Chocolate chopped up

Chocolate Poisoning In Dogs

It’s a little late for Easter, but this article, courtesy of Hills Pet Nutrition is always relevant.

Dog jumping in a meadow

Is chocolate poisonous to dogs? The answer is yes. The hazard to your dog however, depends on the type of chocolate, the size of dog, and the amount consumed.

The component of chocolate that is toxic to dogs is called theobromine. Whereas humans easily metabolise theobromine, dogs process it much more slowly allowing it to build up to toxic levels in their system.

Size matters

A large dog can consume a great deal more chocolate than a small dog before it will suffer ill effects. It’s also worth remembering that different types of chocolate have different levels of theobromine. Cocoa, cooking chocolate and dark chocolate have the highest levels while milk chocolate and white chocolate have the lowest.

A small amount of chocolate will probably just give your dog an upset stomach. He or she may throw up or have diarrhoea. Large amounts though, will have a more serious effect. In sufficient quantities, theobromine can produce muscle tremors, seizures, an irregular heartbeat, internal bleeding, or a heart-attack.

What to look out for

The onset of theobromine poisoning is usually marked by severe hyperactivity.

Don’t worry if your dog has eaten a single milk chocolate or helped himself to the last square of your bar, because this won’t provide a large enough dosage of theobromine to hurt him. If you have a small dog though, and he has eaten a box of chocolates, you need to get him to the vet immediately. And if you’re dealing with any quantity of dark or bitter chocolate, err on the side of caution. The high level of theobromine in dark chocolate means it takes only a very small amount to poison a dog; just 25 grams may be enough to poison a 20 kg dog.

Dog walking in a field The usual treatment for theobromine poisoning is to induce vomiting within two hours of ingestion. Charcoal can be used to limit absorption and in severe cases fluid therapy, or sedation may be needed.

If you are worried that your dog may have eaten chocolate do not hesitate to call your vet. Time will be of the essence. Vets have access to up to date guidance on how much chocolate is a problem for different sizes of dog. It is helpful if you know what type of chocolate your dog has eaten, how much was eaten, how long ago and roughly what your dog weighs.

pets easter chocolate warning blog - easter eggs image

Easter Chocolate Warning

Remember to keep chocolate treats safely away from your pets’ reach this Easter, as findings released by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) reveal that in the North West 65% of vets saw at least one case of chocolate poisoning in pets over Easter holidays in 2017.

Poisonous

Chocolate can be highly poisonous to pets, with dogs most commonly affected. It contains theobromine, a naturally occurring chemical found in cocoa beans, which, while fine for humans, is harmful to dogs and other animals. The level of toxicity is dependent on the type of chocolate – dark chocolate and cocoa powder are most toxic – and the size of the dog, with smaller dogs and puppies being most at risk where the quantity consumed relative to bodyweight may be greater. Dogs with pre existing heart disease and dogs on some drugs can also be higher risk and there is a genetic risk increase in a small number of animals.

Although awareness about chocolate poisoning is increasing amongst pet owners, BVA’s figures show that the majority of vets still see urgent cases because chocolate treats have not been secured out of reach.

BVA Statement

British Veterinary Association President John Fishwick said:

“Easter is great fun for the whole family, but chocolate treats for humans can be poisonous for our pets. Dogs have a keen sense of smell and can easily sniff out chocolate, so make sure it is stored securely out of reach of inquisitive noses to avoid an emergency trip to the vet.

“If you suspect that your dog has eaten chocolate don’t delay in contacting your local vet. Your vet will want to know how much chocolate your dog has eaten and what type. If possible, keep any labels and have the weight of the dog to hand.”

Symptoms

The effects of chocolate poisoning in dogs usually appear within 12 hours, but can occur within 2 hours, and can last up to three days. First signs can include excessive thirst, vomiting, diarrhoea and restlessness. These symptoms can then develop into hyperactivity, tremors, abnormal heart rate, hyperthermia and rapid breathing. In severe cases, dogs can experience fits and heartbeat irregularities and some cases can result in coma or death.

Treatment

Treatments vary, we can tell from the type of chocolate eaten and the size of the dog what the likely risk is. The best treatment if the chocolate has been eaten recently is to make the pet vomit up what they have had. We have an injection that does this very effectively. If we are too late for vomiting to be effective then we can use activated charcoal to decrease your pets ability to absorb the poison. On top of this we may need to put him or her on a drip and use medicines to control any effects on the heart.

For more information on pets and poisons download the free Animal Welfare Foundation ‘pets and poisons’ leaflet at www.bva-awf.org.uk/pet-care-advice/pets-and-poisons.

Have a great Easter weekend, but keep an eye on that chocolate!