Dog and cat lovers! This one is for you: babies and puppies are a winning combination for cuteness, but it's a hell of a combination to keep them all happy and healthy. This week we talked to Mark Hiebert, Medical Director at VCA TLC Animal Hospital in West Hollywood, about our pet-babies, about introducing a new baby into a house with pets, and – of course – about health and safety of our babies and puppies.
Chocolate is not as toxic as you might have thought!
Veterinarian Mark Hiebert blows up the chocolate-myth and says that it's dangerous relatively to the dog's weight and would require a whole lot more than you might think to do harm!
"Chocolate is not toxic in itself much more for your pet than even for you," the veterinarian confirms. "The problem is – and the type of chocolate is very important, so let's pick milk chocolate – the toxic dose is about an ounce per pound. This means that you have to eat a certain amount before it affects you. If I ate 164 ounces of milk chocolate I would be really ill. So if you dropped a chocolate chip on the floor – don't panic. But don't wrap your solid dark chocolate bar and put it under your Christmas Tree because the dog will smell it, they'll eat the wrapper and the chocolate and they will need to come see me in the ER."
What is more concerning to veterinarians is consumption of raisins and grapes.
"Raisins and grapes were banned from my house when we had dogs," Dr. Hiebert says. "They can potentially be fatal. Even a tiny box of them for a medium-sized dog can potentially cause kidney failure. The same with grapes. Another thing that people don't know about is the sweetener Xylitol. It's in many sugarless gums; it's in a lot of sugar-free gummy bear type things. It's very safe for people and in diabetics it's a very common sweetener. Very little [for dogs] can potentially cause liver failure, low blood sugar and so forth."
The Pet Food Industry is Insane
"You've probably seen the 'grain free' symbols on dog food. It's not nutritionally driven. it's not under AFCO which is an organization that looks at nutritional quality for pets," Dr. Hiebert reveals. "It started out as an advertising gimmick by one company. They put a grain-free logo on their bag and it soon took off and now the general population believes that 'grain free' has come from somewhere [because dogs are supposedly wolves and wolves eat meat]."
"[Dogs] are no more wolves than we are our predecessors thousands of years ago. So genetically through selection, what wolves eat and what our pets eat is a little different. But there's a whole marketing ploy, I mean, the pet food industry is insane. What you feed your dog is as controversial as what religion you are."
Protecting your Kids by Protecting Your Pet
"For parents who have young children I really swear them away from [dogs'] raw diets," Dr. Hiebert says, "because of the risks to human health. The Center for Disease Control has information on it's website about feeding raw food diets to your pets because of the type of pathogens that are in the raw foods. Salmonella would be an example."
"Everybody washes their food and vegetables before they give them to the kids but they are not worried about the child going over and petting the dog. So if the pet has Salmonella in the stool and they're going in the back yard, in the grass, the environment may have Salmonella organisms. That's just one example. There are also other types of parasites that dogs and cats can get that can effect children so those would be things that I talk about with people with children. I try to address routine intestinal parasite control, flea control, things like that."
About Mark Hiebert
Dr. Hiebert's family had a menagerie of pets and farm animals in northern Canada. After the first time their veterinarian came to their farm to examine one of the cows, Dr. Hiebert decided that he wanted to become a veterinarian too. He studied veterinary medicine at Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon, Canada and has been practicing since 1990. In 2001, Dr. Hiebert joined the medical team at our hospital and shortly afterward became a partner. VCA TLC Animal Hospital has since become his home away from home.
Early in his career Dr. Hiebert started a branch of the SPCA in his hometown in northern Canada. He became involved in the BC Veterinary Association and eventually served as president for a term. He is currently licensed to practice in California.
Editor's note: After we ran this piece, we were contacted by the good people at Your Dog Advisor, who passed along this updated, free guide on how to care for dogs recovering from surgery or an injury!
Co-Hosts: Yan Dekel, Alex Maghen
Guest: Dr. Mark Hiebert, Medical Director at VCA TLC Animal Hospital
Music: Hercules & Love Affair, "Leonora" buy here
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