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.,


Taking the bite out of Fleas & Ticks


Fleas are truly devoted to their work. In one day, a single flea can bite your cat or dog more than 400 times. During that same Flea Control Falls Road Veterinary Hospitalday, the flea can consume more than its body weight of your pet’s blood. And before it’s through, a female flea can lay hundreds of eggs on your pet, ensuring that its work will be carried on by generations to come.

Flea bites may be merely a nuisance to some pets, but to others, they can be dangerous. They can cause flea allergy dermatitis—an allergic reaction to proteins in flea saliva. A pet’s constant scratching to rid itself of fleas can cause permanent hair loss and other skin problems. A pet can get a tapeworm if it eats a flea that has one. And flea feasts on your pet’s blood can lead to anemia and, in rare cases, death.

But fleas are not your pet’s only nemesis. Tick bites can give your pet such infections as Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. And ticks can give those same infections to you.

In years past, veterinarians recommended getting rid of fleas by simultaneously “bombing” the house with insecticide, spraying the yard, and dipping the dog or cat. Today, treating only the pet often takes care of the problem. But if there is a severe flea infestation or if the problem persists, you may still need to treat the pet’s environment,

Types of Flea and Tick Products

Hundreds of pesticides, repellents, and growth inhibitors are approved or licensed to control fleas and ticks on cats and dogs or in their environment. Products range from oral medications that require a veterinarian’s prescription to collars, sprays, dips, shampoos, and powders that are available at retail stores. Some products kill only ticks or adult fleas—others break the flea life cycle by preventing flea eggs from developing into adult fleas.

Some flea and tick products are not prescription drugs, yet are available only through veterinarians. This is because the manufacturer chooses to sell its products through vets, so that the vet can provide important safety information to the client.

The Preventic collar is one such product. The collar kills ticks by interfering with a tick’s ability to feed on dogs. It contains the insecticide amitraz, which paralyzes the tick’s mouthparts. Amitraz should not be used on dogs that are sickly, pregnant, or nursing, or with certain drugs that may interact with the insecticide. The manufacturer, Virbac Corp., Fort Worth, Texas, sells the collar through veterinarians, who can ensure that a dog is healthy and can use the collar safely.

When to Treat

It’s best to treat your pet year round. The severity and length of the flea season vary depending on which part of the country you live in. It can last four months in some places, but in other places, like Florida, fleas can live all year long. Fleas can also  live inside a warm house year-round.

In many areas, September is often the worst month for flea infestation. In most parts of the United States, the greatest chance of infection by a tick bite is May through September, the period of greatest tick activity by “nymphs.” Nymphs are the stage of tick development that occurs after they have had their first blood meal and molt, and before they become adults.

Lyme Disease

About 200 species of ticks live in the United States. Some of these can transmit infectious diseases, such as Lyme disease, to pets and humans. Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium transmitted through the bite of the deer tick, also called the black-legged tick, which is no larger than the head of a pin.

Typical symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs include joint soreness and lameness, fever, and loss of appetite. Symptoms in humans include fatigue, chills and fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, swollen lymph nodes, and a red, circular skin rash.

Read the Label, Talk to Your Vet

When buying a flea or tick product, it’s important for pet owners to read the label and follow the directions carefully. There can be serious problems with the misuse of dog flea and tick control products containing the insecticide permethrin. Dogs can tolerate concentrated permethrin, but it can be lethal to cats. Never use products on cats that are labeled for use on dogs only.

If the label states that the product is for animals of a certain age or older, don’t use the product on pets that are younger. Flea combs, which can pick up fleas, flea eggs, and ticks, may be useful on puppies and kittens that are too young for flea and tick products.

Talk to your vet about the flea and tick product most appropriate for your pet. The product you use will depend on your pet’s health and age, whether your pet is a cat or a dog, and whether it’s an indoor or outdoor pet. Also check with your vet to determine whether the Lyme vaccine is right for your dog.

Using Flea and Tick Products Safely

  • Read the label carefully before use. If you don’t understand the wording, ask your veterinarian or call the manufacturer.
  • Follow directions exactly. If the product is for dogs, don’t use it on cats or other pets. If the label says use weekly, don’t use it daily. If the product is for the house or yard, don’t put it directly on your pet.
  • After applying the product, wash your hands immediately with soap and water. Use protective gloves if possible.
  • If your pet shows symptoms of illness after treatment, call your veterinarian. Symptoms of poisoning may include poor appetite, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive salivation.
  • Store products away from food and out of children’s reach.

