What to do if your pet eats chocolate?
Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, which in larger amounts is especially dangerous because pets can’t break it down and eliminate it the same way humans can.
It can build up to toxic concentrations in all animals that ingest too much chocolate and this can cause multi-organ disease and failure if not treated properly. Of all pets, dogs and cats are mostly prone to the effects of chocolate and can be detrimental to their health.
What symptoms will I see?
Symptoms will occur from four to 24 hours after your pet has eaten chocolate and will vary depending on the amount of chocolate (theobromine) your dog has eaten.
Dr Lui says theobromine mainly affects the heart, central nervous system and kidneys.
“Theobromine is a toxin that can be linked to hyperactivity,” she says. “[Affected pets] can have tremors, seizure, vomiting and diarrhoea. It can be fatal in some circumstances. If they eat chocolate, then you need to take them immediately to the vet, so that we can either assess them – if they’re stable and then induce vomiting.”
If your dog or cat has eaten chocolate, you may also see:
- Rapid breathing
- Muscle tension, incoordination
- Increased heart rate
- Blood in vomit.
How much chocolate is too much?
You should not give any chocolate to your pet, though sometimes pets can obtain chocolate without you knowing. In the order of theobromine toxicity and chocolate consumption, here’s a list from worst to least:
- Baking chocolate (worst)
- Dark chocolate
- Milk chocolate
- White chocolate (least).
There is no antidote for theobromine poisoning. In most cases your vet will make your dog vomit. They may wash out the stomach and feed activated charcoal, which will absorb any theobromine left in the intestines. Other treatments will depend on the signs your dog is showing. They may need intravenous fluids (a drip), medication to control heart rate, blood pressure and seizure activity.
Dr Lui also indicates it might not just be theobromine that’s causing issues. “There are also a whole lot of other ingredients in chocolate your pet could be reacting to, and these could affect allergies or genetic differences,” she says.
With prompt intervention and treatment, even in dogs that have eaten large amounts of chocolate, the prognosis for a poisoned dog is usually good.
If you are concerned that your pet may have consumed chocolate, contact your nearest Greencross Vet