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Chocolate Toxicity

Did you know chocolate is very toxic to our furry friends?

Why is chocolate toxic to my pet?
Chocolate is toxic to dogs and cats mainly due to a chemical called “theobromine” It acts similarly to caffeine and will speed up the heart rate, stimulate the nervous system and act as a diuretic (increasing urine production) leading to dehydration. Humans can break theobromine but dogs and cats have a poor ability to do so. That’s why they can get very sick from just a small amount of chocolate.

What signs to look out for?
If you witness your pet eating chocolate, that’s easy. But you’re probably more likely to notice your favourite stash of KitKat is GONE. Did you sleep-eat it? Or did your furbaby have a sneaky tucker while you were away? This is when knowing the signs of chocolate toxicity comes in handy!

  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Jittery and hyperactivity (Picture yourself having had too many cups of coffee.)
  • Highly strung and short-tempered, may appear snappy
  • Trembling and muscle spasms
  • Increased thirst and excessive urination
  • Seizures
  • Coma (passing out)

How much is too much?
The severity of chocolate toxicity is correlated to the amount ingested and the weight of your pet. What makes the assessment tricky is that different types of chocolate contain different levels of theobromine.

When in doubt, it is always a good idea to call the vet clinic and tell them the following:

  • How much does your pet weigh? Smaller pets only need to eat a small amount of chocolate for it to be toxic.
  • How much chocolate did your pet eat? The more chocolate that is eaten, the more severe the toxic effects.
  • What TYPE of chocolate did your pet eat? The more bitter or dark the chocolate, the more toxic it is. Additionally, some chocolate products contain other highly toxic ingredients such as grapes/sultanas and macadamia nuts which would make it even more dangerous for your pet
  • When do you think your pet may have eaten the chocolate?

What does the treatment involve?
It depends on how early you’ve noticed that your furbaby has eaten chocolate. If you see it happen, DON’T WAIT. The earlier the intervention, the better. If you can get your furbaby into the clinic within 2 hours of ingestion, we can try to induce vomiting to clear out the chocolate before it can get absorbed into the system. They will also likely be sent home with some activated charcoal to help ‘mop up’ any residual toxins so they can be harmlessly removed from the gut in the faeces instead of being absorbed by the body. This is much better for your furbaby. If it has been longer, treatment depends on the condition of your furbaby and may include intravenous fluids to help ‘flush’ your pet’s system. For the best possible care, we usually recommend that your furbaby stay with us for a little while in hospital while he/she recovers.

Remember that prevention is the best cure and lock your chocolates out of reach of your furbaby! But if your furbaby has eaten chocolate, know that you’re not the only one. We’ve all been there. It’s stressful and sometimes scary. Don’t worry. We’re here for you.