Chocolate, we all know, is one of mankind's favourite treats which we enjoy on the regular. Chocolate is also craved by our hairy little best friends also, But what harm can it do?
Chocolate is extremely toxic to dogs, and even cats, though it is rarely fatal. That is not to say it can’t result in serious illness for your pet.
It is toxic to dogs, due to the presence of a caffeine and a chemical called theobromine. Theobromine is very similar to caffeine and is the main toxin in chocolate for dogs. Dogs cannot process the theobromine and caffeine, like humans, making them more susceptible to the chemical effects.
The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is to your pet. This is due to higher concentrations of theobromine in dark chocolates. White chocolate contains small amounts of the chemical, meaning it doesn’t cause any serious illness, though they can still get sick from the fats and sugars it contains.
To show serious signs of illness, a medium sized dog at approximately 22kgs, would need to ingest up to 9 ounces of milk chocolate, or one ounce of dark chocolate. Toxic doses are reported to be as low as 20mg/kg.
When your dog has ingested a high level of chocolate, and thus theobromine, they will begin to show a range of different symptoms. These include hyperactivity, increased thirst, panting, restlessness, excessive urination, agitation, drooling, diarrhea and vomiting.
Other more serious signs are a significantly higher heart rate, heart arrhythmia, high blood pressure and other neurological signs such as twitching, tremors and occasionally seizures.
Symptoms generally depend on the quantity of chocolate ingested, and in the most serious cases (in older dogs usually) a high quantity of chocolate can lead to cardiac arrest and even sudden death!.
Clinical signs of chocolate poisoning can take only a few hours to develop and can last for many days. If other complications, such as pneumonia, develop then poisoning can be made a lot worse for your pet.
As always, when in doubt always consult your vet. If you are unsure as to how much your dog has eaten, you should always contact your vet as a precaution.
Treatment generally depends on the amount of chocolate consumed. Early treatment can mean the chocolate can be removed through the administering of medications to force vomiting in your dog. Activated charcoal may also be administered, to help block the absorption of theobromine into the body. This may be given every 4 to 6 hours for the first 24-hour period.
It is common for intravenous fluid therapy to be provided. This helps stabilize your dog and promote the excretion of the dangerous theobromine chemical. In extreme cases, medications are given to help slow down the animal’s heart rate, or to treat arrhythmia.
If you are struggling to hide your chocolate snacks, from the reach of your dog, there are other alternatives. Dog chocolate is now available and many dogs seem to enjoy it. It is not dangerous in any way for them, as it is made from carob. Some dog chocolate treats do though contain a small percentage of milk chocolate, therefore it is advised to always check the labels. Vets advise avoiding giving any form of chocolate to them whatsoever.
Moral of the story is to keep chocolate out of reach of your pet. They may enjoy it at the time, but they definitely will not enjoy the side effects.