Sunday, April 23, 2006


Chocolate Nightmare

Most of my memories of chocolate are fond. There is the memory of my great aunt Helen arriving at our house for every occasion with a box of Fannie May Colonial Assortment of chocolates. Irresistible! There is the sweet memory of my first love sharing his giant bar of Hershey's with me in Fort Zany. When I lived in the e.e. Cummings House in Sandburg Terrace on the twenty-second floor and the wind was blowing from south to north the Blommers Chocolate Factory would perfume the air with its most intoxicating aroma. Nights sitting on my balcony were like a calorie free trip to Willy Wonka's.

However there is one chocolate story that is a nightmare. My chocolate nightmare! Almost two years ago, on a beautiful summer evening, my husband and baseball loving son had gone off to see the Charlotte Knights play. I stayed back with the other two children and our three month old Jack Russell Terrier puppy, Jenny.

My daughter was seven and our new puppy was her world. I was out gardening when she popped her head out the front door and asked if she could give Jenny some treats. Sure, but not too many I called back.

As the light began to fade I came inside to see the lazy Susan cabinet opened and the newly purchased container of Vitakraft Choco Milk Drops knocked on the floor. I picked up the container and noticed the new jar was now only two-thirds full. I smiled thinking, that girl is going to spoil that puppy.

My children and puppy were happy inside, all snuggled up together. This was rather unusual. Jenny was usually running circles around her circles, but instead she was asleep! Asleep? A Jack Russell Terrier puppy asleep? This struck me as rather odd. Then I looked closer. Jenny was huge. She was completely bloated! And she was struggling to breath. Suddenly she was heaving. I picked her up and put her out on the front step where she immediately puked. I guess she had too many treats.

I brought her inside and watched her body shake. Maybe she's cold after being sick. I swaddled her in a baby blanket and kept a close eye on her. After fifteen minutes her condition was not improving. She seemed almost comatose. I called my husband on his cell phone. He said the game was over and they were headed home. By the time he arrived home Jenny's condition had worsened. She had thrown-up again and was so bloated she looked like road side kill. My husband and oldest son scooped Jenny up and took her and the doggie treats to the animal emergency room.

It turns out that one of the main ingredients of Vitakraft Choco Milk Drops is cocoa. Cocoa is lethal for dogs. Jenny had to be given charcoal to stabilize her. It is a miracle she survived her ordeal. Her body had reached a dangerously toxic level of cocoa. She had to spend the night in the E.R. The doctors were floored that these lethal poisons were being sold as dog treats in a national pet store!

The next day, with my $200 E.R. bill in hand I marched into Petsmart were I bought the treats and demanded they pay for the E.R. vet visit. Their only solution was to refund me for the Vitakraft treats and nothing more. I asked that they talk to management about removing the Choco Milk Drops from their shelves. They told me they had no control over what their purchaser ordered. Crazy and irresponsible! I trusted Petsmart to provide healthy and safe treats for my dog. Never again will I pick up a can or bag without fully reading the label.

Since her near death experience Jenny has made a full recovery and is an energetic and fun loving dog who loves to play, dig and paint. We stick to dog kibble, Milkbones and Mother Hubbard biscuits as rewards now. I also stay out of pet stores that refuse to read the labels of the products they sell or listen to their customers.

Chocolate is a tasty human treat but can be deadly for dogs. Thankfully for us Jenny survived.


paris parfait said...

Thank goodness your dog survived! Incredible how some stores can be so cavalier about these things. Thanks for sharing your story.

elite_investor said...

That is crazy. And Petsmart still sells those treats?

Kara said...

Wow, that is irresponsible for a big pet store like that to sell something toxic to dogs!!! Of course- have you noticed that they also sell human treats up at the register in the form of candybars. It's a pet store- for crying out loud. I'm so glad your dog survived - truly a nightmare!

harmonyinline said...

