Why Do Dogs Eat Grass? Is it Even Good for Them?

Why Do Dogs Eat Grass? Is it Even Good for Them?

Why do dogs eat grass, indeed?

It’s the question on almost everyone’s mind. Dogs seem to love to eat grass, and some even make it part of their daily routine. Fortunately, most experts believe dogs that eat grass are not any worse for it. So why exactly do they gobble up that green stuff in your yard?

The Scavenger Inside

Unlike cats, dogs are not carnivores. However, that doesn’t mean they are like your garden-variety omnivores, either. Dogs are opportunistic scavengers that have devoured anything – so long as it fulfilled their basic dietary requirement – for tens of thousands of years.

The modern dog, on the other hand, is no longer like its ancestors, which frequently ate their prey entirely, including the stomach contents of plant-eating animals. It is believed that partly because of evolution and partly because of domestication dogs today seek out plants as an alternative food source. This is often grass because that is what is closest and most abundant, but wild canines are known to eat fruits, berries, and other vegetable matter, too.

So, that may clear up why dogs eat grass, but why dogs throw up after eating grass.

Better Than an Antacid

When you have an upset stomach you go straight to the medicine cabinet or the pharmacy. But what does your dog do? A dog will seek out a natural remedy for a gassy or upset stomach, and grass, it seems, may do the trick. When the dogs eats the grass, the grass blade tickles the throat and stomach lining; this sensation, in turn, may cause the dog to vomit, especially if the grass is gulped down rather than chewed.

Now, this doesn’t mean your dog should be grazing on grass like a cow. Sure, they may nibble on the grass, chew on the grass for a while and may not even throw up (an unwell dog will tend to gulp the grass down in big bites and then throw up). If this is the case, your dog may find the texture of the grass palatable, or maybe because your dog needs to add a little roughage to their diet.

Nutritional Necessity

Whatever the reason may be, most experts see no danger in letting your dog eat grass. In fact, grass contains essential nutrients that a dog might crave, especially if they are on a commercial diet. If you notice that your dog has been munching away on grass or houseplants, then you may want to introduce natural herbs or cooked vegetables into their diet. Dogs aren’t finicky like cats, but they’re not too fond of raw veggies either. They’re kind of like big furry kids that way.

So, when you think about it, grass munching isn’t that bad at all. However, pay attention if there is a sudden increase in grass eating; it could be a sign of a more serious underlying illness that your dog is trying to self treat, and that requires immediate veterinary assistance.

You may also want to buy a small tray of grass just for the dog, or start an herbal home garden. This will give your poor pooch an alternative to the outdoor grass and landscaping, the eating of which could lead to accidental ingestion of pesticides, herbicides, or chemicals that have been used to treat your (or your neighbor’s) yard.

Why Do Dogs Eat Grass? originally appeared on petMD.com

Walking the Talk: Dog Behaviors Explained

Learning to read dog behaviors dramatically shifts the way we think about and relate to them.

Ace is wrestling with a new friend three times her size. I watch intently as they play. Teeth bared, Ace lunges for the dog’s neck. The large dog nips back, and they jump, chests clashing. Ace takes off like a rocket in an arc around the park, while her friend pursues her closely. They pause, panting, and the large dog holds eye contact with Ace while bowing down on its front legs. Enticed, Ace lets out a short, rough bark, and they come together again as if dancing.

The dog in the middle handicaps herself so little Ace can join in the play.

Ace is 15 pounds, yet as I watch her play with dogs of all sizes I feel relaxed and delighted. I keep my eye on her and her friends; I know she is safe because I am able to read their body language. Understanding dogs’ communication with one another has been invaluable as I raise my first dog.

Shortly after I adopted Ace, I began bringing her to puppy playgroups four nights every week. Watching Ace play with other puppies fascinated me. Here were animals as young as 10 weeks old who were able to engage in complex social exchanges. I watched Ace learn these techniques from the other puppies, and with the guide of several fantastic instructors I began to decipher what was being said between the dogs. I learned to tell whether dogs were playing too aggressively, and the meaning of different behaviors like the play bow, mounting, and barking.

