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What To Do If Your Dog Eats Chocolate

Dogs and Chocolate

What to do if your dog eats chocolate | Whitworth Animal Clinic

With Valentine’s Day coming up make sure to keep any chocolates out of your dog’s reach.

Dog owners know that dogs seem to be endlessly on the lookout for snacks and will eat just about anything they are given or can get their paws on. Unfortunately this includes chocolate, which is toxic to dogs. With Valentine’s Day coming up, it’s important to keep your dogs away from any chocolate you have in the house. If an accident should happen and your dog eats some, here are some things you should know.

A little chocolate will not bring instant death to a dog, so don’t panic if your dog eats a chocolate chip cookie or a few pieces of chocolate candy. It would take a large quantity of chocolate to cause real danger, but even small amounts can cause some symptoms to arise. The smaller the dog, the less chocolate it takes to cause serious problems.

Dark chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate. Semi-sweet chocolate and baker’s chocolate are the biggest dangers, so be sure to take extra caution in keeping these types away from your dog. The chemical theobromine is the culprit, and it is found in higher amounts in dark, semi-sweet chocolate.

If your dog ingests baker’s chocolate this should be considered an emergency and you should call a veterinarian immediately. With other types of chocolate, especially in small amounts, don’t panic, but be on the lookout for symptoms of chocolate poisoning. Vomiting and diarrhea are common after ingestion of small amounts of chocolate, but more severe symptoms include agitation, rapid or abnormal heart rate, tremors, seizures and collapse.

Most dogs can survive chocolate poisoning with proper treatment, which can include activated charcoal to decontaminate and may include antacids, heart medications, IV fluids and catheterization. Dogs that are very young, very old or that have other health problems are at greater risk.

In general, you should keep your dog away from chocolate entirely, but if he or she manages to eat some anyway, don’t panic, but be aware of the symptoms, and keep your vet’s phone number handy at all times. You can visit the website of Whitworth Animal Clinic for more information on pet health.

How to Keep Your Pet’s Teeth Clean Between Checkups

Pet Dental Tips

Pet Dental Hygiene | Whitworth Animal Clinic | Huntsville, ALThe American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC) emphasizes the importance of between-checkup home pet dental care for your pet’s comfort and safety. The truth is, having your pet’s teeth cleaned during vet checkups simply is not enough to ensure good oral hygiene. Only with regular, consistent mouth care can you keep plaque, tartar, and more serious health conditions like periodontal disease at bay. Follow these tips to safeguard your pet’s oral health.

Ask Your Vet About Oral Hygiene Between Checkups
You should follow the schedule your vet gives you for regular teeth cleaning appointments. Your vet can also give you specific guidance about home pet dental care. For best results, ask your vet to recommend a routine you can follow between appointments. They may even have specific products they want you to use based on your pet’s unique oral health needs.

How to Tell When Your Dental Health Routine is Not Enough
The ASPCA gives 10 specific guidelines to ensure your pet has good oral hygiene and dental health. The ASPCA recommends that you regularly smell your pet’s breath, examine his or her teeth and gums, follow a dentist-recommended oral health diet, know how to brush your pet’s teeth properly, and offer chew toys in between brushing.

Different Types of Products for Your Pet’s Oral Health
You can choose from many different types of products that can help your pet’s mouth, gums, and teeth stay strong and healthy between medical teeth cleanings. Some products are dental chews. Others can be added to the food or water. Still others are built into the food your pet eats. You can also supplement with a special toothpaste just for pets. According to veterinarians at Whitworth Animal Clinic, under no circumstances should you ever try to brush your pet’s teeth with human toothpaste.

A Brief Oral Health Product Overview
Knowing what pet dental products to choose when can be very helpful.

  • Pet toothpaste. Using a special pet toothpaste with a dental kit for pets is the best way to keep your pet’s teeth clean between vet visits.
  • Dental chews. Chewing not only reduces plaque and tartar buildup but also keeps stress levels manageable.
  • Powders, food, or liquids. Liquids can include oral rinses and powders can be dissolved into water or food, making this a very easy oral health regimen for skittish pets

You can contact Whitworth Animal Clinic to learn more about at-home dental health for pets and set up a checkup for your pet.

Pet Dental Health Month: Professional Cleanings

Teeth Cleaning for Pets

photo of vet looking at a dog's teethYou are probably aware of how important it is for you to have regular dental cleanings, but did you know your pet’s mouth needs similar care? Without regular oral care your pet could suffer from plaque and tartar build up that could lead to periodontal disease. Periodontal disease can lead to tooth extractions or, in some cases, the infection of the bloodstream and major organs. At Whitworth Animal Clinic, we can assess what regular care is best for your pet, as well as assess if professional cleaning is needed. Professional pet dental care is one of our many areas of expertise, and the professional cleanings we provide will help keep your pet at his or her optimal health.

