“You just don’t know when they will get up to something…” that’s what one of our clients told us recently, after an unfortunate incident involving her three Cavalier King Charles’ spaniels and a box of After-Eight Mints.
The dogs’ owner had put a large, sealed and unopened box of the mints on a table in the lounge, not expecting any problems. After all, it was so high, she didn’t think such small and gentle dogs could reach it! She felt she was able to relax as, after ten days, none of her dogs had showed any interest in it.
One day recently, however, the oldest of the four dogs developed some irritation in his eye, and so she had to bring him in to us – not expecting that anything untoward would happen at home in the fifteen minutes she was with us. On her return, however, it was clear that something was wrong when she noticed that one of the dogs had something that resembled minty chocolate in his ear!
With horror, she then realised on the opposite side of the lounge, next to the sofa that the box and cellophane was opened and there was no chocolate or wrappers left, apart from a couple squished in the bottom of the box. The rest of them were obviously inside one or more of the three dogs in the house… all looking as if butter (or chocolate…) wouldn’t melt in their mouths.
Fortunately, the owner was well aware that chocolate was dangerous to dogs, so she rang us immediately for advice. Our receptionist immediately checked with Ben, who recommended that all three possible culprits come in to be seen immediately.
Chocolate is one of the most common poisonings we see in dogs – they love the taste, but sadly, it is potentially fatal if eaten. The poisonous ingredient is called theobromine and it is a stimulant, chemically similar to caffeine (which is also poisonous to dogs, by the way). The symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, restlessness, tremors, abnormal heart beats, and in severe cases seizures or even death.
Different types of chocolate contain different amounts of theobromine – with white chocolate having almost none, and dark chocolate the most. Of course, there are other dangerous substances in many chocolate treats – such as the peppermint oil in After-Eights, which can also cause stomach upsets, or even irritation and burns to the mouth.
However, it takes at least half an hour for the toxin to start being absorbed from the stomach. So, if we can see the dog soon enough, we have a good chance that we can get the toxin out of the patient before enough theobromine can be absorbed into the bloodstream to cause them any harm.
On arrival at Monument, Ben quickly but carefully examined them, paying special attention to listening to their hearts. It was obvious that they weren’t yet suffering symptoms, so there was a chance to avoid any problems. Unfortunately, it wasn’t clear which of the three had in fact devoured the mints. So, to protect them, he needed to give all three of them an injection to induce vomiting – just to be on the safe side.
After a couple of minutes, all three were feeling very sorry for themselves, and two produced a copious stream of freshly melted chocolate… In fact, Zoe, just coming in to the practice, remarked that the consult rooms smelled of After-Eights before she realised exactly why that was!
As it turned out, one of the dogs was in fact innocent of the charge, and the poor thing had been made to vomit for no reason… but of course, no-one could have realised that in advance. Within an hour, all three were safely home, a bit wobbly on their feet and feeling sad, but safe and sound.
We like Monument because they are privately owned by a family and not a corporate vets
Thinking about the situation afterwards, the owner reflected that they must have been very clever and determined to get into them through the cellophane! They’re very well behaved usually, and it isn’t clear why they decided to eat the chocs that day – maybe the strong smell of the peppermint? Certainly dogs have an excellent sense of smell, but why that day when their owner was out isn’t clear. As she said, ‘Accidents do happen even to the most careful of owners’; however, thanks to Ben and all the team at Monument, all three dogs were safe and well.
‘We like Monument because they are privately owned by a family and not a corporate vets,’ she says, and in this case, it was the speed with which Ben was able to see them that made the difference between it being a funny story, and possibly being a tragedy.