Q: I have heard that chocolate is toxic for dogs, but my dog has gotten into chocolate before and has not had any problems. So I am curious to know if chocolate is actually harmful or not?
A: The simple answer to your question is yes, chocolate is toxic; however, it is the ingredient theobromine that is contained in chocolate that is toxic to dogs. The toxicity is based on the amount of theobromine that the animal ingests when compared to the animal's weight. It also matters what type of chocolate is ingested because the amount of theobromine in chocolate varies.
Any dose of theobromine over 45 mg/kg is potentially toxic and possibly lethal for dogs and should be treated aggressively by your veterinarian.
As an example, milk chocolate contains 44-64 mg theobromine per ounce of chocolate -- so an average sized 80-pound Lab would need to ingest approximately 30-50 ounces of milk chocolate for a toxic dose. That is almost 3 pounds of milk chocolate! However, unsweetened baking chocolate contains 450 mg theobromine per ounce of chocolate. That means that same 80-pound Lab would be at a toxic dose after only 3.5 ounces!
So, you can see that the weight of the animal and the type of chocolate determine the toxic dose. Even if your dog eats chocolate and does not ingest a toxic dose there are other serious consequences to eating the chocolate such as severe stomach and intestinal upset, pancreatitis, diarrhea, vomiting and more. Any ingestion of chocolate is bad for a dog; whether it eats a toxic dose, your dog could suffer some serious adverse reactions. Since even a small dose of theobromine is potentially toxic and possibly lethal for dogs, it is recommended that you contact your veterinarian immediately for advice.
Q: My cat is a strictly indoor cat and never comes into contact with any other animals. Does she still need to be vaccinated?
A: I highly recommend that strictly indoor cats receive the FVCRP (upper respiratory vaccine) every three years up until about 8 years of age. They should also get two doses of feline leukemia vaccine four weeks apart either as part of their kitten vaccine protocol or whenever they are adopted if this hasn't already been done.
I also recommend the cat-specific Canarypox vectored rabies vaccine yearly. Let me explain why:
-- In the U.S., bats are one of the species known to transmit the rabies virus. Bats like to get into houses, and cats like to play with sick bats. There is the risk of rabies transmission from bat to cat even within the safety of your house.
-- Even with the number of animal lovers these days, there is still a large population of feral and sick cats in many neighborhoods. These cats are not vaccinated and typically carry a multitude of infectious diseases. It is not a stretch to think that a feral cat might either make contact with your cat through a screen door or gain access to your house when you are unaware. This leaves your cat at risk.
-- It is also not unheard of for strictly indoor cats to sneak out the front door or out a window to experience the great outdoors. This happens more frequently than we would like to admit and this leaves them vulnerable if not properly vaccinated.
If you have further concerns about vaccines, please discuss them with your veterinarian so you can make the best educated decision for your pet.
Dr. Miller can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: The Ask the Vet column will be moving to Tuesdays starting on Dec. 4.