Chocolate is delicious to both humans and dogs, however very toxic to dogs!
Chocolate contains two substances called “methylxanthines”, namely Caffeine and Theobromine, both of which are poisonous to dogs. Yes, caffeine is toxic to dogs, so keep the pups away from your home-made latte! Caffeine and theobromine both cause similar effects in dogs, however the effects of theobromine last much longer, which is why it is our main concern in this case.
Different types of chocolate contain different amounts of theobromine. Chocolate flavoured cakes and cookies contain the lowest amount, the next highest is milk chocolate, then dark chocolate. Cooking/baking chocolate is the worst, containing the highest amount of theobromine. White chocolate does not actually contain any theobromine, however, don’t feed it to your dog, as it has a high fat content, so can cause potentially fatal illnesses like pancreatitis.
The possible effects of chocolate poisoning in dogs:
- Hyperactivity – twitching, restlessness
- Increased heart rate
- Abnormal heart rhythm
Clinical signs can take 6-12 hours to develop in dogs, and it takes about 4 days until the chocolate is out of the dog’s system.
If you know or suspect your dog has eaten some chocolate, give your local Anexa Vet Clinic a call immediately, as time is of the essence. If your dog has eaten the chocolate within the last 2 hours, vomiting may be able to be induced, thereby removing most of the toxin from your dog’s stomach before it can be properly digested and cause a problem. Induction of vomiting may be effective as late as 4-6 hours after ingestion.
When you call the clinic please have the following information available if possible:
- Your dog’s approximate weight
- The type of chocolate your dog has/may have eaten
- The amount (ideally in grams) that your dog has/may have eaten
Your vet clinic staff will use this information to work out if your dog has eaten a toxic dose of chocolate, and what the best course of action is.
A 10kg dog eats a 250g block of Cadbury Milk Chocolate that it stole from the bench while the owners were unpacking the weekly shopping. In this dog we would expect to see cardiotoxic effects (heart muscle damage and heart arrhythmias).
If a 25kg dog ate the same block of chocolate, the expected effects would be vomiting and diarrhoea, which are concerning, but not as life-threatening.
If your dog is already showing one or many of the signs of chocolate poisoning listed above, call your vet clinic immediately, as this may be an emergency. Treatment of your dog at the clinic will involve supportive care until the toxin is out of your dog’s system (there is no antidote for chocolate poisoning), and may include intravenous fluids, gastric lavage, medications to treat seizures, anaesthesia, and medications to support the heart.
Prevention is better than treatment, so make sure you keep all chocolate in a place your dog will not be able to access it – such as high in the pantry, in a high cupboard, or in the fridge. While enjoying your chocolate treats consider putting your dog away in its crate, in another room, or outside for some fresh air, so that there is no possibility that they will be able to sneak any chocolate left on the coffee table, or dropped accidently onto the floor. If you are doing an Easter egg hunt for the kids, make sure you take note of how many chocolate eggs you hide, and where they are, and lock the dog up until the games are over. Always remember – chocolate is delicious, but potentially deadly to your dog.