Chocolate is toxic to pets and can cause significant illness. Chocolate has two components which can cause disease; one being Caffeine and another one which is called Theobromine. Both have similar effects in the dog ( and cats!), they are heart stimulants, dilate blood vessels, relax smooth muscle and increase diuresis.
Dogs cannot metabolise these components in the same way that we do and so they are more sensitive to those harmful effects.
How much chocolate is poisonous to a dog?
It would depend on the size and the kind of chocolate. Toxins, as medicines, need a certain amount per kilo to make their effect. The bigger the dog, the more chocolate would be needed. Different kinds of chocolate provide different amounts of the toxins, usually the darker the chocolate is, the more dangerous it gets. White chocolate is less harmful but can still cause problems!
What are the signs of chocolate poisoning?
The signs can take hours to develop and can last for days, they include vomiting and diarrhoea, panting, restlessness, increase thirst and urination and a racing heart rate. In more severe cases, muscle tremors, seizures and heart failure can be seen. In cases where the dog already has heart problems, sudden death may occur.
What to do if your dog eats chocolate?
Even if you think it was a minimal amount of chocolate, the best thing to do will be to call the vets (us, or our emergency provider if we are closed) and tell them when it happened and how much the dog has eaten. Depending on those answers we will treat your dog accordingly.
How do we treat chocolate poisoning?
If the chocolate ingestion has happened shortly before the visit, we might try to remove the chocolate from the stomach by means of an injection to induce vomiting. Once out of the system, we treat with activated charcoal, which blocks the absorption of the toxins.
We might want to provide fluid therapy if the ingestion happened too long ago even if there are no signs of poisoning yet. Fluid therapy helps flush toxins from the body. This can be given in the veterinary practice and at the same time the heart function is closely monitored.
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