The Danger of Chocolate To Pets

For a human, a few too many Easter eggs can be seen as a bit indulgent and lead to an afternoon on the sofa in a self-inflicted Danger of chocolate to dogs Falls Road Veterinary Hospitalchocolate coma.

But for a dog it can be potentially life-threatening and, in the most extreme cases, result in death.

Dog owners are warned to be on high alert this Easter and ensure the chocolate is hidden away to ensure dogs are not harmed as a result of chocolate poisoning.

With more instances of discarded Easter Eggs or half-eaten Crème Eggs lying around at Easter than at other times of the year, it is a potential minefield for canines all over the country, and can result in many becoming ill – or even die.

The reason for this toxicity is due to a natural chemical in the cocoa bean called theobromine. Easily digestible by humans, theobromine cannot be broke down by the dog’s digestive system and becomes toxic to dogs, having a serious effect on their nervous system and heart.

As the Easter weekend approaches and people have more chocolate in the home than usual, we’re reminding those with dogs and cats to keep it well out of their reach.

Like with most poisons the toxic impact is dependent on the size of the dog.

Heavier dogs are far less likely to be affected by the same amount of chocolate than those of a smaller size.

For example, it would take just one tablespoon of dark chocolate to severely damage a small Yorkshire Terrier, while 5 tablespoons would lead to a Lab becoming seriously ill.

Yet, it is not only the amount of chocolate that can have effect on how badly a dog reacts. The level of cocoa and the darkness of the chocolate can also have an effect. With darker chocolate containing more of the toxic theobromine than milk chocolate, less is needed to have an adverse effect.

Symptoms of concern for owners can be anything from vomiting, to rapid breathing, to seizures and need to be acted on to ensure that there are not more fatal consequences.

The effects of chocolate poisoning in dogs usually appear within a few hours of eating, and can last as long as 24 hours.

Initial signs can include excessive thirst, vomiting, a sore stomach and restlessness.

These symptoms can then progress to tremors, an abnormal heart rhythm, raised body temperature and rapid breathing.

In severe cases dogs can experience fits, kidney failure and can even die.

If your pet ingest chocolate you should contact your vet for immediately. Please feel free to contact us here at Falls Road Veterinary Hospital with any questions or concerns. (301) 983-8400.,


Holiday Hazards To Your Pets

Holiday Hazards To Your Pets

Holiday Hazards To Your Pets

Holidays may be festive, but for most of us they are far from peaceful!  Left unattended, pets can get into mischief and serious trouble, so don’t forget to be prepared to protect your pets from these holiday hazards.

Dangerous Foods

Most people know about chocolate’s potential to be poisonous, but also make sure to keep pets away from sugar-free candy and gum (which may contain xylitol), raisins and macadamia nuts (often found in trail mixes, cookies, and candy), grapes, bread dough, coffee, and alcohol.

“Other” Foods

Remember to ask well meaning friends and relatives to avoid giving table food to pets. Plates and food should be cleared from areas accessible to pets.

Dangerous Plants

By now, many pet owners know that poinsettias are not as toxic as once believed. However, mistletoe, some evergreens (like some species of pine), holly bushes and berries, and aloe are potentially toxic, as well as some plants that are commonly found in holiday arrangements, such as lilies, baby’s breath, bird of paradise, daisies, and chrysanthemums

New Treats

Treat-stuffed holiday stockings are fun to give, but you should not pick out any items that are new or different. New treats may cause your pet some digestive up set! Offering only one of these at a time (ideally separated by a few days) can make it easier to track the source if vomiting, diarrhea, or other problems occur.

New Toys

New toys should be checked for small pieces that can be chewed off or broken and swallowed. sharp edges, or other potential hazards.

Indoor Holiday Decorations

Tinsel, angel hair, tree ornaments, ribbons, and string are well-known culprits. But even Christmas trees can pose a danger. Pets may eat the needles (even from artificial trees) or drink water from the tree stand, which can be toxic. Decorative lights can get hot enough to burn a pet, so  keep them out of reach.

