What is chocolate poisoning?

Chocolate is a commonly available food and therefore chocolate poisoning is very common in dogs. Furthermore, dogs can often eat large quantities of chocolate. Chocolate contains two related chemicals that can be toxic to pets, theobromine and caffeine. The amount of caffeine and theobromine varies with the type of chocolate. White chocolate contains only very small quantities and there is little risk of toxic effects. Milk chocolate contains a larger quantity of these compounds and dark chocolate contains the highest concentration. Toxic effects can occur after only a relatively small dose of dark chocolate.

Sources of chocolate

Products containing chocolate (and/or theobromine) include cocoa powder, chocolate bars or boxes, chocolate biscuits and cakes, brownies, Easter eggs, chocolate raisins, chocolate-coated nuts and cocoa mulch (used in gardening).

What are the signs of chocolate poisoning?

Clinical signs of chocolate poisoning can start within a few hours of ingestion. There may be gastrointestinal signs, and caffeine and theobromine are stimulants of the brain and heart. Clinical signs may include:
• Vomiting
• Diarrhoea
• Lethargy
• Panting
• Hyperactivity
• Restlessness
• Thirst
• Increased heart rate
• Tremors
• Convulsions

What to do if your pet has eaten chocolate

• If your pet has eaten chocolate – contact Animal PoisonLine immediately to fi nd out whether you need to go to the vet .
• If the quantity eaten and your pet’s weight are known it will be possible to determine if a toxic dose has been taken.
• Treatment will depend on how long ago the chocolate was eaten but may include drugs to remove the chocolate from the gut, intravenous fluids, sedatives or anticonvulsants.

EMERGENCY ADVICE
• Call Animal PoisonLine on 01202 509000 even if your pet is showing no signs to find out whether a trip to the vet is required.
• Remove your pet from the source of poison.
• Do not try to make your pet vomit –NEVER give salt water.
• Collect the poison and take a sample/container with you if you are advised to take your pet to the vet practice.