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ExcelVets Robina

237 Scottsdale Dr
Robina Qld 4226
Phone: 07 5562 5777
Fax: 07 5562 5522
mail@excelvets.com.au

Business Hours

8:00 - 5:30 Mon - Fri
8:30 - 11:30 Sat

After Hours Emergency

07 5559 1599

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Death by Chocolate!

Many pet owners may not be aware that despite chocolate being a wonderful and delicious treat for us – it can be highly toxic for our pets, and in some cases, can be fatal.

The Easter period (and Christmas and birthdays) can be particularly dangerous, as pets are often fed chocolate and Easter eggs by the kids, visitors or well-meaning owners, who want to give their beloved pets yummy treats.

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Dogs are generally more susceptible to chocolate poisoning than cats. They will specifically seek out the nice treats, and as they have an excellent sense of smell, it is fairly easy for them to find our secret hiding spots. When they do find them, they are also happy to consume large quantities of the delicious chocolate treats – sound familiar? I am sure there are a few of us that have done the same – so we can't really blame our dogs!

Chocolate is toxic to cats as well. However, as they tend to be fussier eaters than dogs, and don’t such a sweet tooth, they develop chocolate toxicity less commonly.  

How could chocolate be dangerous?

Chocolate contains naturally occurring compounds known as 'methylxanthines'. Two of these, 'theobromine and caffeine' can be highly toxic to animals.

Generally, the amount of theobromine or caffeine found in chocolate, is small enough to be consumed safely by humans (luckily for us!). However, occasionally it is possible for some people to suffer side effects if they have consumed large quantities of chocolate. The elderly especially, are more susceptible.

Domestic animals also metabolise theobromine more slowly than humans. This, together with the fact that they can consume large amounts, makes animals much more susceptible than humans at developing toxicity.

Another danger with pets consuming a large amount of chocolate is the consumption of a significant amount of fat and sugar, which can trigger life threatening pancreatitis.

Are all types of chocolate dangerous?

Different kinds of chocolate contain different levels of theobromine and caffeine. Cocoa powder and cooking chocolate contain the highest level of theobromine. This is followed by dark chocolate and milk chocolate. White chocolate contains the smallest amount.

The toxic dose for the different chocolates is as follows:

  • Cooking chocolate is: greater than 16g chocolate / kg
  • Dark chocolate is : greater than 33g of chocolate/ kg
  • Milk Chocolate is greater than 140g chocolate /kg

To provide some practical examples:

  • A 10kg animal could show signs of toxicity if they consume over 160 grams of cooking chocolate, or over 330g of dark chocolate or over 1400g of milk chocolate
  • A 20kg animal, could show signs of toxicity if they consume over 320 grams of cooking chocolate, or over 660g of dark chocolate or over 2800g of milk chocolate

How do you tell if your pet has Chocolate Toxicity?

The clinical signs and symptoms seen with chocolate toxicity are the result of over stimulation of body systems. They include:

  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Increased heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Increased body temperature
  • Increased urination
  • Hyperactivity and restlessness
  • Seizures
  • Advanced signs include internal bleeding, cardiac failure, weakness, coma and death

The onset of signs is dependent on the type of chocolate ingested and the amount. Usually symptoms occur within one to three hours of ingesting the chocolate and can persist for a few days if left untreated.

How to Diagnose?

If you have come across the empty chocolate wrappers you will most likely know your pet has had a feast of chocolate. Sometimes there will also be evidence of chocolate in their vomitus.

If you have had no knowledge of your pet consuming chocolate, the vet can perform a physical exam, some blood tests and check their urine, - tests which can help to determine if they have had a 'chocolate overdose'. Theobromine concentration levels can also be checked in a blood test.

What Treatment is Available?

Unfortunately, there is no antidote for theobromine poisoning.

If your pet develops signs of chocolate toxicity, you need to get your pet to the vets as quickly as possible. The vet will:

  • Support your pet by controlling the clinical signs
  • Induce vomiting if the ingestion of chocolate has been within four hours in order to prevent further absorption of chocolate
  • Provide medication to control seizures and tremors immediately
  • Give intravenous fluids if necessary to keep your pet hydrated

At festive teams when chocolates are plentiful such as Easter and Christmas, why not give your pet/s a delicious pet treat or chew so you can celebrate together safely!