After a late-night holiday emergency with her 9-year-old Bichon Frise, Baby, Menounos warns others to dog-proof their homes

By Linda Marx
Updated January 08, 2010 02:47 PM

Two days after Christmas, Maria Menounos noticed that Baby, her beloved 12-lb. Bichon Frise, was acting erratic and her eyes looked strange.

“Baby woke up around 3:30 a.m. flipping and flopping and throwing up large amounts several times,” the Los Angeles actress and NBC reporter tells “I rushed her to the hospital where she threw up four more times after she was given charcoal to ensure she would clean herself out.”

The vet confirmed Menounos’s suspicions that 9-year-old Baby had eaten quite a bit of chocolate, which can be toxic for dogs. To find the source, she had to look no farther than her Christmas tree.

“I left Baby at the hospital on an I.V. for several hours of observation and went home to investigate what could have happened,” she continues. “I had house-guests with two children ages five and seven. When I looked under the tree, I saw the gift had been unwrapped and had contained dark chocolate/liquor candy. Baby ate five big pieces.”

According to Dr. Sharon Gwaltney-Brant, vice president and medical director of the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Center in Urbana, Ill., dark chocolate is the most toxic to dogs of all chocolates and needs immediate attention if eaten. So Menounos, an animal lover who also owns a second Bichon, a poodle and a German shepherd, did the right thing by rushing Baby to the vet hospital.

“Dark chocolate can cause the dog to have tremors, heart issues and other issues, which often have an eight- to twelve-hour delay,” Dr. Gwaltney-Brant says. “The first thing to do is decontamination, which is to make the dog throw up. If the exposure is severe, the vet can indeed induce it with a dose of charcoal.”

Dr. Gwaltney-Brant says that white chocolate is the least harmful, milk chocolate is a bit more serious, but dark chocolate is bad in any amount.

“The best way of preventing this kind of scare is by dog-proofing the house just like you would child-proof various rooms,” Dr. Gwaltney-Brant continues. “Tell friends who give you gifts to let you know what is in them so you don’t put anything dangerous under the tree.”

Much to Menounos’s relief, Baby turned out just fine, and she hopes all pet owners will learn something from her nightmare.

“Accidents happen during the holidays when guests come in and the daily routine is changed,” she says. “$1,000 later, I learned a lesson. But I would pay $10,000 to keep my Baby healthy. Our pets are like family members, they are our children.”