By Ann Hohenhaus, DVM
Belle lives in a nice condo neighborhood just outside of New York City. Unlike city dogs, Belle has leafy trees overhead and green grass under her paws. To a city dog this might sound like heaven on earth, but as nice as country air and sunshine sound, there are dangers in Belle’s neighborhood.
A sweet scent
Last week when she came home from an afternoon car ride, Belle noticed the landscapers had been at work in the neighborhood. There were pretty new flowers in the gardens and chocolate brown mulch surrounding them. The garden smelled like a candy shop. Belle’s family knew chocolate could be dangerous for dogs and investigated. They discovered the mulch was made of cocoa bean shells, the leftovers from the manufacture of chocolate.
Cocoa mulch is popular with gardeners since it has a wonderful aroma, is organic, and does not fade in sunlight. Cocoa mulch should not be popular with dog owners since ingestion carries a risk of theobromine toxicity just like ingestion of chocolate candy. Dogs consuming cocoa mulch have been reported to exhibit vomiting, tremors, diarrhea, a rapid heart rate and hyperactivity. Now Belle can’t take a step outdoors without her family watching her every move to be sure she does not eat any mulch.
Beware of buzzing
When you live near a beautiful garden like Belle does, you also have to share your space with the bees who are attracted to the colorful flowers. Bee stings in dogs occur most commonly on the face. The patients I see most often with bee stings are curious young dogs out for their daily romp in the yard, not a mature lady like Belle. Most bee stings are self-limiting and don’t require treatment. After the initial surprise of the sting, your dog may scratch or lick the spot. You can help by applying an ice pack to help soothe the skin. If the swelling is severe or your dog was stung by a swarm of bees, it is best to head to the animal ER as anemia, lung injury, and anaphylaxis can occur. Anaphylaxis is a full-body allergic reaction to the proteins in bee venom. It usually occurs within 30 minutes of a bee sting. If your dog develops an anaphylactic reaction, he will vomit, have diarrhea, and have very noisy respirations. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening emergency and requires a trip to the animal ER.
If you and your pet are like Belle and live in a neighborhood where landscaping is provided, do what Belle’s family did and ask questions about the products used by the gardeners. When they are outside, keep your pets away from places where bees hover such as flowering plants, picnic leftovers, empty soda cans and smelly trash. Always be sure they wear an ID collar outdoors and monitor your pet’s activities to keep them safe.