Towcester Vets explain the dangers of chocolate poisoning in pets
April 7, 2023
Depending on when you’re reading this article, Easter will be just around the corner or a distant memory. Nevertheless, the message from the team at Towcester Vets is still the same:
Keep chocolate Easter eggs, chocolate bars, chocolate cake, cooking chocolate, drinking chocolate, cocoa powder, and anything containing chocolate well out of your pet’s reach!
Even a small amount of chocolate can put your pet’s health in serious danger. Worryingly, we hear of pet owners feeding their dogs chocolate as a treat. Keep reading our article to understand why this is a problem.
Contact us immediately if you suspect your pet has eaten chocolate.
Why is chocolate dangerous to pets?
Chocolate is especially toxic to dogs and cats because it contains the chemical theobromine. Theobromine is found in high concentrations naturally in the Cacao plant, which is chocolate in its pure form. Unlike humans, dogs and cats are very sensitive to theobromine, which causes some nasty symptoms.
If you suspect your pet has eaten chocolate, call us straight away.
Signs of chocolate poisoning in dogs and cats
Firstly, DON’T WAIT FOR SYMPTOMS TO APPEAR – CALL US
If you haven’t seen the incident but notice any of the below symptoms, CALL US.
- Signs of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, diarrhoea, hyperactivity, hypersalivation, high temperature, increased heart rate, tremors, and seizures.
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Know the facts:
- Signs usually appear after four hours of chocolate ingestion and can worsen if left untreated, and in rare cases can be fatal.
- The amount of theobromine in chocolate products does vary depending on the brand and the darkness of the chocolate; dark being stronger than milk, and white chocolate containing very low concentrations, meaning the darker the chocolate the higher the risk to pets. However, eating enough chocolate of any kind can pose a serious risk to life.
- Foods containing chocolate such as cakes, biscuits, and doughnuts can also cause harm. Cocoa beans, and cocoa powders contain the highest concentrations and are therefore extremely toxic.
- Cocoa shell mulch (used by some gardeners in flowerbeds) contains high levels of theobromine and should be avoided if you have pets.
- Even if the chocolate consumption hasn’t caused ‘obvious’ harm this time, the high fat content can lead to pancreatitis – a painful and potentially life-threatening problem with a dog’s pancreas.
- Many sugar-free chocolate products contain xylitol – an artificial sweetener – which is also highly toxic to pets, so that’s going to be even more dangerous.
- If eaten, wrappers can cause an obstruction that may need surgical intervention.
Keep our number handy in case of emergency: 01327 350239.
What to do if you think your pet has eaten chocolate
The veterinary team at Towcester Vets have unfortunately seen the symptoms and effects of chocolate poisoning in pets many times, mostly in dogs.
If you think your pet has ingested chocolate it is important to:
- Stay calm
- Remove the chocolate and the wrapper out of harm’s way but don’t throw it away
- Write down how much you think was eaten and when
- Call our vet practice immediately on 01327 350239
- Do not try to make your pet sick (unless instructed to do so by a vet) as this can cause harm and distress
The chocolate packaging and knowing how much was eaten and when will help our vets determine the amount of theobromine that has been ingested.
We will need to know this information when you call us, and we will also ask you for some details about your pet, such as age, size and weight, as these factors can influence how serious the chocolate poisoning is, and the treatment that may be required.
At the vets
Once at the vets, you can rest assured that your pet will be fully assessed, and the treatment options discussed with you. In many cases, your pet will be given an injection to make them vomit which will hopefully bring up all the chocolate before it has a chance to fully absorb.
If the concentration of suspected chocolate ingestion is high, your pet may need to be hospitalised for supportive care and medication, such as intravenous fluids and activated charcoal. The positive news is that most patients who receive prompt treatment for chocolate poisoning make a full recovery and so the prognosis is good.
If you think your pet has eaten chocolate, the most important thing to remember is to act quickly to minimise the absorption. Even if you are unsure whether the chocolate was actually eaten by your dog or cat, it is better to be cautious and ring us straight away for advice on 01327 350239.
How to keep your pets safe
Of course, prevention is better than cure, so here are some tips to help keep your pet safe from chocolate poisoning:
- Keep all confectionery and sweet treats off countertops and low-level surfaces; store them safely in secure containers out of reach of curious noses.
- If having an Easter egg hunt, keep cats and dogs well away from the area and at the end of the hunt ensure all chocolate eggs have been accounted for.
- Always be mindful of children (and other house guests) with chocolate as they may not understand the dangers and could accidentally feed their chocolate treats to your pet.
- Be vigilant when walking your dog as if there is chocolate on the ground, they will find it!
The last thing you want is a poorly pet at Easter, or any time of the year, so our advice is to make sure you keep anything chocolatey out of paw’s reach so that everyone can relax and enjoy life!
Remember, if you need us, we’re here!
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