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Dr. Bennett and a black dog.

Dr. Bennett’s Office: The holidays bring plenty of sweet treats with toxicity risks for our dogs…

By Dr. Victoria Bennett, Veterinary Advisor, CNIB Guide Dogs

Theobromine and caffeine are known toxins in chocolate. The consequences vary, depending on the kind of chocolate (i.e. baking chocolate is the most toxic and milk chocolate or chocolate flavours are the least toxic) and the amount. Therefore, symptoms are highly variable. Generally, they range from vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain to caffeine overdose, which causes agitation, panting, twitching and seizures.

Another toxin is Xylitol, an artificial sweetener, found in many products (e.g. baked goods, candies, chocolate, chewing gum, mints, mouthwash, sugar-free puddings and toothpaste) in the home – see how many you can find in yours! Xylitol is highly toxic to dogs. Just one stick of gum can be toxic for a small dog. It causes low blood sugar, which results in depression, weakness or seizures, and it may result in end-stage liver failure. To learn more, visit

Marijuana is readily available in a variety of forms. Ingestion (or inhalation) may cause listlessness, incoordination, dilated pupils, urinary incontinence or a "startle reaction" – dogs may suddenly wake up when they're acting drowsy and urinate. Toxic symptoms vary, depending on the formulation and the amount that was ingested.

If your dog has ingested any toxic ingredient, always report it to your veterinarian. It is important to provide them with details of the ingredient, the estimated amount in terms of grams and the timing of ingestion.

Keep your guard up! Even carefully monitored dogs have been exposed to or treated for ingestion of these toxins.