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Chocolate Toxicity

Dog laying next to chocolate bar
Dog laying next to chocolate bar

Halloween tricks and treats are fun, but chocolate can be disastrous for our four-legged family members. Chocolate is toxic to pets and can cause severe illness and even death. Keep goodies out of reach of pets to avoid accidental poisoning.

Why is chocolate bad for pets?

Chocolate contains theobromine, which is similar to caffeine and in large amounts can be toxic. Pets metabolize theobromine much more slowly than people do, and that along with their smaller size makes them more sensitive to the effects. Also, the high fat content of chocolate can lead to a life-threatening illness called pancreatitis in dogs.

Are all kinds of chocolate dangerous?

The darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is. While about 5 ounces of milk chocolate can cause clinical signs of toxicity in a 10 lb dog, ONE ounce of baking chocolate in that same size dog can be fatal. White chocolate contains very little theobromine, but can be dangerous due to its high fat content. Cocoa mulch, which is sometimes used in landscaping, may also contain enough theobromine to be toxic if large amounts are ingested.

What kinds of animals are at risk of chocolate toxicity?

Dogs are usually the pets that get into trouble because their nature is to eat ALOT of whatever tastes good to them. Cats, though they are actually more sensitive to chocolate, generally have better sense so we rarely see cats with this poisoning at our emergency hospital.

What are the symptoms of chocolate toxicity?

Early symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst or urination, panting and hyperactivity. This can progress to rapid heart rate, hypertension, cardiac arrhythmias, tremors, seizures, coma and death depending on the exposure. Signs of pancreatitis include vomiting, possibly diarrhea and abdominal pain.

Can pets be treated?

Yes, treatment is generally successful if started early, so it is best not to wait for symptoms to start before seeking care.

What does treatment consist of?

Depending on the severity of the poisoning, the pet may only need outpatient care, or may require days of intensive care with intravenous fluids, cardiac monitoring and control of seizures.

What should you do if your pet has ingested chocolate?

If your bag of miniature dark chocolate bars on the kitchen counter is ripped open, there’s candy missing and a guilty look on your dog’s face, just call us. We keep a toxic chocolate dose chart next to our phones for that client who has just discovered their dog has robbed the candy jar. If the amount ingested could be a problem, the doctor will examine your pet for clinical signs of poisoning, induce vomiting and provide specific treatment as needed.