More incredibly, from watching Ace play I was able to begin to read her emotions: anxious, bored, inquisitive, tired, irritable, or joyful.

Have you noticed what your dog is saying? Drawing: Doggie Language by Lili Chin.

Around the same time, I enrolled Ace in basic obedience training, which was given the name “puppy kindergarten” at our “school.” I knew it was my duty to teach her how to navigate human society with good manners.  Since I had some knowledge of positive reinforcement and other operant conditioning methods, I thought I knew what to expect from kindergarten. However, it soon became apparent that the real focus of the classes was not on whether Ace would sit on command. I was as much of a student as Ace was. Just like the puppies in the playgroup, Ace and I were learning how to communicate with each other.

Though it may look vicious, Ace and I play-wrestle like dogs in a game we call “bitey face.”

In our classes, I learned that it takes a two-way conversation for me to teach Ace a behavior. I had to check to see whether she was paying attention, whether she would consider the treat in my pocket a high-value reward, and whether she had enough energy to practice the behavior. With her large, expectant eyes trained on me, I had to monitor her response to determine my next move.

For example, when learning the command “down,” Ace had trouble understanding that I wanted her belly completely on the floor. With patience and attunement to what Ace was saying, I learned how to tell her what I wanted.

Baby Ace licks her lips, telling me the bath is making her nervous.

Although formal classes are behind us (for now), Ace and I have developed a kind of language that allows us to communicate at a level I did not know possible. I think several factors are at play. One is that Ace can read my behavior for cues about what will happen next, so that simply by going about my business I am telling her something important. Ace’s power to read my movements is at times mysterious. Somehow she can tell whether I am leaving for my eight-hour workday or whether I’m running across the street to the corner store, even though I might be leaving at the same time of day. I know she can tell the difference because she communicates it to me: If I’m going to work, she rolls on her back and exposes her belly, asking me to stay, while if I’m going to the store she sits alert on the couch and waits for my quick return.

Because I know that smell is Ace’s strongest sense, often I will hold up a relevant object for her to sniff so that she knows what’s coming next. When it’s time to go to the dog park, I present her briefly with a whiff of the sneakers I wear only to the park. Ace knows it’s time for her dreaded weekly bath when she smells the ear cleaning solution I hold out to her. When I need to photograph her for one of my Dogster product review columns, I show her my camera and a bag of treats.

Ace sends me clear messages just by where she places herself. Here, she’s telling me to stop building Ikea.

Similarly, I can hear Ace speaking plainly to me through her behavior and body language. Often, she does this simply by placing her body in a specific location. I know when Ace is ready to get out of our bed because she will stand on my chest (thanks, Ace). I know when she is ready to eat dinner because she will stand in the kitchen. Sometimes it is the direction of her gaze that tells me what’s on her mind, though that can take a bit of guessing based on factors like the time of day and where she’s at in her routine.

Like a mother with her child, I can tell when Ace isn’t feeling well: she licks her lips and pushes herself onto my lap, laptop be damned! Similarly, though I’m not sure how exactly, Ace knows when I’m having a hard day: she stays close to my side in every room.

Learning to read Ace’s behaviors dramatically shifted the way I thought about and related to her. Instead of this object I possessed, she became a unique individual being separate from me, one with her own preferences, feelings, and hopes. This is not anthropomorphizing; although it is appealing, I make an effort not attribute to Ace thoughts and feelings that are probably not possible for a dog to have (like guilt). Rather, my empathy helps me feel close to Ace, and allows me to truly savor her joy. That’s why I can’t get enough of taking her to the dog park to watch her romp with new friends.



Are There Worms in Dog Poop? In Short, Yes

I’ve been playing phone tag with a friend recently. I guess it’s not too surprising considering that we’re all especially busy this time of year and she has a newborn (and four older children) in the house. I am hoping we get in touch with each other soon, though. She wants advice about coming up with a deworming protocol for her puppy and cats. She’s worried (and so am I) about the possibility that her pets could pass parasites on to her kids.