You and I understand the need to care for your pet’s teeth, but your pet does not. If a cleaning is necessary, we will ensure your pet’s safety and comfort with anesthesia. We will conduct the necessary blood work required to assess if the anesthesia is safe for your pet. During the cleaning, Dr. Whitworth and his staff will safely remove any plaque and tartar accumulations using dental scalers. Following the scaling, the teeth with be polished. This aids in removing any plaque left behind, as well as smoothing the tooth. The smoother the tooth, the less likely plaque and tartar will be able to stick to it. Once cleaned, Dr. Whitworth will inspect further for any more oral problems that need to be remedied. As a final step, a substance to prevent the buildup of plaque will be applied.

Whether or not a professional cleaning is necessary, the staff at Whitworth Animal Clinic can help you determine the best at-home oral hygiene routine for your pet. We will teach you how to identify problems through checking the mouth for malodorous breath and inspecting the gums. There are also other preventative steps you can take at home, such as brushing the teeth, adding remedies to the water, and using certain foods.

January is National Pet Dental Health Month, which makes it a great time to call our office and schedule an appointment for professional pet dental care. Your pet’s oral health is key to its good health, so please let us help you keep your loved one as healthy as can be.

Cold Weather Care for Your Pets

Pet Health in Winter

Cold Weather Care for Your Pets | Whitworth Animal Clinic | Huntsville, ALWhile winter weather is a sure signal of the approach of the holiday season and beautiful snow-covered neighborhoods, it is also a time for special consideration of your pets’ winter needs. Take extra care by following the seven simple tips below to keep your furry friends safe and happy this season.

1. Don’t leave your dog or cat in the car while running holiday errands. A cold vehicle mimics a refrigerator, keeping cold air in and causing dogs and cats to freeze even more quickly than they would outside in the elements.

2. To keep your dog more comfortable during outdoor winter walks, always make sure he is fully dry when going outside post-bath, and consider a coat or sweater for short-haired breeds. If you’re accustomed to shaving your long-haired dog down to the skin, refrain from doing this in the winter.

3. Always use a clean towel to wipe your dog’s coat when bringing him inside after a walk or other trip out into the elements. Road salt, antifreeze and other dangerous chemicals can stick to his coat, especially around his paws, legs and stomach, and you don’t want him to ingest them later while licking his coat.

4. Keep your cat indoors during cold weather, as dropping temperatures carry an increased risk of death or illness caused by exposure to the elements.

5. If you know of outdoor or stray cats in your neighborhood, take extra care when starting your car. In cold temperatures, cats like to sleep under the hood for warmth. Avoid harming a friendly stray by knocking on your vehicle’s hood a few times before starting the engine.

6. Keep your dog leashed during the winter, even if she can usually be trusted to stay near you or find her way home. Ice and snow can cause dogs to lose their scent, which is part of the reason that winter is the time of year when more dogs are lost than in any other season.

7. Keep a cozy, warm blanket or pet bed in your home that is set away from drafty areas. Dogs and cats aren’t able to retain as much body heat when snoozing directly on the floor, so providing an elevated and insulated alternative is imperative this time of year.

Heartworm Prevention in the Winter

Heartworm Prevention

Heartworm Prevention | Dr. Charles Whitworth | Madison, ALHeartworm disease is a very serious condition that affects dogs, cats, and other mammals. This sometimes-fatal condition is caused by parasitic worms inside of the arteries of the lungs and in the right side of the heart. Numerous species of roundworms can cause heartworm disease, including filarids. Vital organs in the animal’s body are harmed while the worms are traveling through the bloodstream. Heartworm disease mainly occurs when an animal comes in contact with an infected mosquito. This is primarily the reason why many people believe their beloved pets are safe during the cold winter months. The truth is that heartworm can affect animals all year round, which is why heartworm prevention is important.

When an animal has heartworm, they will usually display many symptoms that include coughing, vomiting, weight loss, and labored breathing. They also might be very listless and not move around a lot. In the very early stages of the disease, the animal may not experience any symptoms other than a slight cough. During this stage, it is very hard to detect because the animal will usually appear to be happy and healthy. The second stage of the disease is when the symptoms start to pop up and become noticeable. This is when pet owners start to really notice that something is wrong. Stage three and four is when the symptoms are more severe, such as coughing up blood. By stage four of the disease, there is a chance the animal will have long-term implications to their health. If a pet owner notices that their animal is acting differently, they should take them to the vet as soon as possible for an examination.

