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What to do if your dog eats chocolate

There are many foods loved by pet owners and by their dogs – that can make their pets very ill!  Examples include grapes, sultanas, avocados, peaches, plums, macadamia nuts and ice cream. However, at this time of year the food to be most wary of is…. chocolate.  With human chocolate in abundance at this time of year, please keep your dog safe from chocolate poisoning

Different dogs react to different things. Some dogs can tolerate human chocolate without any apparent ill effects. Other dogs will react very badly to certain foods and for some and it could kill them.

Dogs are masters at sniffing out chocolate and have been known to go to extreme lengths to access this tasty treat. Don’t imagine that just putting it out of reach is sufficient because if they want it, they will do their best to get it!
However, chocolate (particularly dark chocolate) can be extremely dangerous for dogs. Chocolate is the cause of death for multiple pets every year.

Chocolate contains a stimulant called Theobromine, which is similar to caffeine and is poisonous to dogs.  Vets say that chocolate is one of the most common causes of poisoning in dogs.  It can not only make them very unwell, it can sometimes even be fatal.  Different types of chocolate contain different amounts of Theobromine.  Dark chocolate has the most and white chocolate has very little – but it’s worth being aware of the risks nonetheless.

Click this link for a free e-book on How to help your dog if they are poisoned 

Signs and symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs:

If my dog has snaffled my chocolate – what will the Theobromine do and what symptoms will I see?

Theobromine mainly affects the heart, central nervous system and kidneys. Symptoms will occur from 4-24 hours after your dog has eaten chocolate and will vary depending on the amount of chocolate (Theobromine) your dog has eaten.

Symptoms you may see:

  • Vomiting (possibly including blood)
  • Diarrhoea
  • Hyperactivity and restlessness
  • Rapid breathing
  • Muscle twitching
  • Increased heart rate
  • Seizures / fitting

First aid for chocolate poisoning:

If your dog has eaten any chocolate contact your vet as quickly as possible. Provide as much information as you can about how much they have eaten and the type of chocolate consumed. Preserve wrappers and remains of the chocolate and take them with you to the Surgery.

There is no antidote to Theobromine. In most cases of chocolate poisoning, your vet will initially make your dog vomit, wash out their stomach and then feed them activated charcoal to absorb any Theobromine left in the intestine. Please do not be tempted to make your dog vomit yourself, this should be done by your vet in a controlled manner.

(Please note that not all pets react the same way to poisoning. Some appear to tolerate grapes, raisins, chocolate etc. with no apparent ill- effects. There is no way to predict the effect foods will have on your dog and so it is always best to avoid them)

If you think your dog has eaten chocolate, even if they do not appear to be having any adverse reaction, always contact your vet for their advice. Their survival depends on how quickly they are seen. With poisoning, it is extremely common that the reaction does not occur for many hours or even days after ingestion and by that time it could be too late!

Emma Hammett
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