My two biggest concerns are hookworms (Ancylostoma spp.) and roundworms (Toxocara spp.). Here’s what the Centers for Disease control has to say about the zoonotic potential (the ability of animal diseases to spread to people) of these two parasites.


Puppies and kittens are especially likely to have hookworm infections. Animals that are infected pass hookworm eggs in their stools. The eggs can hatch into larvae, and both eggs and larvae may be found in dirt where animals have been. People may become infected while walking barefoot or when exposed skin comes in contact with contaminated soil or sand. The larvae in the contaminated soil or sand will burrow into the skin and cause the skin to become irritated in that area. For example, this can happen if a child is walking barefoot or playing in an area where dogs or cats have been (especially puppies or kittens).
Most animal hookworm infections result in a skin condition called cutaneous larva migrans. People are infected when animal hookworm larvae penetrate the skin, causing a local reaction that is red and itchy. Raised, red tracks appear in the skin where the larvae have been and these tracks may move in the skin day to day, following the larvae’s movements. The symptoms of itching and pain can last several weeks before the larvae die and the reaction to the larvae resolves. In rare cases, certain types of animal hookworm may infect the intestine and cause abdominal pain, discomfort, and diarrhea.


The most common Toxocara parasite of concern to humans is T. canis, which puppies usually contract from the mother before birth or from her milk. The larvae mature rapidly in the puppy’s intestine; when the pup is 3 or 4 weeks old, they begin to produce large numbers of eggs that contaminate the environment through the animal’s stool. [People] can become infected after accidentally ingesting (swallowing) infective Toxocara eggs in soil or other contaminated surfaces. There are two major forms of toxocariasis:
    • Ocular toxocariasis: Toxocara infections can cause ocular toxocariasis, an eye disease that can cause blindness. Ocular toxocariasis occurs when a microscopic worm enters the eye; it may cause inflammation and formation of a scar on the retina.
  • Visceral toxocariasis: Heavier, or repeated Toxocara infections, while rare, can cause visceral toxocariasis, a disease that causes abnormalities in the body’s organs or central nervous system. Symptoms of visceral toxocariasis, which are caused by the movement of the worms through the body, include fever, coughing, asthma, or pneumonia.

The best way to protect people from hookworms and roundworms is for all of us to pick up pet feces immediately when in a public environment and on a daily basis in our own yards, and to follow a veterinarian’s recommendation regarding fecal examinations and deworming. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to talk to my friend about this soon.


Dr. Jennifer Coates


What is Organic Pet Food?

Is organic pet food the right choice for you and your pet? Can you easily switch your pet to an organic diet if they’ve never had it before? Read on and make an educated decision based on your situation.

What is organic pet food?

Organic pet food prohibits the use of most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, sewage sludge fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, growth hormones, irradiation, antibiotics, and artificial ingredients. Organic pet food is closely regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP).

Organic Pet Food Labels

The key to knowing the percentage of organic ingredients used in a pet food product is by paying close attention to the label. You may have noticed the term “100% organic” on several pet food labels and wondered if this was a guarantee that the product did not contain artificial ingredients or any other unwanted ingredients. The answer is “yes!” Labels that use the phrase “100% organic” ensure that all the ingredients in the product are certified organic and regulated closely by the USDA. If you see the word “organic” this implies that the product contains at least 95% of organic ingredients, or is made with an organic specific ingredient list. However, there are ingredients that are not organic present. The term “made with organic” simply means that the product contains at least 70% organic ingredients, but a percentage of the ingredients are not organic.

Transitioning to an Organic Food Diet

The best way to switch your pet’s diet to organic is by slowly introducing them to the new organic food. A pet owner can do this by mixing the new food into the food they are currently being fed. It’s recommended to gradually increase the amount of new pet food each day while you decrease the amount of old food. This process generally takes about 7-10 days until the new diet is fully put in place. Remember to consult your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet’s diet.

How do I know how much organic food I should feed my pet?

Feeding guidelines are printed on the back of the pet food label. Food amounts depend on the specific needs and preferences of your pet. Your pet’s age, lifestyle, and activity level play a large part in the amount of food they should be fed.