Poor Jenny...When I was I in collage I got my own puppy I adored him, I used to share my chocolate candy bars with him. Of course I knew candy wasn’t the best food for a dog but I figured it wasn’t any worse for him than it was for me I would give him the bigger half because I shouldn’t be eating them we are both so fortunate that our dogs survived these chocolate mistakes. But of course I was young and foolish. I would think we should be able to expect a higher level of responsibility from a dog treat manufacture. I am surprised that Petsmart wasn’t more responsible – at least removing the product from their shelves.

Endment said...

What a story!
In spite of it all Jenny survived and I am so glad!
If chocolate does that to dogs --- wonder what it really does to us????

LauraHinNJ said...

Glad she's okay!

Vitacraft makes treats for lots of animals. The ones for rabbits are junk and can be just as dangerous as the chocolate ones for dogs if not fed sparingly. But, who feeds treats sparingly?

Terri said...

Wow...what a scary story! I did know human chocolate was lethal for our dogs, but never thought it might be an ingredient sold in of ALL places, Petsmart!
Thanks for the alert, Lisa. You made this doggie owner a bit wiser.

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In Otter Space said...

Can you beleive the idiot that posted the above comment. I'm not deleting it because it really shows the yet again ignorance of Vitakraft and it's employees.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe you thought it was appropriate to try to get PetSmart to pay your ER bill.

I would obviously prefer it if PetSmart wasn't selling these treats because I know idiot pet-owners like you exist, but they don't force anyone to buy them.

You are the idiot that fed them to your dog. You are the idiot that fed way too many of them to your dog.

It is YOUR responsibility to know what the hell it is you're feeding your dog.

lolololo said...

Thanks Anonymous for your uplifting words of encouragement. Glad you were brave enough to leave an anonymous comment for an idiot like me.

Flo said...

Well, you know Anonymous was right. Pet stores, not just PetSmart, sell food and products that aren't suitable for many pets.If you fed your dog Gravy Train or similar grabage food all it's life and because of the inferior ingredients, she got fat and had heart problems, would you demand that your vet bills be paid? If she had an allergy to beef and you bought beef dog food, making her sick, would you demand that the vet bill be paid?

The bottom line is that pet owners need to be responsible enough to check labels. And if your child thought it appropriate to feed a third of a container of treats, then clearly, she needs to be taught about responsible pet feeding.

So, yeah, PetSmart should probably yank them, and VitaKraft shouldn't make them, but you need to learn how to be a responsible dog owner.

young_activist said...

If Petsmart knowingly sells a product that they know is toxic then they are liable for the damages caused by such a product. Much like there is a difference between eating junk food and drinking bleach there is a difference between "garbage food" which is simply unhealthy and coco powder which is toxic. And, an allergy to Beef is specific to one dog while a reaction to chocolate is universal in all dogs.

In much the same way that a grocery store would be liable for the medical bills for a person who consumed a toxic product that the grocery store sold them knowing full well what it was Petsmart has liability for selling Chocolate dog treats. Petsmart has a legal and moral obligation to cover cost of their mistake.

lolololo said...

It is interesting how many new readers I have had these past few days

I never really expected Petsmart to pay my vet bill, I really only wanted them to remove the product from their shelves. The fact that Petsmart had given my dog a sample of this treat in a puppy training class aided me in my bad assumption that it was O.K for dogs....I trusted the instructors and did not read the label. Shame on me. NEVER AGAIN!...

This piece was written as part of an online writing project about Chocolate. I learned the hard way and wrote it in hopes of letting others know about the dangers of chocolate for dogs.

Anonymous said...

I found these choco treats at petsmart and bought some for our boston terrier puppy. THEN i read the ingredients and saw "cocoa" which led me to research this "treat" online. I'm thankful your Jenny is ok and my Boomer will NOT be eating any more of the "choco" treats. Petsmart should be ashamed of selling products that can harm animals.

Melanie said...

Yeah, I bought some of these the other day. I usually only feed my dogs organic dogfood and never give them chocolate. I have given them about 10 and decided to read the label and noticed it contained cocoa which is lethal, and milk,dogs are lactose intolerant. People just don't don't care about our animals, we are the only ones who can look our for them ourselves!!! I am taking mine back for a refund.