Outdoor Holiday Decorations

Extension cords, lights (which can get very hot), decorations that hang low enough to be chewed on, and decorations that can fall or blow over are just a few of the dangers that pets can encounter outside. Make sure to  check food-related decorations (like pumpkins and corn cobs) regularly. Pets may eat these items, even after they begin to rot!

Electrical Cords and Outlets

Electrocution hazards include electrical cords, lights and other electrical decorations, and outlets (unused ones should be covered).

Heated Surfaces and Open Flames

Fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, candles, and portable heaters are just a few hazards to keep pets away from (or at least monitor when they are nearby). Not only can pets be burned, but candles or heaters can be knocked over and start a fire.

Fire and Carbon Monoxide

House fires and carbon monoxide-related deaths are doubly tragic around the holidays. Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur if pets are left in a garage with a running car or in a running car itself. Space heaters, furnaces, and similar appliances can also present a risk. Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to help ensure safer holidays.

Cold Temperatures

Even outdoor pets can suffer frostbite and hypothermia if shelter is inadequate. If pets can’t be indoors during cold weather, ensure that clean (and unfrozen) water and safe, adequate shelter are available for outdoor pets. Pets (particularly cats) may seek warm places that are not safe such as car engines. Fan belt injuries and other trauma can occur.

Antifreeze and Alcohols

Most pet owners know something about the dangers of antifreeze, but don’t forget about methanol, a common component of windshield wiper fluid, and isopropanol, commonly found in hand sanitizer gel, windshield de-icing agents, and rubbing alcohol. All of these substances are toxic to your pets!

Salt and Chemical Ice Melts

Pet-safe ice melt products can be purchased at most home improvement and pet stores. However, pet owners should wash their pets’ feet with a warm cloth after the pet comes in from being outside. The ice melting products can have a caustic effect to your pets feet!

Vigilance Can Be the Best Protection

The holidays can be hectic, but all pet owners should “check in” with their pets at least a few times a day. Making sure the pet is eating and drinking, observing activity level, and (if possible) observing urination and defecation can make it easier to detect any changes. Please contact your Vet if you notice any signs of illness or behavior changes.

For More Information

If a toxic exposure is expected, the ASPCA’s Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 can be a valuable resource. Visit their Web site ( for information.

Feel free to contact us here at Falls Road Veterinary Hospital with any questions or concerns. (301) 983-8400.

Tips For New Puppy Owners

christmas puppyTips For New Puppy Owners:

There is nothing quite like bringing your new puppy home for the first time. But before taking the big leap, take the time to make sure your household is ready. That means puppy proofing your home. You will need to purchase supplies ahead of time and read up on puppy behavior so you know what to expect. Furthermore, it is hugely important to prepare children for the new responsibilities that lie ahead and to teach them to handle your new puppy correctly. Here are a few tips to help integrate your new pet into the family:

Making Your Home Safe

The new puppy stories often become family lore! The stories are fun but only if the scenario has a happy ending. You can prevent injury even death by making sure your house is pet friendly. Literally get down on all fours and scoot around each room in your house to look for problems. This will give you a puppy’s point of view.

  • Consolidate electrical cords then hide them in hard plastic cord keepers and cover outlets with plastic plugs.
  • Move houseplants out of reach until your puppy can be trusted. Never give your puppy access to plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, dumb can, Japanese yew, oleander and English ivy. These plants are just an example of the many plants that are TOXIC to pets!
  • Put away breakable treasures and beloved toys.
  • Place all household chemicals into cabinets and consider locking them with baby hinges. This is imperative with engine lubricants and antifreeze, which are especially interesting to puppies and deadly.
  • If you have an outdoor dog run or kennel, check the path of the sun during different times of the day. If your puppy will receive full exposure, ensure there is shelter available for her to take refuge
Choosing Fencing

The allure of the outside world is strong for pets. That’s why you will want to make sure your home has appropriate fencing to keep your pet safe. Note too, that you might need a fence within a fence to secure your pool or hot tub. Though canines are known for their ability to swim, some pets fall in but can’t navigate to steps or leap over tall walls to get to safety. Fencing choices include:

