Poisoning in Cats and Dogs

Chocolate, marijuana, chewing gum and lillies toxicities in dogs and cats

Beware of Poisoning! – Passionimo Answers your Questions

What do chocolate, chewing gum, cannabis, and lilies have in common? Those 4 substances can poison your pet. Indeed, the teams of veterinarians at Passionimo often treat your beloved companions for that very reason. That is why we decided to talk about pet poisoning today.

Is chocolate dangerous for my dog?

Yes, chocolate can make your dog sick in 2 ways:

  • The fat in chocolate or pastries can cause pancreatitis, which can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. This is a serious and especially painful disease.
  • Chocolate contains an ingredient toxic to dogs called theobromine. In small quantities, it will produce mild symptoms like increased excitability and urination. However, the more your dog eats it and the more likely are signs of serious illnesses such as cardiac arrhythmia, muscle tremors, and seizures. Sadly, it could even lead to death. In addition, theobromine can cause diarrhea and vomiting.

What to do if my dog eats chocolate?

Call your veterinarian right away! Here are the 3 things we will need to know:

  • What type of chocolate?
  • How much was ingested?
  • What is your dog’s weight?

Why? Because the theobromine content will vary depending on the type of chocolate. For example, dark chocolate and unsweetened baking chocolate have a higher content than milk chocolate. So, for a 10 kg dog, 20 oz (570 g) of milk chocolate can be fatal while only 2 oz (57 g) of baking chocolate could be.

But don’t panic! You will see symptoms way before that. To give you a general idea, let’s say you hid those small milk chocolate eggs individually wrapped in colourful foil for an Easter egg hunt. A 10 kg dog that would eat about 15 of those will show signs of vomiting, diarrhea, and tremors.

Do you have tips for pet owners?

There are applications and calculators available to determine the degree of poisoning and predict the likely symptoms, which will inform the veterinary care to provide. With the help of those tools, you can understand the significance of knowing the type and quantity of chocolate.

If your dog ate chocolate, do not throw the packaging. Your veterinarian will need it to figure out what type of chocolate was ingested. If the packaging was as appealing as the actual treat and your dog swallowed it, we will do our best to determine the appropriate course of treatment without it.

Is chewing gum toxic to my dog?

Yes, it can be very toxic! Actually, the issue is not so much with the chewing gum itself, but one of its ingredients, xylitol, a substitute to traditional sugar.

Xylitol is safe for humans and has many benefits: it tastes the same as sugar with fewer calories, and even has an antibacterial effect on the mouth. For dogs on the other hand, this substance can be extremely dangerous even if only a few pieces of gum have been chewed. Additionally, the first symptoms can appear in 30 to 60 minutes.

Because the dog digestive system does not recognize xylitol as a “fake sugar,” after the ingestion, the body will produce a lot of insulin, just like it would if the dog had eaten real sugar. This will lead to hypoglycemia, i.e. a significant drop in blood sugar level, which is considered an urgent situation.

Symptoms of hypoglycemia may vary in intensity and can include vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy. In more severe cases, it can progress to ataxia (your dog will lose balance), tremors, seizures, and even death. Xylitol poisoning can also lead to liver failure, resulting in severe troubles such as bleeding.

Because those symptoms may surface only 8 to 12 hours after ingestion, it’s crucial to see your veterinarian right away, even if your dog shows no signs of hypoglycemia.

Is Xylitol found in products other than chewing gum?

Yes, an increasing number of products sold at grocery stores and drugstores contain xylitol, which means that, every year, veterinarians treat a greater number of cases of xylitol poisoning in dogs. Those products include candies, pastries, muffin and cake mixes, condiments, syrups, and peanut butter.

Xylitol can also be found in toothpaste, mouthwash, and medicines. Those products will often bear the currently popular “no sugar added” statement, and so we recommend that you check the list of ingredients.

Should I worry about my dog being poisoned by cannabis?

First, a public service announcement: legal or not, if you suspect that your dog ingested marijuana, please contact your veterinarian right away! We are not here to pass any judgement on your lifestyle but to take care of your pets because, yes, cannabis ingestion could lead to poisoning.

Whether your dog ate directly from the plant or cookies/muffins containing marijuana, it’s the active ingredient in cannabis, THC, that brings about the effects. THC affects neurotransmitters, the small molecules which control our nervous system, and causes symptoms such as lack of coordination, stupor, dilated pupils, decrease in heart rate, hypotension, decrease in body temperature, etc. About a third of dogs intoxicated with marijuana could experience vomiting.

Most of the signs will appear 1 to 3 hours after ingestion and can last several days due to THC getting stored in fat cells. Though death is highly unlikely in case of cannabis poisoning, we still highly recommend a visit to your veterinarian to get your dog treated as soon as possible.

I adore lilies, but someone mentioned recently that they can be toxic to my pet. Is that just an urban legend?

No, this is definitely not a myth! Cats are particularly at risk because lilies are appealing to them, but dogs can also be intoxicated.

What are the symptoms of lily poisoning?

In the majority of cases, pets will vomit and suffer from extreme fatigue. They will also lack appetite and may drool excessively.

In more severe cases, 24 to 48 hours after ingestion, acute kidney failure may occur, with decreased, or even stopped, urine output. This is a more likely scenario in cats. In the end, nervous signs can appear, like loss of balance and seizures. Lily poisoning can be fatal in cases of severe kidney failure.

You have more questions?

Do not hesitate to contact the nearest Passionimo veterinary clinic.