Q: Are chocolates really bad for dogs? I have occasionally given my shepherd some candy on Valentine's Day, and he seemed to be healthy and liked the candy. Yet a girl in our office had to have her dog treated for chocolate poisoning and was told that dogs should not have chocolate. Is this true?
A: Chocolate contains such substances as caffeine and theobromine, which can be very toxic in dogs. They act as stimulants and effect cellular metabolism. These drugs can affect the heart and the gastrointestinal tract, causing weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, irregular heartbeats and occasionally muscle weakness. Severe overdoses can cause seizures, coma and death. The effects are based on the amount of chocolate consumed, the time before treatment and the weight and condition of the dog. It often takes several ounces of chocolate to have noticeable effects. Yet dogs have also been known to consume entire boxes of candy and not be ill. These dogs are treated like many other poison cases by inducing vomiting and preventing further absorption of the substances. Supportive care, such as fluids, is important in severe cases.
Avoid giving your dog chocolates and keep it from low tables where he may have access.
Q: I have a 6-year-old male cat named Max who is usually very healthy and active. About two months ago, however, he stopped eating and became sick with a high fever. The vet at the emergency clinic ran blood tests and gave him some shots to bring his temperature down. I never did find out why he ran a fever. My neighbor gives her dog buffered aspirin for its arthritis and if it has a fever. I have also been warned never to use aspirin in cats because they might die. Is this true? Why can dogs take aspirin and not cats? Can I use anything else?
A: Aspirin is still probably the most common medication taken by people. While it can be used to treat pain, inflammation and arthritic conditions in dogs, its use in cats is not common because of the increased risk of toxicity. The major reason for the toxicity is the "half-life" differences between dogs and cats.
In a dog, the effective same-dose half-life is about seven hours, while in the cat it is about 45 hours--six times greater. The toxic dose in cats is about 12.5 milligrams per pound per day, while the dog's dose is about 25 milligrams per pound every 8 hours. A 5-grain adult aspirin tablet contains 325 milligrams.
Aspirin's toxic effects start in the stomach lining, causing ulcers and bleeding. The bone marrow may become depressed and liver disease may occur, which helps makes anemia worse. The cat's metabolic balances may become severely upset, and death can result.
Yet aspirin does have some therapeutic uses in cats. Because of its ability to reduce blood clotting, aspirin is often used to treat certain heart diseases that introduce clots into the circulation.
"Baby" aspirin can also be used to decrease inflammation or fever in cats. However, the dosage is often one "baby" tablet every three to seven days, not daily.
I do not recommend using aspirin for your cat without the advice of your veterinarian. The cat's condition and weight are very important.
I strongly do not recommend giving any cat any product containing acetaminophen, which is the medication in other pain relievers, such as Tylenol. This drug has very severe toxic effects in cats and may cause death.
If your cat seems to have a fever or is in pain, consult your veterinarian before giving any medication. Cats are not "little people" and have a greater variation in tolerances for many drugs.