Chocolate contains cocoa and cocoa contains the compound theobromine. Theobromine is toxic to dogs and other pets at certain doses. Chocolate poisoning is a problem that occurs mainly in dogs but also occurs occasionally in cats or other animals. It is important not to give your pets any chocolate and to ensure they cannot accidentally access any of your chocolate supplies, especially over Easter!
The concentration of theobromine varies depending on the type of chocolate. For example, cocoa powder, baking chocolate and dark chocolate contain higher levels of theobromine compared to milk chocolate.
The toxicity of theobromine is dose-related, meaning that the overall effect of chocolate ingestion on the dog depends on the size of the dog, the amount of chocolate eaten and the type of chocolate eaten.
The symptoms of theobromine ingestion may include restlessness, excitement, hyperactivity, nervousness, trembling, vomiting, diarrhoea, increased drinking and increased urination, increased heart rate, muscle tremors, seizures and possibly death.
If your dog or pet has ingested chocolate (even a small amount) you should contact your local veterinarian as soon as possible for advice.
Vets can usually treat chocolate poisoning by inducing vomiting and with supportive therapy in hospital but it is important to seek veterinary attention quickly.
What to Do if Your Dog Eats Chocolate
Chocolate is toxic to dogs and depending on the type and amount of chocolate consumed and the weight of your dog, it could cause a serious medical emergency. That said, if your dog ate a small amount of milk chocolate, you don’t necessarily need to panic. Learn how much is too much, which types of chocolate are the most dangerous, and what signs to look for that may signal your dog needs treatment.
Why Chocolate is Toxic to Dogs
Chocolate contains both theobromine and caffeine, both which can speed the heart rate and stimulate the nervous system of dogs, the Merck/Merial Manual for Veterinary Health explains. The risk of your dog becoming sick from ingesting chocolate depends on the type and amount of chocolate consumed and the weight of the dog (calculate your dog’s risk of toxicity with this easy-to-use program). The concentrations of these toxic substances varies among different types of chocolates. Here are a few types of chocolate listed in order of theobromine content :
– Cocoa powder (most toxic)
– Unsweetened baker’s chocolate
– Semisweet chocolate
– Dark chocolate
– Milk chocolate
– White chocolate (not very toxic)
What are the Signs of Chocolate Poisoning ?
Signs of chocolate poisoning usually appear within 6 to 12 hours after your dog has eaten it, may last up to 72 hours, and include the following :
– Increased urination
– Elevated or abnormal heart rate
– Collapse and death