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Spring has just arrived. The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming and the chocolate bunnies are hopping their way into our homes for Easter. Although we love the taste of chocolate, make sure your pets cannot get a hold of it.

Chocolate is toxic for dogs.Chocolate contains toxins called methylxanthines, such as theobromine and caffeine. The darker the chocolate, the greater chance of danger to our pets. As little as 2 oz of milk chocolate can cause illness such as vomiting or diarrhea in a 10-pound dog, and possibly even heart abnormalities. In contrast, 2 oz of semi-sweet chocolate is potentially fatal for the same dog without quick treatment. Vomiting and diarrhea could be seen in the same dog with as little as ½ oz of semi-sweet chocolate, or ¼ oz of baker’s (unsweetened) chocolate.

If you are worried that your pet may have eaten chocolate, call your veterinarian for guidance right away. Signs of chocolate toxicity include vomiting and/or diarrhea, increased thirst, excessive urination, panting, restlessness and increased heartrate. More severe cases would include muscle tremors, seizures and heart failure.

Depending on the situation, you might be advised to induce vomiting at home with a 50/50 mix of hydrogen peroxide and water (about 1 tsp per 10 pounds of body weight). However, if your pet is already showing some advanced signs and symptoms of poisoning (e.g. panting, seizures), DO NOT induce vomiting. Get emergency veterinary treatment at once.

Lilies can be deadly to cats.Another concern to be aware of this spring is the toxic effects of one of our most beloved springtime flowers, the lily. Day lilies, Easter lilies, stargazer lilies, Asiatic lilies, tiger lilies, and other plants that belong to the same family are extremely toxic to our cats. Some plants that have the name “lily” in them – such as lily-of-the-valley, peace lilies, calla lilies – may not cause the same toxicity as the others, but may cause other types of toxic effects.

Summertime brings warm weather to be enjoyed by everyone, including our pets. However, warm weather can bring health risks to your pets. Being aware of these risks, as well as how to prevent them and help to manage them should they occur, can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.

The weather dangers in the summer are not strictly related to heat. In fact, heat and humidity combine to create unhealthy weather.

This chart developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows how the combined effect of heat and humidity creates a more significant health hazard than either by itself.

A frequently used calculation to determine the level of risk with the weather is to add the temperature (in degrees Fahrenheit) and the percent humidity. For example, if it is 80o F, and 70% humidity, the result is 150. If this total number is greater than 140, the risk for heat-associated events is high, and the activity or exercise should be reconsidered.

This is especially true for dogs with pre-existing respiratory problems such as laryngeal paralysis, tracheal collapse, stenotic nares; and for breeds with shortened noses, such as Boston terriers, Pekingese, Shih Tzu, pugs, bulldogs, and Lhasa Apso dogs

Every year, hundreds of pets die of heat-related complications after they were left in parked cars on warm days. A recent study on heat stress from enclosed vehicles showed that the internal temperature of a parked car can rise 20o in just 10 minutes, and in an hour, can increase over 45o F. What's more, cracking the windows to allow for cooling did not significantly slow this heat rise down (it only slowed the heat gain by about 1/4o every 5 minutes). In the summer, our pets are much better left at home to help avoid this dangerous situation.

One of our favorite holidays is just around the corner, and many pets will be included in the festivities. After all, how could you resist a cute face looking up at you at the Thanksgiving table?

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Be careful when feeding turkey and all sorts of other delicious foods as treats or meals this Thanksgiving. In addition to the risk that bones from meats can cause, the oils and fats in some of the food (especially turkey drippings) can cause a condition called Acute Pancreatitis.

The pancreas is a small organ, but plays a big part in digesting food. When the pancreas gets irritated, it can cause your pet to become very sick. Pancreatitis can be life-threatening and must be treated by your veterinarian.