Noodles is a rescue dog. She was found abandoned beside the M50 when she was just one year of age. Pat’s wife Anne came across her just four days after Christmas, so she was probably someone’s abandoned Christmas present. The family took her in as a companion for their other dog. She’s just a small terrier, but she has a huge personality, and she has fitted in well with their household.
She has one idiosyncrasy which has caused problems on a few occasions: she has an extraordinarily excessive desire for chocolate. She is always on the lookout for chocolate, licking up any crumbs from the ground if any humans in the house are eating a chocolate bar. And when shopping is brought home, the family have to be careful about where they put shopping bags before they unpack the shopping. If the bags are left on the kitchen floor, Noodles will stick her nose into each bag, sniffing carefully in her search for any hint of chocolate. All dogs are sensitive to chocolate toxicity, with a serious risk of fatal poisoning if enough chocolate is eaten. But Noodles is particularly vulnerable because she is so small. The key factor in chocolate poisoning is the amount of chocolate eaten per kilogram of body weight of the dog. A large dog (such as a Labrador) would have to eat a substantial amount of chocolate to be at risk, but small dogs only need to eat tiny quantities of chocolate to suffer serious consequences. Noodles weighs only 6kg, which means that the fatal dose of chocolate is very small. If she eats just 50g (2 ounces) of dark chocolate or 100g (4 ounces) of milk chocolate, it could be enough to end her life.
This susceptibility is all the more dangerous because it is combined with Noodles’ extreme desire to steal and eat any chocolate that comes within her reach. This is why it’s a bad idea to give any dog even small amounts of chocolate. They like the taste of it so much that they develop an intense desire to seek out any chocolate within reach. No-one knows where Noodles’ love of chocolate came from, but there have been a few dodgy episodes.
The first incident happened one Christmas. Pat’s wife was wrapping presents on the kitchen table, with a number of parcels destined for the United Kingdom. She left the room for a few minutes and while she was out, Noodles jumped onto the kitchen table, sniffed out one fully-wrapped parcel of luxury Belgian chocolates, tore off the gift paper, opened the box, and started tucking into the chocolates. Pat’s wife came back in at that moment, so she didn’t eat the whole lot, but she still had to go to the emergency vet to have her stomach emptied. On another occasion, she managed to eat a whole packet of chocolate chip cookies. This was not quite so dangerous, as there was a relatively small amount of chocolate compared to the total amount of biscuits eaten. On that occasion, the situation wasn’t judged severe enough to need to visit the vet, but she still suffered a severe bout of gastroenteritis for a couple of days.
On another occasion, she stole a packet of Jaffa cakes: fortunately she was unable to open the packet, and instead she took them out to the garden and buried them. Perhaps she was hoping to go back and have another go at opening them at a later date. Pat saw her skulking near her buried stash, and he was able to retrieve them, still unopened
The most recent episode happened last week. A bag of chocolate Minstrels were inside a plastic bag in an upstairs room. The door to this room was meant to be closed, but Noodles has a special skill of being able to open doors. She pushes her nose against a door, and pushes, and pushes and pushes. And she will sometimes even jump up at a door handle to try to get a door open. However she did it that day, she managed to get the upstairs door open.
She had learned from the previous episode that if she is ever found eating chocolates, they will be taken off her. So this time, she grabbed the plastic carrier bag which contained the Minstrels, she ran downstairs carrying it her mouth, and she rushed to a secluded corner of the garden where she’d be left in peace. She then retrieved the packet of Minstrels from the bag, opened the packet of sweets, and tucked into them. Pat knew something was up when he saw her rushing outside carrying the bag, but by the time he got to her, she had almost scoffed the whole lot. He calculated that she had eaten 100g of chocolate, which meant that another urgent visit to the vet was needed.
She was at our vet clinic within half an hour of eating the chocolate. I immediately gave her an injection of a potent drug that induces vomiting; fifteen minutes later, she had brought up the full quantity of Minstrel chocolates. If they had remained in her stomach, her life would definitely have been in danger.
Noodles has made a full recovery, but there’s an ongoing risk that at some point, she will steal chocolate again. The Mooney family are on high alert: the simple rule is that all chocolate-containing products need to be kept well out reach of this adorable but cheeky chocolate loving pooch.