Chocolate Toxicity In Dogs

Dogs have a fantastic sense of smell, which means that they can very easily sniff out yummy treats including chocolate, especially at Easter time! Unfortunately for them, chocolate is very toxic to dogs.

Why?

Chocolate has cocoa and caffeine in it, both are highly toxic to dogs. White chocolate does not contain any of the cocoa or caffeine, which means that it is not toxic to pets but still should not be given. Every pet has their individual sensitivity to the toxicity of cocoa and caffeine.

Symptoms

Symptoms will start occurring 6-12 hours after ingestion. They include:

+ Vomiting

+ Diarrhoea

+ Increased body temperature

+ Muscle rigidity

+ Rapid breathing

+ Increased heart rate

+ Low blood pressure

+ Seizures

+ Advanced signs include cardiac failure, weakness and coma

Types of Chocolate

The type and amount of chocolate ingested is important, the more cocoa and caffeine, the more severe the toxicity will be. Generally speaking, the higher quality and darker the chocolate is the higher it is in cocoa and caffeine.

Diagnosis

If you have seen your pet eat chocolate then little diagnosis is needed. Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination calculate the cocoa/caffeine overdose. In most cases, if eaten recently (with-in an hour) then vomiting is recommended.

When an overdose occurs and the ingestion of chocolate has not been seen then a physical examination, blood work and urinalysis is required to diagnose the toxicity. In severe cases, an ECG may be performed to assess effects to the heart.

Treatment

The toxicity affects the gastrointestinal tract, liver, kidneys and heart. Pet’s are generally admitted for fluid therapy and administered charcoal to help absorb the poison. Depending on their symptoms additional treatment may be needed. Some pets may require sedation if they have muscle tremors or seizures, gastric lavage, help with thermo-regulation and further blood work to assess damage to organ function. Hospitalisation for up to 72 hours may be needed.

About the author: Megan Reilly

Megan is a Veterinary Nurse Technician - the highest qualification available to Veterinary Nurses in Australia, Megan has a fun loving spirit and brings a positive energy to Heights Pet Hospital. She is a talented nurse who has a love for all patients and is continuously updating our processes and procedures, always finding a better or more effective way. She has been at the hospital since its opening in 2011 and in the veterinary industry since 2000, starting out as a kennel hand and then completing veterinary nursing cert IV in 2006. She has also undertaken additional study, gaining her qualification as a Veterinary Nurse Technician in 2015. Megan runs our puppy school classes and has a special interest in canine behaviour. She continues to give back to the industry with her dedication to training new veterinary nurses and work experience students. Megan has Trevor, a black domestic short hair cat with a penchant for extravagant bow ties! and Howard, a fiesty Border-Terrier.

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