Temple, Courtney

Beyond the Meow: Understanding Your Cat Sounds Meaning

Is your cat extra chatty? According to Catster, felines communicate with humans through sound because people can’t pick up on the nuance of their physical movements. You don’t often see cats meowing at each other because they can see subtle tail and ear movements. There are about 100 vocalizations in each cat’s repertoire, which they blend together to express themselves. Here is a bit of insight into a few:

If you have been around newly born kittens you might notice they meow a whole lot. This is because they can’t hear or see and they need this form of communication to get the attention of their mother.

Many people think purring is a calming sound cats make when they are content. This isn’t wrong, but there is more behind this noise. Sometimes it’s a way for the cat to soothe itself.

“The auditory frequency of the purr, around 25 cycles per second, is thought to have healing properties, and it almost certainly acts as an internal massage,” JaneA Kelley, a member of the Cat Writers’ Association, wrote in Catster.

A trill falls between a meow and purr and is a friendly sign, according to the source. It also can be a greeting.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

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Ask a Vet: What Dogs Cant Eat?

Dogs are nothing if not silly creatures. They have a knack for getting themselves in trouble in all sorts of hard-to-imagine ways. However, many of the ways in which dogs get themselves in trouble have something in common: The trouble starts with dogs’ mouths.

Dogs will eat anything. I’m not saying that your dog in particular necessarily would eat anything. I’m saying that dogs in general will eat just about anything, and I’m not talking about food. Your dog might not have any interest in consuming a rod of enriched uranium, but I can assure you that there is some dog somewhere who would.

Lately I have been thinking about some of the worst things I’ve seen dogs eat. There are many items that, when consumed by a dog, will almost always cause major trouble or death without significant intervention. Some of them are obvious — most people know that rat poison, gopher poison, and snail bait can cause terrible deaths in dogs who consume them. Others are less well known and owners can be massively surprised to learn that their dog could be in trouble after consuming them.

This article will discuss some of the most dangerous things I have seen dogs eat. Of course, it’s not possible to list every terrible item that I have seen a dog consume — this article might never end if I did. But here are some of the worst.

Rat bait, snail bait, and gopher bait

Poisonous to rats, snails and gophers. And dogs.

Grapes, raisins, and chocolate

Let’s get these ones out of the way early. Fortunately, death by chocolate is not common because quite a bit generally must be consumed. And fortunately many dogs do not seem to experience toxicity after eating grapes or raisins. But dogs who consume enough chocolate can suffer from gastrointestinal distress, seizures, coma, and death. Dogs that are sensitive to grapes can suffer from kidney failure.


Sometimes they pass. Sometimes they cause an intestinal obstruction.

Sugarless gum and candy

Now we’re getting to some seriously dangerous stuff. Most sugarless gums and candies contain xylitol. Xylitol tastes just like sugar to people, and it has no calories and is supposedly good for our teeth. Dogs, however, can experience fatally low blood sugar after consuming the stuff. They also can suffer from liver failure. I have known dogs that required many days of ICU care after consuming sugarless gum.

Moldy cheese, nuts, or compost

Moldy items often contain substances known as tremorgenic mycotoxins. These nasty chemicals cause seizures and disorientation. Fortunately, most dogs suffering from tremors after consuming moldy items will survive if they receive veterinary treatment.

Gorilla Glue

Gorilla Glue is not toxic. But it is attractive to dogs, and it causes a significant problem. When Gorilla Glue hits a dog’s stomach, it expands and hardens. It generally fills the stomach, and can only be removed surgically. Keep your dog away from the stuff.

Too-small balls

We have friends who like to give my pal Buster Christmas presents every year. Unfortunately, they seem to think that he is a Jack Russell Terrier rather than a Labrador Retriever mix. Every year, I am therefore forced to throw out or re-gift the tiny little balls that are perfectly sized for Buster to swallow or, worse, aspirate into his larynx. A ball in the intestines can cause an obstruction. A ball in the larynx can cause suffocation within minutes.


Resist the temptation to play fetch with a baseball. Although I have seen dogs pass amazing things — shards of glass, rib bones, rocks, strings of christmas lights — I think it is safe to say that it’s nearly impossible to pass a baseball. The interiors of baseballs are made of stringy rope. When that stuff unwinds in the intestines, an obstruction is incredibly likely.