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


Summer Home & Yard Safety For Your Pet!

Your home is where your heart is. Home is the place where your family can come and feel safe, protected and loved. But are you sure your home Dog Safetyis safe for your pets? What you can do to make sure your pets stay free from harm?

Fix Your Fences
Your dog is in the most danger when he’s not in your backyard, so make sure he stays put by checking to see if your yard is securely fenced in. Make sure he can’t jump over or squeeze through any part and that all your gates are closed.

Prepare Your Pool
Many dogs are attracted to swimming pools. To make sure your dog doesn’t go for an unexpected dip, surround your pool with pet fencing. If that’s not an option make sure your dog has the ability to get out of the pool if he happens to go in. Also, remember to store all pool chemicals safely out of his reach and that your electrical leads can’t be found by a chewing puppy.

Beat the Heat
Help prevent your pet from getting dehydrated and being susceptible to heat exhaustion in the warmer months by making sure he always has plenty of fresh drinking water. Also, see that he has a cool, shaded area to rest in. Patios and driveways can become scorching during the hottest time of the day and could burn your pet. A good rule of thumb is if it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for him.

Curb Your Chemicals
Your dog probably enjoys all the interesting bugs in your backyard, but if you feel the need to spray for them, make sure you keep him out of the yard for at least 24 hours. Check the plants in your yard as well. Some popular plants, like the yew, azalea, and oleander can be fatal if ingested by your dog. Also, if you have a four-legged friend who likes to eat random things, try to stay away from compost, peat and red mulch. Each can be toxic if eaten in large amounts.

It may seem like making your yard safe for your dog is just as hard as making your yard safe for a child … but in a lot of ways, it’s the same thing. Your dog is a family member you love and don’t want to see hurt, so take the time to make your yard safe for everyone!

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


Acetaminophen Toxicity In Pets:

  • Acetaminophen can be toxic to dogs and cats, but cats are 7 to 10 times more susceptible to acetaminophen toxicity Dogs & Human Medicationthan dogs are.
  • Once swallowed, acetaminophen reaches the blood stream within 30 minutes; toxic effects are rapid and damage the liver and red blood cells.
  • Never give a medication intended for people to your pet unless instructed to do so by your veterinarian.

What Is Acetaminophen Toxicity?

Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in Tylenol and some other related medications that are used to treat pain and fever in people. Unfortunately, this drug can be extremely toxic (poisonous) to cats and dogs. Acetaminophen toxicity occurs when a cat or dog swallows enough of the drug to cause damaging effects in the body.

Acetaminophen is mostly metabolized (broken down and eliminated from the body) by the liver. Some of the substances that are created during this process can have harmful effects on cats and dogs. Cats are at much greater risk of toxicity than dogs because they lack certain proteins necessary for the liver to safely metabolize acetaminophen.

How Does Acetaminophen Toxicity Occur?

Many cases of acetaminophen toxicity in dogs and cats are accidental. A pet may find and chew on a bottle of pills or eat a pill that has fallen on the floor. Sadly, some cases occur because pet owners give medication intended for people to their pets without being instructed to do so by a veterinarian.

Acetaminophen is a drug meant for people. However, there are situations in which your veterinarian may prescribe a specific dosage of acetaminophen for your dog. Be sure to follow your veterinarian’s dosage directions very carefully and report any vomiting or other problems right away. Cats are 7 to 10 times more susceptible to acetaminophen toxicity than dogs are. Because cats are extremely sensitive to the drug’s toxic effects, acetaminophen is not given to cats.

What Are the Clinical Signs of Acetaminophen Toxicity?

Once swallowed, acetaminophen is rapidly absorbed from the stomach and intestines and can achieve significant levels in the blood within 30 minutes. The main toxic effects take two forms:

  • Liver damage: One of the substances produced by the breakdown of acetaminophen binds to liver cells, damaging them. Severe damage can lead to liver failure.
  • Damage to red blood cells: One of the substances produced by the breakdown of acetaminophen binds to red blood cells. Once bound, this substance changes hemoglobin (the protein in red blood cells that enables them to carry oxygen) into a molecule that is no longer able to carry oxygen. This means that the blood can no longer supply adequate amounts of oxygen to the body’s vital organs. The altered hemoglobin molecule is called methemoglobin; its lack of oxygen-carrying ability changes the color of blood from red to brown.

