Beware of Chocolate Poisoning !!

Every spring vets across the country see a sudden influx of patients who have helped themselves to chocolatey Easter treats.

It’s common knowledge that chocolate is poisonous to dogs. Whilst it is also poisonous to other animals, dogs seem much more partial to any chocolate they can get their paws on! This toxic effect is mainly due to a chemical called theobromine.

Dogs and other animals breakdown this chemical more slowly than humans, meaning that it’s much easier for them to overdose, even with relatively small amounts. Levels of theobromine are highest in dark chocolate, but it is also found in milk chocolate and in very small quantities in white chocolate. This doesn’t mean that white chocolate is harmless however, as the high levels of sugar and fat in chocolate can cause tummy upsets and even pancreatitis (which can be very serious).

Image result for Chocolate easter egg

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning can include restlessness, hyperactivity, and tummy upset – vomiting and diarrhoea are common. More serious cases can show fast hear t rate, irregular heart rhythm and nervous signs such as twitching, shaking and even seizures. At its most serious, chocolate poisoning can be fatal. However, the onset of these symptoms is not immediate, and it may take  several hours for them to appear.

Whilst your canine companion may seem completely unrepentant, it’s very important that if you suspect your dog has eaten some chocolate you contact your vet as soon as possible. Based on the amount and type they have eaten, as well as when they ate it and their size, they will be able to advise you on the best course of action.
Unfortunately there is no antidote for theobromine, so treatment focuses on preventing absorption and supporting your pet through any symptoms they may experience.

Your vet may well suggest that you bring your dog to the practice immediately so that they can induce vomiting. It is important that you bring your dog as soon as you possibly can, as the sooner vomiting occurs the less chocolate can be absorbed, and inducing vomiting after more than an hour or so can be of limited benefit. Your vet may also suggest that activated charcoal is given, which helps to bind any toxins before they can be absorbed, and that your dog is placed on intravenous fluids. Other medication may be given if indicated, for example if your pet develops heart problems. Your vet may also suggest blood sampling to check on their liver and kidney function.

The good news is that, with prompt treatment, most dogs successfully recover with no long term ill effects. However, the sooner treatment is begun, the better, so don’t be tempted to wait until symptoms appear before seeking advice. As always, prevention is better than cure- so remember to keep any chocolate in a cupboard out of reach!