Chocolate poisoning in dogs
Easter is fast approaching, and everyone's looking forward to
the holiday break. For dog owners especially it can be a
brilliant time for some long walks in the (hopefully!) nice spring
weather, and in most homes (especially those with children) there
is of course an abundant supply of chocolate to be found.
Unfortunately as vets, we see a lot of cases of chocolate poisoning
in our canine friends at this time of year. Chocolate
contains a substance called theobromine which is poisonous to
dogs. This is found in all types of chocolate but the
greatest quantity is found in dark chocolate.
What are the clinical signs of chocolate poisoning in
- Vomiting and abdominal pain
- Excessive salivation
- Increased thirst and urination
- Excitability or ataxia ('wobbliness')
- Changes in heart rate
- Muscle rigidity, tremors and convulsions
- Rapid breathing
- Kidney dysfunction
Clinical signs are usually seen within 4 hours of consuming
chocolate, but can occur up to 24 hours later. For this
reason if your dog has eaten a toxic dose of chocolate (see below)
you should contact the vet straight away.
How is chocolate poisoning treated?
Patients are injected with an emetic to make them vomit and
following on from this activated charcoal is administered
orally. This stops any further chocolate being absorbed into
the dog's circulation. Depending on how severely the patient
is affected, other supportive care may be given (such as
intravenous fluids or treatments to control seizuring).
Unfortunately, there is no direct antidote to theobromine.
How much chocolate is too much?
This depends on the type of chocolate so it is very helpful to
keep hold of the wrapper to show to the vet. As a guide, an
average sized dog weighing 20Kg may show signs of chocolate
toxicity if he or she eats 180g of milk chocolate or 25g of dark
chocolate. If this is the case, please phone Maple vets
straight away because the sooner your dog is treated the less
likely he or she is to develop the potentially serious clinical
signs seen above. The good news is that when dogs are seen
and treated promptly, the prognosis for a full recovery is