 1 ml per pound orally.) Actually, it took 90 ml for “Ava” to begin vomiting. Lucky for "Ava", her person brought her in right away.

Clinical signs of chocolate poisoning?

Clinical signs depend on the amount and type of chocolate ingested. For many dogs, the most common clinical signs are vomiting and diarrhea, increased thirst, panting or restlessness, excessive urination, a racing heart rate, muscle spasms (tremors), and occasionally seizures. In older pets that eat a large amount of high quality dark or baking chocolate, sudden death from cardiac arrest may occur, especially in dogs with preexisting heart disease. Complications (such as developing aspiration pneumonia from vomiting) can make the prognosis for chocolate poisoning worse.

Clinical signs of chocolate poisoning can take several hours to develop, and even longer to go away. Clinical signs of chocolate poisoning can last for days, due to the long half-life of theobromine.

What should I do if my dog eats chocolate?

I have put a ChocolateToxicity Meter on the Providence Veterinary Hospital website. You can find it by going to and find the Quick Links “on our home page. When in doubt, contact your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline 800-213-6680 (they will charge a fee) to see if a poisonous amount of chocolate was ingested to begin with. Whatever you choose, decide quickly if help is needed. Do not try to treat this at home or just wait and see if your dog gets sick. That could be too late!

The Providence Veterinary Hospital Blog is a publication of Peter Herman, VMD, at the Providence Veterinary Hospital, 2400 Providence Ave. in Chester, PA. Contact Dr. Herman at 610-872-4000 or visit us at 


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Flea Bite Dermatitis or Flea Bite Hypersensitivity

Flea Bite Dermatitis or Flea Bite Hypersensitivity

The most active time for fleas is the fall. The second most active time for fleas is the summer. This time of year, fleas are very abundant and are biting dogs and cats with reckless abandon.

A certain number of dogs and cats become sensitized, over time and from repeated bites, to the saliva of the flea . Therefore, when a flea bites a hypersensitive or allergic dog or cat, it's like 100 fleas biting at the same time.

Why Is My Pet So Sensitive?

Suppose you are allergic to peanuts or carrots, or gluten. It doesn't take a large quantity to set off your allergies. It's the same for flea bites.  Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) or flea bite hypersensitivity is the most common dermatologic disease among domestic dogs in the USA. Cats also develop FAD, which is one of the major causes of feline miliary dermatitis. FAD is most prevalent in the summer, although in warm climates flea infestations may persist throughout the year. In north temperate regions, the close association of flea-infested pets with human dwellings creates conditions that permit a year-round problem.

In extremely hypersensitive dogs, extensive areas of hair loss, redness, and self- inflicted trauma are evident. Traumatic moist dermatitis (hot spots) can also occur. As the disease becomes chronic, the dog may develop generalized hair loss, severe smelly, scaly skin, a thickening of the skin, and/or the darkening of the skin's pigment.

In cats, clinical signs vary from minimal to severe, depending on the degree of sensitivity. The primary dermatitis is a pimple, which often becomes crusted. This miliary dermatitis is typically found on the back, neck, and face. The name miliary dermatitis simply means that the lesions resemble seeds thrown out in a pattern, dermatitis is the inflammation of the skin.  The miliary lesions are not actual flea bites but a manifestation of a systemic allergic reaction that leads to generalized itching and an eczematous rash. Redness and itching may be severe, evidenced by repeated licking, scratching, and chewing.

Treat The Problem
Flea control measures have changed dramatically in recent years. The development of insecticides and insect growth regulator (IGR) with convenient dosage formulations and prolonged residual activity has dramatically improved owner compliance and has helped eliminate recurrent infestations. The goals of flea control are elimination of fleas on pet(s), elimination of existing environmental infestation, and prevention of subsequent infestation. The first step is still the elimination of existing pet flea infestations.

This hospital recommends and uses Parastar Plus as the adult flea killer on dogs and cats  and Knockout area spray for home control. The combination does a good job on eliminating  fleas, larvae, pupae and eggs.
If your dog or cat is itching, even if you don't believe it could be fleas, bring them to a professional for a good look. One flea can cause a large amount of damage to your pet if your pet has developed an allergy to the bite.

The Providence Veterinary Hospital Blog is a publication of Peter Herman, VMD, at the Providence Veterinary Hospital, 2400 Providence Ave. in Chester, PA. Contact Dr. Herman at 610-872-4000 or visit us at