By: Maria Gomez
Certified Veterinary Technician at Pet Poison Helpline
There have been very few events in my 7-year stint as an ‘In-Home’ pet sitter that have resulted in any kind of toxicity or at the very least, a dietary indiscretion. Mico is a healthy, young, adult Pit mix that I have only stayed with three times in the last year. He is a very sweet, albeit rambunctious, dog that loves his food….and my food….and anyone’s food. He’s been prone to getting into garbages, counter surfing, chewing bags, and from time to time, I have seen him take an interest in getting into the bathroom and digging around for anything to chew on… like my garment bag that contains all of my toiletries, skin, and hair products.
During one of my stays with him, I had left the house for a few hours to get some work done. Considering my previous knowledge, I had made sure to close the bathroom door but this particular door wasn’t latching all the way. I did notice this but I closed the door the best I could and let Mico to enjoy his time alone, free to roam about the house. Upon returning, I found that he’d pushed the bathroom door open, chewed a large hole into my closed garment bag, and had taken out several make-up items and chewed up some pencils. “Arrrgh! Mico!!” So after my initial moment of irritation, I thought, ‘eh, no biggie. whatever-he’s a big guy, any particles he ate will just be pooped through’. I was home for the next several hours, ate dinner, watched a movie, and prepared to head out with some friends for the night. This past December was so bitter cold that many dogs could not get out for ample exercise and this case was no different. So, I can’t really blame Mico for having ‘cabin fever’ but I had to prepare for the worst.
I had secluded Mico to the spare bedroom in the past and he usually does fine in there. He hangs out on the bed, chews his toys, and I always remember to give him a few treats when I leave to satiate him while I’m gone. I came back home a few hours later and I let Mico out of the bedroom. He seemed to be fairly normal but he was drinking a ton of water-more than he normally would considering it was Winter and he’d not been running around. Upon further examination of his bedroom, I found that he’d barged his way into the closet and there were several wrappers on the bed along with an empty jar of some very expensive facial cream and half a chewed up tube of toothpaste. I noticed the closet doors were open and although there would normally be absolutely nothing for him to eat in there, it was right before Christmas so there had been quite a few large bars of chocolate in bags that were being given as gifts. *sigh* Now, this was no ordinary chocolate…no no. This was 85% dark, 66% dark, Special Dark Chocolate, and so forth. All chocolate has Theobromine in it which can cause an effect on the Central Nervous System, Gastrointestinal Tract, the heart, and the blood pressure. The darker the chocolate, the more the theobromine. I already knew how to figure out Theobromine doses to determine toxicity so I just ran the numbers to see what needed to happen. It was a little higher than I’d like to see and I did find that Mico had vomited all over his owner’s nice rug with big chunks of chocolate seen. ‘Yay Mico!!” So I let him just relax overnight and I would see how he did in the morning. Fortunately the face cream contained no harmful ingredients and the toothpaste was almost empty as it was. There was fluoride in the toothpaste but there wasn’t enough in it to cause any issues for him.
The next day he did quite well; ate his food like normal, pooped normally, and soon went back to being his crazy Mico self. I learned I could take as many precautions as I could but sometimes you just don’t know all the facts or presume that ‘There’s no way he could get into this’. Oh believe me, if there’s one thing my years at Pet Poison Helpline has taught me, it’s that for dogs, there is always a way.