What To Do If Your Pet Eats Chocolate

Why is chocolate bad for pets?

It’s a common fact that chocolate isn’t good for animals, especially dogs.

Chocolate contains caffeine and the chemical compound ‘theobromine’, which are toxic to pets. This is because cats’ and dogs’ digestive systems can’t break them down in the same way as humans. The chemicals build up and can cause organ disease and failure if not treated properly. Find out what to do if your pet eats chocolate.

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 and type of chocolate your pet has eaten.

Dr Adam Sternberg, a Regional Clinical Director of Greencross Vets, says theobromine mainly affects the heart, central nervous system, and kidneys. Some dogs may have upset tummies such as vomiting and or diarrhoea.

‘Theobromine is a toxin that can be linked to hyperactivity,’ he says. ‘Affected pets can have tremors, seizure, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Ingestion can be fatal in severe cases. If your pet eats chocolate, take them to the vet immediately.’ Please also ensure you bring the packet or take note of the type of chocolate.

Other symptoms include:

  • rapid breathing
  • muscle tension
  • coordination loss
  • increased heart rate

How much chocolate is too much?

You should not give any chocolate to your pet, though sometimes pets can obtain chocolate without you knowing. Some chocolates contain more theobromine than others. Here is a guide to which chocolate types contain the most theobromine in order of most to least:

  • baking / cooking chocolate (most)
  • dark chocolate
  • milk chocolate
  • white chocolate (least)

What to do if your pet eats chocolate

Bring them to the vet. There is no antidote for theobromine poisoning. In most cases, your vet will make your dog vomit given the right time frame from ingestion. They may wash out the stomach and feed activated charcoal, which will absorb any theobromine left in the stomach and or intestines. Other treatments will depend on the signs your dog is showing. They may need intravenous fluids (a drip), or medication to control heart rate and seizure activity.

Dr Sternberg 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,’ he 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 Vets for treatment.

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