Chocolate Toxicity is Common
Like me, most dogs love chocolate. An Easter chocolate feeding frenzy usually makes me feel a little ill, but for dogs the consequences can be deadly. Unsurprisingly, Easter is the number one time of the year that vets see chocolate toxicity cases coming through the door. Thankfully, most cases are caught early enough for successful treatment. Also thankfully, chocolate-scented vomit is the least offensive of all vomits! I can remember one particular dog I saw that had just eaten a jumbo bag of m&ms. When we induced vomiting it was like a warm, chocolatey rainbow… Chocolate is also toxic to cats, but they don’t tend to go for it.
What Causes Chocolate Toxicity?
Chocolate, right? Well yes. But the type of chocolate is very important. The fat and sugar in chocolate can definitely cause a belly ache, or even pancreatitis. The main components that cause problems though are stimulants called methylxanthines, particularly theobromine. The darker the chocolate is, the higher the concentration of theobromine. This means baking chocolate is seriously dangerous to our pets. It’s followed closely by dark chocolate, then milk chocolate, and finally white chocolate. Any food containing cocoa poses a risk, as this is where the theobromine comes from.
Here is a handy chocolate toxicity table with a guide to the amounts of different types of chocolate that are likely to make a dog sick.
Signs that Your Dog May have Chocolate Toxicity
I don’t know why this evil bunny was smiling… But don’t worry, I ate him.
Chocolate Toxicity Calculator
This is a useful calculator (for those of us using the metric system) that gives some basic information on what to expect based on the amount of chocolate your dog has consumed. Remember though, you should definitely contact your veterinarian if your dog has eaten chocolate.
And here’s a link to a chocolate toxicity calculator for my imperial friends.
What to do if your Dog has Eaten Some Chocolate
The best option is to contact your vet immediately, or the local emergency vet if it’s after hours. If you know approximately what your dog weighs and how much and what type of chocolate they have eaten, you will be able to get some advice over the phone. If you are advised to take your dog in, get there as soon as possible. If appropriate, the vet will induce emesis (vomiting) to remove as much chocolate from the stomach as possible. Medications may be given to help absorb any remaining chocolate in the gastrointestinal tract. If the chocolate was eaten too long ago and is already in your dog’s system, they will need to be hospitalised and supported though it for a few days.
I would strongly recommend you do not attempt to induce emesis yourself at home. There is too much potential for things to go wrong.
Happy Easter – Stay Safe!
If you’re enjoying that delicious Easter bunny and think about sharing a little with your four-legged friend, maybe reach for a dog treat instead.