Cats and dogs can develop both forms of acetaminophen toxicity. However, cats are more likely to suffer hemoglobin damage while dogs are more likely to suffer liver damage. The main clinical signs associated with acetaminophen toxicity that result from liver injury and an inability of the blood to carry oxygen include:

  • Vomiting
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy (tiredness)
  • Difficult or rapid breathing
  • Abdominal pain
  • Brown discoloration of the gums (a result of methemoglobin)
  • Brown urine
  • Blue gums (known as cyanosis, indicates inadequate oxygen supply)
  • Swelling of the face or paws
  • Shock, collapse, death

How Is Acetaminophen Toxicity Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of acetaminophen toxicity is commonly based on a history of recently chewing or swallowing pills. Your veterinarian may recommend diagnostic testing, such as a chemistry panel and complete blood cell count (CBC), to assess the extent of the damage.

What Are the Treatment and Outcome for Pets Suffering From Acetaminophen Toxicity?

Acetaminophen is absorbed and metabolized very quickly. If you realize right away that your pet has swallowed acetaminophen, vomiting can be induced to remove the drug from your pet’s stomach before the body can absorb it. Your veterinarian may also administer a special preparation of liquid-activated charcoal to slow absorption of toxic material from the stomach and intestines.

There is a specific antidote for acetaminophen toxicity. This medication, N-acetylcysteine, limits formation of the toxic substance that damages the liver and red blood cells.  Additional treatments may include blood transfusions, intravenous fluid therapy, and other medications to help support and stabilize the patient.

Acetaminophen toxicity can be fatal. However, pets can survive if the condition is recognized, diagnosed, and treated quickly.

Most cases of acetaminophen toxicity are preventable. Never give medications meant for people to your pet unless instructed to do so by your veterinarian, and keep all medications in the home secured to help prevent accidental swallowing.

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

Easter Pet Safety And Hidden Dangers To Pets

Easter Pet Safety & Hidden Dangers To Pets

As you and your family prepare for Easter festivities here are Easter Dogsome Easter Pet Safety tips.

1. Easter grass is a decorative must for Easter baskets but can signal danger for your pet if ingested. If eaten it can cause several health problems even death. Easter grass can wrap around your pets intestine and cut off circulation. It can also cause vomiting, choking, constipation, painful defecation and abdominal pain. Instead opt for a safer alternative, tissue paper or real grass.

2. No Chocolate! Dogs can’t resist something sweet to gobble on, including the infamous chocolate bunny. Chocolate contains a highly toxic ingredient known as theobromine, making even small amounts of chocolate extremely hazardous to your pets health. Theobromine, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, seizures and an abnormally elevated heart rate. Although your dog should avoid all types of chocolate, dark chocolate contains the highest concentrations of theobromine making it the most toxic. Early symptoms of chocolate toxicity are vomiting, diarrhea and trembling. If your dog exhibits these symptoms please seek vet help immediately.

3. Avoid Sugar Substitutes: Xylitol, an artificial sweetener used in many candies, chewing gums and baked goods, is potentially very toxic to dogs and cats. If ingested can cause a rapid drop in blood sugar and can lead to seizures & liver failure.

4. Poisonous Easter Bouquets & Plants. Lilies, amaryllis, and kalanchoe are just a few popular flowers used in Easter floral arrangements. While they make for beautiful centerpieces on your Easter table, certain plants and flowers can be deadly for pets. The Easter Lily is a plant commonly found in bouquets this time of year but highly toxic to cats if ingested. If eaten this flower can cause vomiting and lethargy, and if untreated, may progress to kidney (renal) failure and death. Please call your veterinarian immediately if you suspect that your cat has eaten any part of a lily plant. Other potentially poisonous flowers to avoid include tulips, calla lilies, daisies, chrysanthemums and baby’s breath.

5. Real or fake plastic eggs can be dangerous. Pets may confuse a shiny plastic eggs for their next chew toy or tasty treat. If they chew and swallow the plastic it can cause intestinal damage which may require surgery. While hard-boiled have a tendency to be misplaced or not found during those Easter egg hunts and can easily spoil. If the egg is discovered days later and eaten by your pet it can cause an upset stomach. Make sure you keep track of the number of eggs hidden and their whereabouts so you can easily inventory at the end of the hunt.

