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Monday, December 26, 2011

Chocolate Risk

All current information now points to the cocoa bean as hazardous to dogs. I was prompted to research this matter as a result of my dog’s misbehavior. When I came home from a two hour outing this afternoon, I found a plate of Christmas fudge on the ground. There had been half a batch; he ate about 1/4 of a pound of it. I went online and used my math skills to quantify how much he would have to eat to put him at severe risk for poisoning. My son wanted to call poison control. I wasn’t sure of the need. I believe in mathematics. Sort of....
There is a valuable number for Animal Poison Control managed by the ASPCA. They claim:
We are your best resource for any animal poison-related emergency, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you think that your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call (888) 426-4435. A $65 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card.
I have used it twice before when my dog ate a bottle containing prescription medicine and another time when he ate holly berries. The person on the hotline was very helpful and all was well that ended well.
Tonight, I wasn’t sure there was sufficient amount of missing chocolate fudge to warrant emergency care. I decided to watch the dog closely, keep the number at the ready, and be prepared to drive the five miles to the near-by Emergency Room of a nearby animal hospital. I have taken his heartbeat repeatedly. I am, in every way, a nervous nelly.
Despite the medical information I gleaned from the internet, I am a worrier. Part of what helps me relax are the memories of my first dog, Banner. Banner, became a beloved member of my family in the sixties. He was all kitten in a boxer’s build. He was known to love chocolate. In fact, the mysterious disappearance of a chocolate cake laid blame clearly at his paws. He enjoyed that chocolate-fest on a day that we had not sufficiently Banner-proofed our home before leaving.
Banner was lonely and bored his vet told us. It was these feelings that led him to do such destructive things as going into the walk-in kitchen pantry. He pulled all the cans off the shelves five feet and lower, and used his sharp nails to remove the labels of the canned goods. For months, it was a game of chance what we would find when we opened a can. My mother was frugal and would never consider disposing of well over fifty cans of perfectly good food. Guests found this quirky, I hated the uncertainty of what I would find on my plate every night. Certainly, we could identify tuna by its shape. Canned pears and tomato sauce were a little trickier. In the time period in which we Banner-proofed, crates were not in common use. For this reason, we devised our own method of protecting our dog and our property -- gates opened and then laid across three sofas. All doors were closed. A gate was placed at the bottom of the stairs. All surfaces were cleared of pens, pencils, knick-knacks, and paper goods. All such items were at risk for demolition by an under-stimulated dog. My mother was a teacher, my father, a banker. The house was empty between 7:30am and 4:30pm.. We came to accept as normal a certain degree of material damage due to Banner’s antics. The disappearance of a chocolate cake seemed minor in light of such incidents as the time he leapt through a double-paned bay window and went a.w.o.l. for ten days. Or the time he gnawed through the door to the basement, desperate to get to a kitten we had added to our menagerie.
My internet research suggests that a dog may react to chocolate from 4 to 24 hours after consumption. I suspect I will be getting up regularly tonight to check Scooter’s breathing and measure his heart-rate. He had one incident of crazy, boundless energy that I found impossible to control. I took him outside to give him more room. I ended up having to drop my cane and use two hands to hold onto the leash to prevent him from taking off after the scent of a deer or a fox. At one point, he paused, head up, ears lifted, nose at the ready to catch a scent of freedom. We are inside now, settled down for the night. When he falls into his dreams, I can’t help but wonder if he might be dreaming of chasing Hershey’s Kisses.

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