U.S. pennies made after 1982 consist mostly of zinc. The acid in a dog’s stomach creates a perfect environment for the dissolution and subsequent absorption of the zinc. This leads to a major problem called hemolytic anemia, which is nearly universally fatal if not treated. Dogs who consume pennies require endoscopy or surgery, and usually must be monitored for several days afterwards. Blood transfusions are often necessary.


Not only do batteries put dogs at risk of intestinal obstruction. The corrosive compounds in them can also wreak havoc with the lining of the entire digestive tract, from mouth to anus.


Most antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, which can cause kidney failure if rapid action does not occur. There are two antidotes to ethylene glycol. Fomepizole, the superior antidote, is hard to obtain. Ethanol, an inferior option, is readily available in the form of vodka in places other than Utah and Saudi Arabia. Fortunately for American dogs, all major antifreeze producers in the United States have agreed to add bittering agents to their products. This hopefully will reduce the frequency of antifreeze toxicity in the US.

I have saved the very worst item for last. Here it is:

Toxic mushrooms

Mushrooms come in several varieties. Some are edible. Some cause hallucinations. Some cause tremors. Some cause gastrointestinal upset. And some cause liver failure. Dogs that eat all but the last category can usually survive. But those last ones, the so-called hepatotoxic mushrooms, are absolutely the worst things I have ever seen dogs eat (because I’ve never treated a dog that consumed enriched uranium). Dogs that eat them develop progressive and essentially untreatable liver failure. One of the more common ones where I live is called the Death Cap Mushroom. The name says it all. Keep your yard free of mushrooms, and keep your dog on leash when you’re walking in forested areas. Once a dog develops symptoms from eating a hepatotoxic mushroom, there is almost nothing that can be done to keep him from dying.

As I mentioned above, this list is far from exhaustive. Heck, I didn’t even have a chance to get to fish hooks, light bulbs, squeakers, and fake breasts. But the items above are common and frequently consumed. Let’s hope your dog never consumes any of them.

 Dr. Eric Barchas

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

310 919 9372


Have Purebred Dog Breeds Changed After 100 Years of Purebreeding

Photos from 1915 show how much purebred dog breeds have been altered dogs, and it’s not all about looks.

Because today’s first Scoop article touched only briefly on criticisms of the Obama family’s choice to get a purebred dog from a professional breeder, maybe the second one should take a look at the issues inherent in breeding dogs. The proper role of breeders is a hugely controversial one here at Dogster, and more than a few people will tell you that there is noproper role for breeders.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and this 2012 post from the blog Science of Dogs has words and pictures that illustrate the results of breeding precisely. The animated GIFs from Gizmodo take the point one step further.

Blogger Mus Musculus (presumably a pseudonym, because it’s the latin species name for the common house mouse) took photos from the 1915 book Dogs of All Nations, and paired them with modern photos of dogs from the same breed, in the same pose. The results after almost a century of selective breeding are striking. For instance, take a look at the change in the skull shape of the Bull Terrier below:

Bull Terrier, then and now.

Musculus singles out the English Bulldog as an especially egregious example of long-term breeding problems.

“There really is no such thing as a healthy Bulldog,” Musculus writes.” The bulldog’s monstrous proportions makes them virtually incapable of mating or birthing without medical intervention.”

The English Bulldog, then and now.

The Pug and the Boxer have seen their muzzles shrink in the past 100 years, resulting in common respiratory problems for each. Of the Pug, Musculus notes that “The highly desirable double-curl tail is actually a genetic defect, in more serious forms it leads to paralysis.”

The Boxer, then and now.

Of course, these dogs would be very different from their ancestors even if it weren’t for breeders. Ordinary natural selection, which took humans from being merely a particularly disreputable branch of the primates to inventing New York and the wheel, would have done its job on the Boxer and the Bulldog as well.

But one of the inherent results of selective breeding is that recessive traits, which need to be inherited from both parents in order to manifest, are preserved by interbreeding. Recessive traits are why human cultures discourage setting up housekeeping with cousins or siblings.