Heartworm is easily preventable, even in the winter or the summer months. Madison, Alabama residents can take their pets to Whitworth Animal Clinic to get their pet checked out. A veterinarian will prescribe pills that are effective at preventing heartworm disease. The pills are administered monthly, and should be given to the animal all year long. Many pet owners just give their pets the heartworm medication during the summer months, but the American Heartworm Society recommends that pet owners give the medicine to their pets every month.

Heartworm prevention is absolutely essential to making sure your pet does not get this sometimes-fatal disease. Heartworm is treatable in most cases with a series of injections into the muscle of the animal. It is much safer and easier for a pet owner to take the extra steps to prevent heartworm, even in the winter months.

Happy Thanksgiving! from Whitworth Animal Clinic

Whitworth Animal Clinic
Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Food for Your Dog to Avoid

10 Thanksgiving Foods that are Dangerous for Your Dog!

For most families, Thanksgiving means a mixture of food, fun, and football. But with all the feasting, dog owners need to be on the lookout for their clever friend sneaking a snack when everyone is passed out for the customary afternoon nap.

Although, giving your dog a slice of turkey or ham isn’t an problem, the following list of traditional Thanksgiving fare can be harmful for the furry member of your family and should be avoided:

  • Bones
  • Raw or undercooked turkey
  • Turkey Skin
  • Dough or Cake batter
  • Beer
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions and Garlic
  • Sage
  • Nutmeg
  • Chocolate

The best way to make sure your dog stays healthy this Thanksgiving is to make sure you keep them well fed with appropriate food. Besides, if you give them a few suitable treats, we bet they’ll be more than willing to help you with that afternoon nap you have planned.


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As early as age two, pets may already have tartar and plaque build-up on their teeth. Whitworth Animal Clinic offers veterinary dentistry.
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Thanksgiving Foods Your Dog Should Avoid

Thanksgiving Foods to Avoid

Tips on Thanksgiving food and your pet | Whitworth Animal ClinicFor most families, Thanksgiving means a mixture of food, fun, and football. But with all the feasting, dog owners need to be on the lookout for their clever friend sneaking a snack when everyone is passed out for the customary afternoon nap.

Although, giving your dog a slice of turkey or ham isn’t an problem, the following list of traditional Thanksgiving fare can be harmful for the furry member of your family and should be avoided:

  • Bones
  • Raw or undercooked turkey
  • Turkey Skin
  • Dough or Cake batter
  • Beer
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions and Garlic
  • Sage
  • Nutmeg
  • Chocolate

The best way to make sure your dog stays healthy this Thanksgiving is to make sure you keep them well fed with appropriate food. Besides, if you give them a few suitable treats, we bet they’ll be more than willing to help you with that afternoon nap you have planned.

For more information about taking care of your dog this Thanksgiving, read more from our veterinarian blog.

Significant Health Problems of the Senior Feline

geriatric cat care | Whitworth Animal Clinic | Huntsville, ALAs animals begin to age, they are susceptible to a wide range of potential health problems that can range from the mild to the severe. As our pet’s guardians, we must be on the lookout for signs of disease as our cats enter their senior years. Many of the diseases that affect older cats do have treatments available if the diseases are detected in the earlier stages.


Cancer affects both dogs and cats as they age. It is the major killer of both cats and dogs. Cat owners should check their pets for signs of tumor growth on the skin by looking for moles or spots of an unusual color or with an irregular margin.

If your cat is eating less or drinking less water, that may be a sign of cancer of the internal organs. There may be signs of significant weight loss. The cat may also avoid contact with the owner or exhibit signs of pain when handled or petted.

There are cancer treatments available. Surgical procedures can remove tumors, and chemotherapy is available for cats. It is highly effective for some forms of cancer.

Renal Failure

Senior cats are often troubled by kidney malfunction. If your cat’s kidneys stop working properly, it can lead to infections. One of the major signs of kidney disease is excessive thirst. The cat just can’t seem to get enough water. The cat may have frequent urination, as well. In some instances of kidney failure, cats will stop drinking and become dehydrated.

Renal failure is not curable in cats, but the progression of the disease can be slowed with appropriate treatment. Fluids given subcutaneously are often part of the treatment process, and there are drugs available to help the kidneys function more efficiently.

Dental Disease

Gum disease is prevalent in the senior cat population. Tartar build up often leads to infections, and this can lead to tooth loss. Cats with significant gum disease often eat less, and they may be lethargic.

Check your cat’s teeth for tartar build up. Dr. Whitworth can easily remove tartar and prevent tooth loss.


Hyperthyroidism is a common problem in older cats. It is caused when the thyroid gland overproduces thyroid hormones. Cats with hyperthyroidism often exhibit excessive thirst or appetite. Upon examination, the cat may have an irregular heart rhythm. This condition is treated by either removing the thyroid or irradiating it. Sometimes, medication is used to control the condition.

