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ASK THE VET: How to help your cat feel cozy in its carrier

by Lee Pickett, VMD | March 29, 2021 at 1:50 a.m.

Q: My cat Purrdue fights me when I try to get her into her carrier for her twice-yearly visits to her veterinarian. How can I make this easier for both of us?

A: Enhance the appeal of Purrdue's carrier by lining it with a thick towel and leaving it with its door open in a secluded corner of your home or inside an open closet. That way, she'll learn to feel safe napping in her carrier or hiding there when guests visit your home.

If Purrdue ignores her special den, lay a trail of cat treats to the carrier's door. Place a few treats and some catnip inside to encourage her to enter.

Spray the inside of the carrier with Feliway, the feline facial pheromone that signals relaxation and security.

Feed Purrdue near her carrier, gradually moving her food dish closer to the door and eventually placing it inside her carrier.

If these ideas don't help Purrdue feel content in her carrier, talk with her veterinarian about prescribing anti-anxiety medication to be given before her veterinary visits.

Q: Our dog Riley ate a lot of semisweet chocolate bits. His veterinarian advised us to use hydrogen peroxide to make him regurgitate. After Riley threw up all the chocolate, he was fine. What are the toxic effects of chocolate? How much does it take to make a dog sick?

A: Before I became a veterinarian, one of my golden retrievers ate a big bag of Hershey's Kisses. His vet gave me the same advice — and up came all the Kisses, most still in their foil wrappers with the little paper plumes standing in salute.

Once I entered the veterinary field, I learned how dangerous chocolate can be for dogs. Part of the problem is that dogs devour chocolate until it's gone, ingesting more than even I, who love the sweet, can eat at one sitting.

Fortunately, you witnessed Riley's indiscretion and acted quickly. If you hadn't, he might have experienced significant toxicity.

The clinical signs depend on the dose and type of chocolate. Toxicity follows ingestion of cocoa powder at a "dose" of 0.01 ounces per pound of the dog's body weight, baking chocolate at 0.02 ounces per pound, semisweet chocolate at 0.06 ounces per pound and milk chocolate at 0.15 ounces per pound of body weight.

Knowing the type of chocolate ingested is important because various types contain different amounts of theobromine and caffeine, chemicals called methylxanthines (METH'-ul-ZAN'-theenes) that are toxic to dogs. Pure chocolate contains the most, while chocolate diluted with milk, sugar and other ingredients has smaller concentrations.

Cocoa powder contains 800 milligrams of methylxanthine per ounce; baking chocolate, 440 mg per ounce; semisweet chocolate, 160 mg per ounce; and milk chocolate, 60 mg per ounce.

Methylxanthine doses of 10-20 milligrams per pound of the dog's body weight cause restlessness, regurgitation and diarrhea. At 20-25 mg per pound, dogs develop hyperactivity, agitation and loss of coordination. Larger doses cause rapid heartbeat, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures, coma and death.

So, a 50-pound dog that eats a 16-ounce bag of semisweet chocolate chips ingests 2,560 mg of methylxanthines, or 51 mg per pound of body weight, which can be fatal. Had the dog eaten the same amount of milk chocolate chips, he would have ingested 960 mg of methylxanthines, or 19 mg per pound, which would have been less toxic.

To make matters worse, dogs metabolize methylxanthines more slowly than humans do. Therefore, these chemicals reach higher levels in dogs' blood, and they remain there for up to three or four days.

If Riley ever raids the chocolate again, contact your veterinarian immediately or take him to an emergency clinic. Post these animal poison control phone numbers on your refrigerator:

◼️ ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, (888) 426-4435.

◼️ Pet Poison Helpline, (855) 764-7661.

Lee Pickett, VMD, practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Contact her at vet@askthevet.pet

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