A characteristic that would otherwise get lost in the shuffle of genes over a few generations starts to turn into a standard characteristic. In humans, you start to get large incidences of things like hemophilia. In dogs, things like the double-curl tail become more common because they’re fetishized by owners and breeders.

Daschund, then and now.

The St. Bernard, then and now.

Does that make breeders inherently evil, or that we should harangue everyone who buys a dog from one? Regardless, it is worth thinking twice about what “purebred dog breeds”  actually means.         Chris Hall

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

310 919 9372


Antifreeze Poisoning in Dogs and Cats- What You Need to Know

With the onset of winter, the risk of antifreeze poisoning in dogs rises.

Recently a local politician had his cat die..he is calling for a ban on conventional antifreeze.

There is Non-Toxic antifreeze available, yet it is still difficult to find.

The brand is called Sierra.

Antifreeze poisoning is one of the most common and deadly toxicity seen in dogs and cats.

The toxic ingredient in antifreeze is ethylene glycol, ingestion of less than 2 ounces is potentially fatal for a 25 pound dog.

A cat only needs to lick 1/4 of an ounce.

Dogs and Cats are attracted to antifreeze spills by its sweet smell and taste.

When an animal swallows antifreeze, the ethylene glycol is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream from the stomach.

After absorption, the ethylene glycol is changed into several other chemicals by an enzyme in the liver.

The substances produced by the liver’s metabolism of ethylene glycol are highly toxic to the animal’s kidneys, and can result in the death of kidney cells. If a high enough dose of ethylene glycol is consumed, fatal and irreversible kidney failure results.


Signs of antifreeze poisoning are neurologic in nature resulting from the direct effects of the ethylene glycol.

Affected pets may be lethargic, uncoordinated, and vomiting.

Owners often describe their pet as “acting drunk.”smp-antifreeze, and the animal may have appeared to “recovered.” Signs of renal failure develop 24 to 48 hours after ingestion.

The pet will become very depressed, possibly even comatose. Seizures and vomiting may be seen.


Treatment of antifreeze poisoning involves supporting kidney function with fluid therapy and administering medications that reduce the metabolism of ethylene glycol by the liver.

The key to successful treatment is early recognition.

Treatment must begin in the first few hours after the pet consumes the antifreeze in order to prevent the irreversible kidney failure from developing.

Unfortunately, most pets with antifreeze poisoning are not taken to a veterinarian until they have been “sick for a day or two.”

At that point, treatment may be unsuccessful.

It is essential to take your dog or cat to the veterinarian if you believe there is even a chance that he may have consumed antifreeze.

Don’t wait until he begins to act ill!


The bottom line with antifreeze poisoning is prevention.

When changing the coolant in your vehicle, clean up all antifreeze spills immediately.

Be sure the antifreeze container is securely closed and out of reach.

Address a leaking radiator immediately, before it causes the tragic death of a family pet.

Sierra is a relatively non-toxic antifreeze that contains propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.

Consider using this type of antifreeze if your pets have access to the areas where vehicles are stored.

Antifreeze may also be found in snow globes (the glass balls with water, snow and scenes inside).

Take extra care in making sure snow globes do not break where your pet has access to lick or consume the material found inside.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