If you happen to notice any of these signs in your elderly cat, the staff at Whitworth Animal Clinic is here to help. Please give us a call to discuss your options and set up an appointment to have your furry family member checked out! Just like humans early detection is the key to solving some of the these health issues.

Does Your Dog Suffer From Separation Anxiety?

Dog Separation Anxiety

dog separation anxiety | Whitworth Animal Clinic | Madison, AL

Separation anxiety is a real illness in dogs.

Like flawless individuals, flawless animals don’t exist. Separation anxiety is a very real illness. It’s a pet’s inflated terror over parting from its owners.

Autumn can entail less time with cherished relatives, mostly those who will be in school all day, and that can initiate separation anxiety in dogs.

Frequently, indications of minor separation anxiety are overlooked by owners as they have a tendency to happen when we are not home or are believed as merely being an indication that our pet adores us.


Dogs in danger of separation anxiety might:

  • Often pursue an owner’s interest during the day
  • Shadow owner(s) around the residence
  • Pursue consolation from owners when something unforeseen happens
  • Welcome owners boisterously once they get home

Indications of established separation anxiety consist of:

  • Yapping, whining, or yowling when left alone
  • Damaging actions
  • Getaway efforts through or around doors, windows, enclosures, barriers, etc.

If you think that your dog might have separation anxiety, it is vital to keep in mind that he or she is genuinely horrified in your absenteeism. Reprimand of any kind is undeniably the erroneous retort to terror and will truly make the condition worse, instead of improved. Helpful treatment for separation anxiety includes evading the actions that underline “neediness,” training the dog to unwind, and offering constructive support for doing so.

Behavioral adjustment procedures frequently contain recommendations, like:

  • Pretend to go, but then remain or walk out the door. Instantly return. Providing the dog stays composed, slowly upsurge the quantity of time you are gone.
  • When you do return, pay no attention to your dog until he or she is composed.
  • Do not permit your dog to snooze in your bed.
  • Ask someone else to perform tasks with your dog that he or she revels in.
  • Get your dog to anticipate the time alone by meting out distinct playthings once you depart and stashing them away when you return.
  • If you frequently have a TV or radio set on while you are at home, leave it when you go away.

Prescription and nonprescription anxiety relievers can likewise be beneficial, but must be regarded as a method of augmenting the helpfulness of instead of substituting behavioral adjustment methods. Dr. Whitworth can typically make suggestions for controlling slight or temperate cases of separation anxiety, but if the state is totally unmanageable, a recommendation to a veterinary behaviorist might be the best choice for all involved.

Right Pawed in a Left Pawed World

Pet Paw Preference

animal behavior | Whitworth Animal Clinic | Madison, ALOne of the first things we learn as kids is whether we are left handed, right handed, or ambidextrous. Which hand is the most comfortable to manipulate and write with becomes almost immediately obvious, even before we have a pencil in our chubby little hands. Animal behavior studies show that, just like their human companions, our pets have a preference to which paw they prefer to use. Some people even speculate that, just like there are special traits associated with left handed people, your left pawed pet may have certain characteristics.

The two hemispheres of the mammal brain control movement on the opposite respective sides of the body, the right side of our brains governing movement on the left and vice versa. There is no hard evidence that paw preference influences pet behavior. However, since many creative processes take place on the right side of the brain and many logical processes occur on the left side, some people speculate that being left handed (or pawed, or hooved) may contribute to a more artistic nature, and other unique traits.

While more than 90% of people are right handed, studies performed in Turkey in 1991 showed that 50% of cats are right pawed, while 40% prefer their left and 10% appear to be ambidextrous, while a later University of Manchester study showed that dogs are split about half and half. Many scientists believe that, while hand or paw preference is most likely genetic, highly social species like humans that depend on cooperation for survival eventually develop a culture that values using one side over the other, which in turn shapes our genetics, resulting in the high population of right handed humans. While human lefties have to struggle with using right-handed scissors, your left handed pet seldom encounters the stresses of a right handed world.

Dr. Stefanie Schwartz, a veterinarian working in Tustin, CA, has developed some tests to determine which side your pet prefers; here are a few easy steps to help satisfy your curiosity:

  • Put something sticky on your pet’s nose. Which paw does your cat or dog use first to try to get rid of it?
  • Put a bit of heese or some other tasty treat under a sofa or out of reach. Which paw does your pet use first to get at it?
  • When you teach your dog to shake, which paw does he or she use most often?
  • When you dangle a toy for your cat, which paw does he or she use to bat the toy?

Although Dr. Schwartz’s steps are easy enough to follow, she recommends performing them at least 100 times for an accurate result. Perhaps that is a bit far to go, at least until you teach your tabby how to hold a pencil.