Chocolate. It’s in virtually every household in America, but it can be dangerous to our family pets. Unfortunately dogs and cats lack the ability to process some of the chemicals that are present in chocolate (called methylxanthines) which can cause symptoms that can vary from minor gastrointestinal upset to coma and even death!
The toxicity of chocolate varies greatly depending both on the size of your pet and the type of chocolate that they ingest. Smaller dogs can have issues with just a tiny amount of chocolate while bigger dogs must eat a much larger amount of chocolate to see the same level of issues. As a general rule, the darker the chocolate the more toxic it is to your pet. White chocolate is of the least concern while unsweetened Baker’s chocolate poses the biggest problem.
The most common symptoms seen with chocolate ingestion are vomiting and diarrhea. Sometimes it can cause an increased heart rate. Your pet may display some hyperactivity as well. In severe cases, you may see seizures and, although rare, even death.
Treatment of chocolate ingestion include induction of vomiting and administration of activated charcoal to help prevent absorption of any remaining chocolate from the stomach. Your veterinarian may recommend hospitalization for supportive care and monitoring of heart rate depending on the amount and the type of chocolate ingested. In some cases your veterinarian may be concerned about an intestinal blockage secondary to the wrappers, cardboard, or plastic your pet ingested trying to get to that delicious chocolate. Radiographs of the abdomen may be suggested for these pets.
If your pet ingests chocolate at home, please note both the weight of your pet and the amount of chocolate in ounces (estimates are okay!) and call your veterinarian. Based on this information, they can give you advice on whether your pet needs to be examined.