A Guide To Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs

Aimee Labbate
  • Aimee Labbate

  • RCVS: 700039

 

Chocolate toxicity is very common, and vets see many cases each year, with inevitable peaks at Easter and Christmas. In fact, the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) usually list it in their top three most common toxins that they are contacted about. Chocolate is also toxic to cats and rabbits, along with many other species.

Why is chocolate toxic to dogs?

The toxic component of chocolate is the theobromine found in cocoa. This, along with caffeine that is also found in chocolate, have a stimulant effect on the animal, which can affect the brain and heart, as well as causing gastrointestinal upsets. Crucially the higher the cocoa content (i.e. the more bitter it is) the worse the effects will be, hence dark and baking chocolate are far more toxic than white chocolate.

Symptoms of chocolate toxicity

The effect and signs of chocolate toxicity depend on the cocoa content, amount eaten and size of the dog. Symptoms usually appear between 4-24 hours after eating the chocolate and include:

  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Restlessness and hyperactivity
  • Incoordination
  • Rapid breathing and heart rate
  • Tremors and seizures

What should I do if my dog has eaten chocolate?

Always ring your vet for advice, ideally with the type and quantity of chocolate eaten as well as the size of your dog and the length of time since ingestion.  They can then work out whether treatment is needed, which usually involves inducing vomiting and administering activated charcoal to help absorb any theobromine chemical left in the gastrointestinal tract. Further treatments will depend on what symptoms the dog is exhibiting but may include an intravenous drip and medication to control seizures, blood pressure and heart rate if indicated.

Will my dog recover?

With prompt intervention and treatment, thankfully most dogs go on to make a full recovery, but it can be a very worrying time, so it’s best to keep all chocolate out of reach of your dog!

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Chocolate: a danger to dogs!

Chocolate is toxic to dogs and could make them very poorly – dark chocolate, baking chocolate and cocoa powder are particularly dangerous. Signs of toxicity include vomiting, diarrhoea, restlessness, incoordination, rapid breathing and heart rate, tremors, seizures and collapse. These signs usually occur within 6-12 hours of ingestion and can last for up to 72 hours.

If you think that your dog may have eaten chocolate, then please contact your vet for advice straight away. If possible, let them know the type and quantity eaten, along with your dog’s bodyweight and how long ago they ate it.

With prompt intervention and treatment, thankfully most dogs go on to make a full recovery, but it can be a very worrying time, so it’s best to keep all chocolate out of reach of your dog!


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