  • Privacy fences. These tall barriers have no openings.
  • Chain link. This material is very durable.
  • Underground fencing. These wire systems are invisible to the eye because they’re buried underground and connected to transmitters which are linked to a special collar. This collar emits a small shock when the puppy nears the barrier.
  • Dog runs. A covered concrete slab will protect your pup from adverse weather and ensure she doesn’t climb or jump out of the cage. This type of flooring keeps your pet from digging a hole underneath and escaping.
Choosing Pet Identification

No matter how much thought you put into keeping your dog contained, there is always the chance that your pet might get lost. Therefore, you’ll want to make sure your pet is properly identified. Think about:

  • Purchasing a breakaway collar that includes an inscription featuring her name, address and your permanent telephone number as well as the name and number of her veterinarian.
  • Having a microchip surgically implanted with contact information.
Necessary Supplies

What equipment do you really need? Put the items listed below on your “must” list!

  • Specially formulated puppy food (Note: The basic needs of growing pups differ significantly from that of adult dogs)
  • Stainless steel no-tip food and water bowls
  • Puppy treats for use in training
  • Identification tags, adjustable collar, 6-foot-long nylon leash between ½-3/4 inches wide with a breakaway feature (Tip: Make sure the collar is sized correctly. One way to measure is to make sure two of your fingers can slip between the collar and the puppy’s neck.)
  • Home and travel crate large enough to accommodate your puppy when they are full grown
  • Stain remover specially formulated for pet odors
  • Brushes and combs to suit your pets coat
  • Dog shampoo, toothbrush and paste
  • High quality chew toys to ease teething (Note: It is important to make sure playthings will not break apart easily.)
  • Parasite controls such as heartworm and flea medications
  • Nail clippers
  • Expandable baby gate to isolate puppy
First Days At Home

The incorporation of your new pet into your family begins the minute you pick them up at the kennel or shelter and will continue for many months. During these days you will want to gently impart upon them that you’re the leader of his pack and that there are rules to be followed. If you establish good habits right off, you’re likely to save yourself grief later on. Veterinarians recommend the following strategies to help socialize your pet:

  • Bring your new puppy home when the house is relatively quiet and “normal.” This means no spontaneous vacations or holidays where the pup will be left alone, and no late nights at the office. Instead acclimate your little one to the usual household routines.
  • Before you even enter the actual house, take your new pet to the area in your garden or yard (or to the park) that will serve as his toilet. Allow him time to sniff and snort. If he goes potty, praise him! If there is no action, try again later.
  • Introduce your pet to one room in the house at a time to avoid overwhelming them. Cordon off a small section of the house with a baby gate or door and keep him there to get used to things for a couple of days. If you aim to crate train your pet, place the kennel in this space. Leave comfy bedding in the room, but quickly remove it if it becomes soiled!
Teaching Kids to Respect Puppy

Children of all ages need to be taught how to handle your family’s animals in an appropriate manner. Consider these ideas:

  • Before introducing puppies and children and lay ground rules with the kids provided they are old enough to understand them. Remind them to be gentle. Show them exactly what you mean by petting their forearms and heads as you would your pet’s. Ask them to practice by stroking you.
  • Remind kids to use a gentle voice when addressing the puppy as though they are talking to a baby.
  • Teach children to respect the animal’s space, especially at mealtimes, as even the best puppies might bite if they feel threatened.
  • Instruct kids to allow the pup to come to them and to never chase the family pet.
  • Limit puppy-child play sessions to between 15-30 minutes 2-3 times per day. Articulate that pets needs rest time just like the rest of us.
  • Explain that teasing behaviors such as holding a ball just out of a puppy’s reach will only reinforce bad habits like jumping and barking.
  • Always supervise interactions between youngsters and pets.
Introducing Resident Pets to Puppy

The addition of a new puppy can be tremendously exciting for your current pets. Special precautions should be taken to lay a foundation for friendships. Experts suggest:

  • Separate your new puppy and the current pets for a few days by putting up a baby gate between two rooms. (Or, keep the new puppy  contained in a kennel.)
  • Allow the pets to sniff one another through the bars for several days.
  • Finally, supervise “dates” between the two pets, resorting to separation if need be.

Whether your family is large or small, the addition of a puppy is always a happy time! Enjoy your new pet!

Please feel free to contact us here at Falls Road Veterinary Hospital with any questions or concerns. (301) 983-8400.