Easter has arrived meaning pet owners will have a lot more chocolate around the house, and veterinary clinics will be seeing a lot more chocolate ingestion by dogs.
Chocolate is a wonderful treat for humans, but it is toxic to dogs. Even the smallest of doses.
Why is chocolate dangerous to dogs?
Chocolate contains stimulants called Methylxanthines. Dogs are far more sensitive to these stimulants than humans are. Another problem is that dogs tend to be are smaller than humans and they also tend to consume more chocolate than we do, if given the chance.
Depending on the type of chocolate, it may contain more or less stimulant. The general rule of thumb is that the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is to your pet. Therefore white chocolate is less dangerous than either milk chocolate or dark chocolate. Cooking chocolate is the most dangerous of widely available chocolates found in the typical home.
What symptoms will I see if my dog eats chocolate?
Depending on how much chocolate your dog eats, you may initially see no signs. The first sign is that your dog may become more excitable and hyperactive. If your dog has ingested a large amount of chocolate then you may see tremors, vomiting and/or diarrhoea. Your pet’s heart will also typically start racing, and the heart beat may become irregular. If enough chocolate is ingested, your pet may even seizure. Any of these more severe signs are extremely serious and could be life-threatening.
What should I do if my dog eats chocolate?
The first thing you should do is not panic. The second thing you should do is contact your regular veterinarian promptly. If your regular vet is closed, contact your local pet emergency centre. It is important not to wait until your dog starts showing signs.
Be sure to keep the chocolate packet and have an estimate of how much chocolate your dog has eaten. Estimating the weight of chocolate will be most helpful. The vet clinic will also likely ask how much your dog weighs, so having this information is helpful.
Based on the information you provide, your vet will advise you on whether your pet should be seen. Please take your vet’s advice seriously, as delay in seeking treatment can cause symptoms to progress and will result in a larger vet bill. Most importantly, your pet may be at greater risk of becoming seriously ill, especially if he or she has other medical conditions.
Is there a ‘safe’ amount of chocolate my pet can eat?
The short answer is ‘no’. Even if the amount of stimulant in the chocolate is small, the fat and sugar in the chocolate can cause nasty medical conditions. The wrapping can also cause potential serious problems if it gets stuck in your dog’s digestive tract.
The safest strategy is to keep all chocolate in high cupboards or the fridge and not to leave it on benches or other places your dog will be able to find it.
This post is written by Southern Animal Emergency Centre, a 24 hour vet emergency hospital in Melbourne, for Petplan Australasia.