We all love receiving cute boxes of chocolate on Valentine’s Day but be sure to keep them away from your one true love, your dog! Chocolate is toxic to dogs and it is important to make sure they can’t get their crafty tongues into your precious selection boxes. They will often devour the foil wrappers too given half a chance! Some chocolates also contain raisins and alcohol which then pose an additional threat to your dog. Chocolate is also toxic to cats but they don’t tend to have such a sweet tooth but please do act if you discover that your cat has eaten any!
The severity of chocolate toxicity is dependent on the weight of your pet and the quantity and type of chocolate they have snatched. Dark chocolate is most dangerous and has the highest levels of theobromine, a chemical similar to caffeine. Theobromine can cause a variety of symptoms including hyperexcitability, tremors, seizures, breathing problems and cardiac issues such as a rapid heart rate. The richness of chocolate will also cause gastrointestinal upset.
The symptoms generally take 4-24 hours to develop and we would rather act within the first 4 hours to minimise the risk of potentially serious side effects. If serious and untreated then symptoms can last for days and could be fatal. Treatment depends on exposure levels and may include emesis (making your pet vomit by giving an injection under the skin), feeding charcoal to reduce further absorption of the toxins, fluid therapy via an intravenous catheter and medications to slow the heart.
It can be difficult to know how much chocolate your pet has eaten so it is always best to call for veterinary advice as we would rather err on the side of caution and be proactive. If you have multiple pets it can be impossible to tell who ate the missing chocolate so I would advise taking all your dogs to the vets just in case (always check that it wasn’t your wife/husband/children first!). There is an extremely useful calculator here that can act as a guide to how severe the chocolate ingestion may be. Please still call your vets if you think your dog or cat has eaten any chocolate.
Quick way to avoid problems – eat all chocolate gifts immediately!
If you have any questions let me know in the comments section below.