310 919 9372


What is Poisonous to Dogs and Cats: Keep Them Safe This Holiday Season

We love the holidays for celebrating some of life’s happiest moments and making memories with loved ones. Dogs and cats love the holidays too, especially when their owners and guests share extra time and pet treats with them. But all the interesting foods and decorations in our homes during the holidays can be irresistible to pets, sometimes landing them in emergency pet hospitals after tasting or eating them.
“Every year during the holidays, calls to Pet Poison Helpline increase substantially,” said Ahna Brutlag, DVM, MS, DABT, DABVT and associate director of veterinary services at Pet Poison Helpline. “Certain foods and items that bring holiday cheer to our homes can have the opposite effect on pets when ingested, making them very sick.”
Armed with knowledge, pet owners can keep their beloved best friends out of harm’s way this holiday season. To inform pet owners, and also to debunk some age-old myths, the veterinarians and toxicology experts at Pet Poison Helpline offer these tips for pet owners.
Human Eats and Drinks: Not for Pets
Some holiday foods we hold dear can be quite dangerous to pets, such as chocolate and cocoa, candy and sugarless gums that contain xylitol, yeast bread dough, leftover fatty meat scraps, and fruit cakes with raisins and currants. The fruitcake threat can be compounded if the cake is soaked in rum or another alcohol. Alcohol poisoning in pets can result in a dangerous drop in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature, potentially leading to seizures and respiratory failure. So, while entertaining this holiday season, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask guests to refrain from sharing human food and drinks with pets.
Seasonal Holiday Plants: Myths Debunked

Herein lie the myths. Over the years, the relative toxicity of poinsettias has been exaggerated. In reality, if ingested by a dog or cat, the sticky white sap usually causes only minor mouth or stomach irritation. Likewise, Christmas cactus can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and the spiny leaves of the Christmas or English holly can cause irritation and damage to pets’ stomachs and intestines. While serious complications aren’t likely with holiday plants, it’s still best to keep them out of pets’ reach.

Tinsel and Liquid Potpourri: Cat Owners Beware
Tinsel should be banned from households with cats. It looks like a shiny, fun toy to cats, but when ingested, tinsel can wrap around the tongue or anchor itself in the stomach making passage through the intestines impossible. Matters are made worse when the intestines contract and move, as tinsel can slowly cut through the tissue and cause severe damage to the intestinal tract. For all these reasons, it’s also best to keep ribbon, yarn and thread stowed away.
Liquid potpourris are dangerous too. They typically contain cationic detergents and essential oils that, if consumed by a cat, can cause severe chemical burns in the mouth, fever, difficulty breathing and tremors. Dogs are not as sensitive to the chemicals, but its best to keep potpourri out of their reach as well.
Handbags: Stow Them Away!
Be sure to store guest’s handbags out of your pets’ reach. Handbags typically contain many items poisonous to dogs and cats. The most dangerous are prescription medications, pain medications (e.g., Tylenol, Advil, Aleve), sugarless chewing gum, asthma inhalers, cigarettes, coins, and hand sanitizers.
Gifts: The Best Choice for Pets
Give the gift of safety and health to your pets by downloading and using the Pet Poison Help iPhone app for only $1.99. It has an extensive database of more than 200 foods, drugs, household cleaning supplies and plants that are potentially poisonous to pets. Each toxin has a full color photo, description, list of symptoms, and a bright yellow banner that indicates the severity of the toxin, from “mild to moderate,” to “moderate to severe.”
As you deck the halls and celebrate, keep the holidays happy for pets by placing potentially dangerous items out of their reach. If, however, you think a pet may have ingested something harmful, take action immediately. Contact your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680. At only $39 per call including follow-up consultations, Pet Poison Helpline is the most cost-effective animal poison control center in North America.
About Pet Poison Helpline
Pet Poison Helpline, an animal poison control center based out of Minneapolis, is available 24 hours, seven days a week for pet owners and veterinary professionals that require assistance treating a potentially poisoned pet. The staff provides treatment advice for poisoning cases of all species, including dogs, cats, birds, small mammals, large animals and exotic species. As the most cost-effective option for animal poison control care, Pet Poison Helpline’s fee of $39 per incident includes follow-up consultation for the duration of the poison case. Pet Poison Helpline is available in North America by calling 800-213-6680. Additional information can be found online at www.petpoisonhelpline.com.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

310 919 9372

Dog Chocolate Toxicity Meter:Can Dogs Eat Chocolate?

Dog Chocolate Toxicity Meter: Can Dogs Eat Chocolate?

What Makes Chocolate Toxic to Dogs

Chocolate contains substances known as methylxanthines (specifically caffeine and theobromine), which dogs are far more sensitive to than people. Different types of chocolate contain varying amounts of methylxanthines. In general, though, the darker and more bitter the chocolate the greater the danger.

