Vet Services Hawkes Bay Ltd

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Death by Chocolate: When to call the vet

By Helen Crawford, BVSc

As we enter the time of year where a lot of chocolate is about, we often get phone calls from owners wondering what to do after their pet has possibly or almost certainly eaten some chocolate, or cocoa containing cakes and biscuits.

It is definitely worth calling us as soon you suspect your dog may have ingested chocolate. In some cases we can reassure you, based on the dogs weight and chocolate type. For example a 30Kg Labrador can devour up to 100gms of milk chocolate and be fine, but we would be very concerned if a fox terrier ate 50gms or more of dark chocolate. The type of chocolate can make a huge difference with dark and baking types being the most concerning as they contain the highest amount of the toxin, theobromine. Theobromine, along with caffeine, is classified as a xanthine alkaloid and dogs are particularly sensitive to it’s effects.

The signs of chocolate toxicity are delayed by 6-12 hours, by which time the opportunity to induce vomiting to decontaminate them has passed, so early treatment is essential even if they appear fine! Signs in mild cases include vomiting, diarrhea and hyperactivity but can progress to seizures, tremors, racing heart beats and even death if higher doses were ingested.

If dogs are symptomatic, hospitalisation would be indicated as treatment is supportive, with intravenous fluids speeding up the clearance (which can take up to 4 days).

Of course prevention is best, so have a chat to the whole family, get the kids involved and make everyone aware of the potential dangers of chocolate to our dogs. 

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