6. Cute Easter toys are not meant to be eaten: Festive bunnies and chick toys make cute Easter basket stuffers for the kids, but may be viewed as a mid afternoon snack for your pet. Small toys are a choking hazard and should be kept away from cats and dogs. Please be mindful of your pets this Easter. Happy Easter!

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

Winter Hazards To Your Cats

Winter Hazards To Your Cats

Winter Hazards To Your Cats

  • Outdoor cats depend on people for their warmth and survival during the winter months; special steps need to be taken to keep these cats safe.
  • Holidays are a time for celebration but can pose multiple risks to cats. Lilies, chocolate, alcohol, ribbons, tinsel, and other common holiday items can all be dangerous to our feline companions.

What You Need to Know

Cats that spend time outdoors are exposed to various environmental and physical dangers. In the winter, cats are at risk for frostbite and hypothermia (low body temperature), just like humans. Cats should not be left outside for long periods of time in the winter and should always have the option of coming inside. It’s important to be aware of these risks, so you can keep your cat safe and healthy.

Colder Temperatures

Once temperatures start to dip below the freezing point, remember that any outdoor water will freeze. Cats need a constant supply of fresh, unfrozen water. For outdoor cats that only have access to outdoor water, heated water bowls can be used to keep water from freezing. If an electrical source is not available, water should be kept in a covered, enclosed space to prevent it from freezing quickly. Dog igloos filled with straw work well for outdoor cats, giving them a warm place to eat, drink, and keep dry from the winter elements. Heated pet mats are also helpful and will help a cat retain its body temperature, which is especially important for old or sick cats. It is important to only use heated products that are approved for pets.

Cats that spend a lot of time outdoors during the winter months use more calories in order to stay warm. Giving your cat a higher-quality, protein-rich food will help him or her stay warm and healthy. If your cat has any medical problems, consult your veterinarian before making any diet changes.

Outdoor cats may seek warmth under car hoods and can be injured or killed by the car’s fan belt. Before getting into your car, knock loudly on the hood to ensure that a cat is not hiding beneath.

Even cats that are used to being outside can suffer hypothermia and frostbite. If severe winter storm warnings or extreme cold weather alerts recommending that humans stay indoors are issued in your area, it is a good idea to bring your cat indoors, too. If your cat cannot be brought indoors, a garage or mud room can provide enough shelter in some cases.


Also known as ethylene glycol, antifreeze is probably one of the most common and dangerous winter toxins. Antifreeze is highly toxic, and cats are sometimes attracted to its sweet smell and taste. Once a cat drinks antifreeze, the toxin is rapidly absorbed, and signs such as vomiting, loss of coordination, and depression can appear within 1 hour. The kidneys are most severely affected by antifreeze, and even if signs start to improve with treatment, they may have already started to shut down. Acute kidney failure can occur within 12 to 24 hours after ingestion of antifreeze, so it is important to take your cat to the vet immediately if you suspect he or she has drunk even a small amount of antifreeze.

Salt and Chemical Ice Melts

Cats that walk on sidewalks or pathways that have been de-iced can have chapped, dry, painful paws. Also, because cats tend to lick their paws, they can be exposed to toxic chemicals found in some ice melts. Pet-safe ice melt products can be purchased at most home improvement and pet stores. However, not everyone in the neighborhood may use these products, so it is important to wash your cat’s feet with a warm cloth after he or she comes in from being outside.

Holiday Hazards

The holidays pose many risks to cats. Chocolate, alcohol, onions, and coffee are some of the popular party supplies that can cause health problems in your cat. A common holiday plant is the lily, found in many holiday arrangements. Lilies are poisonous to cats. If a cat eats any part of a lily, initial signs of poisoning could include lethargy (tiredness) and a lack of appetite, but kidney failure can occur within 36 to 72 hours. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you think your cat has eaten any part of a lily plant.

Most cats love tinsel and ribbon, which, if eaten, can damage the intestines, requiring surgery. Keep these items out of reach of your cat.

Cover up electrical cords to prevent them from dangling and being mistaken for cat toys. If chewed, these cords could electrocute your cat.

More Cold-Weather Tips

The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) has more cold-weather tips at its website: Additional information about toxic houseplants, antifreeze, and other winter toxins is available at the Animal Poison Control Center:

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.