For instance, 8 ounces (a ½ pound) of milk chocolate may sicken a 50-pound dog, whereas a dog of the same size can be poisoned by as little as 1 ounce of Baker’s chocolate!

Why Isn’t Chocolate Toxic to Humans?

Humans can break down and excrete methylxanthines such as theobromine much more efficiently than dogs.

What Should I Do if My Dog Ate Chocolate?

If you know your dog has ingested chocolate , or has any of the symptoms below, contact the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-213-6680 or your veterinarian right away.

Remember, with any poisoning, it’s always cheaper, less invasive, and has a better prognosis/outcome if you treat early. Once your dog has already developed clinical signs and is affected by the poison, it makes for a much more expensive veterinary visit!

Common Household Items

Common Household Items Serving Theobrominea Caffeinea
Ice Cream Rich Chocolate 1 cup ( 148g) 178mg 5.9mg
Peanut M&M’s 1 cup (170g) 184mg 17mg
Ready to Eat Chocolate Pudding 4 oz (108g) 75.6mg 2.2mg
Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar 1.55 oz (43g) 64mg 9mg
Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup 2 Tbsp (39g) 64mg 5mg
Hershey’s KISSES (Milk Chocolate) 9 pieces (41g) 61mg 9mg
Hershey’s Semi-Sweet Baking Bar 1 Tbsp (15g) 55mg 7mg
Cookies, brownies, commercially prepared 1 Square (2 –3/4” sq x 7/8″) (56g) 43.7mg 1.1mg
KIT KAT Wafer Bar 1 bar (42g) 48.7mg 5.9mg
REESE’S Peanut Butter Cups (2pk) 2 cups (45g) 32.4mg 3.2mg
Doughnut, cake-type, chocolate, sugared or glazed 1 Doughnut (3′ dia) (43g) 12.6mg 0.6mg
Chocolate Chip Cookies , made with margarine 1 Cookie Med (2 1/4″ dia) (16g) 20.3mg 2.6mg
Milky Way 1 bar (58g) 37.1 mg 3.5mg
Generic Hot Fudge Sundae Topping 1 Sundae (158g) 77.4mg 1.6mg
REESE’S PIECES Candy 1 package (46g) 0mg 0mg

The amount of caffeine and theobromine will vary naturally due to growing conditions and cocoa bean sources and variety.

Foods Highest in Theobromine

Cocoa, dry powder, unsweetened, processed with alkali [Dutch cocoa] 1 cup (86g) 2266 mg 67.1mg
Baking chocolate, unsweetened, squares 1 cup, grated (132g) 1712 mg 106mg
Cocoa, dry powder, unsweetened 1 cup (86g) 1769 mg 198mg
Baking chocolate, unsweetened, liquid 1 oz (28g) 447 mg 13.2mg
Puddings, chocolate flavor, low calorie, regular, dry mix 1 Package (40g) 238 mg 7.2mg
Desserts, rennin, chocolate, dry mix 1 Package, 2 oz (57g) 242 mg 7.4mg
Puddings, chocolate flavor, low calorie, instant, dry mix 1 Package, 1.4oz box (40g) 189 mg 5.6mg
Syrups, chocolate, HERSHEY’S Genuine Chocolate Flavored Lite Syrup 2 tbsp (35g) 68.3 mg 2.1mg
Cocoa, dry powder, hi-fat or breakfast, processed with alkali 1 oz (28g) 685 mg 20.2mg
Candies, chocolate, dark, 70-85% cacao solids I bar (101g) 810 mg 80.8mg
Cocoa, dry powder, hi-fat or breakfast, plain 1 Tbsp (5g) 92.6 mg 10.3mg

Symptoms of concern include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased body temperature
  • Increased reflex responses
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Rapid breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Advanced signs (cardiac failure, weakness, and coma)

Chocolate toxicity in dogs can be a dangerous thing.


“CAFFEINE & THEOBROMINE.” The Hershey Company. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Sept. 2013.
“Nutrition Information.” Nutrition Facts, Calories in Food, Labels, Nutritional Information and Analysis – NutritionData.com. Condé Nast, n.d. Web. 12 Sept. 2013.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

310 919 9372