Easter is just around the corner, which means that Melbourne households will soon be filling up with chocolate. While you should be cautious of chocolate around your pets at all times, Easter does pose an extra threat to dogs due the sheer volume of chocolate that is more readily available for them to snaffle while you’re not looking.
Chocolate toxicity is rarely fatal, but ingestion of chocolate in dogs does often lead to significant illness and so should be taken seriously by pet owners and treated as an animal emergency. As with all things, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so if you believe your dog has ingested any amount of chocolate you should immediately consult an emergency veterinarian and bring it in for examination at a 24 hour animal emergency centre.
Chocolate is dangerous to pets as it contains the alkaloid theobromine, which has similar effects as caffeine and is poisonous in large amounts. The toxicity level of the chocolate depends on the type and amount that is consumed, as well as the size of the dog. Toxic doses are generally considered to be 100mg of theobromine per kilogram of body weight, with fatal doses often occurring at over 200mg per kilogram.
Cooking/baking chocolate and dark chocolate pose the biggest danger, as they contain the largest concentration of theobromine. A 10kg dog would only have to eat 50 grams of milk chocolate to show clinical signs of chocolate toxicity or as little as 30 grams of dark chocolate. Whereas a mere 15 grams of baking chocolate (containing 70% cocoa) could lead to chocolate toxicity. Keep in mind that if the chocolate contains other harmful ingredients such as raisins/sultanas, alcohol or macadamia nuts then it may cause further complications.
The common clinical signs of chocolate poisoning are:
- increased thirst
- panting or restlessness
- excessive urination
- muscle spasms and tremors
- increased temperature
- increased heart rate
- abnormal behaviour
Older pets, or animals with pre-existing heart conditions, are more susceptible to the effects of chocolate poisoning and at higher risk of sudden death due to cardiac arrest.
During the Easter holidays, you need to be extra diligent in storing your Easter eggs safely out of reach of your pets. If you have children in the house, you also need to ensure that they don’t eat their chocolate around your pets, just in case they drop any or if you have a dog cheeky enough to swipe it straight from their hands while they’re not looking. You should also be cautious if you take your dog for a walk near a public park or school over the Easter long weekend, just in case an Easter egg hunt has taken place and any tasty surprises were left behind for your dog to find.
If your dog does need to be treated for chocolate toxicity, then the sooner they are brought in for examination, and the sooner the theobromine is removed from the body, then the better the prognosis will be. In some cases, if the dog is brought in early enough then all that may be necessary is using medication to induce vomiting to remove the chocolate from the stomach. For cases where the chocolate was ingested several hours earlier, the use of activated charcoal may be used to prevent the stomach and small intestine from further absorption of theobromine. As theobromine is excreted in urine, it is also common to use supportive treatments such as intravenous fluid theory to help dilute the toxin.
Close monitoring for the first 24 hours after poisoning is essential to check for any signs of irregular heart rhythm, so for the best and most advanced vet care available for your pet it is best to have them seen by our emergency vets in one of our 24 hour Animal Hospital.
In case of a chocolate toxicity or any emergency, please phone one of our 24hr Pet Hospital:
Essendon Fields (03) 9379 0700
Point Cook (03) 8368 7400