With Easter just around the corner, and with endless other reasons to buy chocolate throughout the year, it is important to remember that dogs and other pets can react differently to this tasty treat than we do!

While rarely fatal, chocolate ingestion can still often result in significant illness for dogs. Chocolate is toxic because it contains an alkaloid called ‘Theobromine.’ Theobromine is similar in nature to caffeine and is often used medicinally as a diuretic, heart stimulant, blood vessel dilator, and smooth muscle relaxant. Theobromine can be poisonous when ingested in large amounts.

What Are the Dangers of Chocolate Poisoning?

Clinical signs are based on the amount and type of chocolate ingested. In older pets that eat a large amount of high quality or baking chocolate, sudden death from cardiac arrest may occur. This is especially common in older dogs with preexisting heart disease.

For many dogs, the most common signs of chocolate poisoning include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Panting or restlessness
  • Increased thirst
  • Excessive urination
  • Muscle spasms
  • Seizures

Elevated heart rate and abnormal behavior are also common. Clinical signs of chocolate poisoning can take up to 12 hours to develop. It is important to seek medical attention as soon as you suspect that your dog has eaten chocolate.  

What Is the Treatment for Chocolate Poisoning?

Treatment is based on the amount and type of chocolate eaten. If treated early, removal of the chocolate from the stomach by administering medications to induce vomiting may be all that is necessary.

In cases where the chocolate was ingested several hours earlier, activated charcoal may be administered to block the absorption of Theobromine in the stomach and small intestine. Activated charcoal may be administered every four hours for the first 24 to 36 hours to reduce the continued reabsorption and recirculation of Theobromine.

It is very common to provide supportive treatments such as intravenous fluid therapy, to help dilute and promote excretion of the toxin. All dogs ingesting chocolate should be closely monitored for the first twenty-four hours for any signs of irregular heart rhythm.

If you believe your pet may have ingested chocolate, or your pet is experiencing any of the symptoms that are shown with chocolate poisoning, call us or bring your pet in as soon as possible.