As we are approaching Easter, it is important to be mindful about the toxicity of chocolate in pets.

Chocolate contains cocoa which has a compound called Theobromine.  People are able to break theobromine down and excrete it but pets cannot. Theobromine is responsible for causing the toxic signs associated with ingestion of chocolate.  Theobromine is more concentrated in darker chocolate, due to a higher cocoa content, which is why small pets only need to ingest a small amount of dark, cooking chocolate or cocoa powder to be affected.

Toxicity is dependant on the size of your pet and the type of chocolate.

What are the signs of Chocolate toxicity?

Signs most commonly occur within 12 hours of ingesting the chocolate, and include:

  • vomiting and diarrhoea
  • trembling and muscle spasms
  • increased excitement, irritability or nervousness
  • increased heart rate
  • excessive thirst and excessive urination (in higher doses)
  • seizures
  • coma
  • death (rare- usually due to cardiac disturbances)

Toxicity of chocolate increases with increased cocoa content.

Milk chocolate has a smaller amount of cocoa and baking chocolate, cocoa powder and speciality chocolate, i.e. 90% cocoa, have the highest amount.

Poisoning usually occurs with larger dogs eating a larger amount of chocolate or small pets eating dark chocolate or a lot of chocolate.  The veterinarians have treated a cat who had toxic signs after eating 1 square of dark chocolate.

If you pets has eaten any chocolate, contact the clinic, or if we are closed, call the emergency centre immediately.  We need to know the weight of your pet as well as the type and how much chocolate was ingested.  DO NOT delay seeking treatment.

There is no antitoxin available for Theobromine which is why it is important to seek veterinary attention immediately after ingestion.  The higher the dose of cocoa, the larger amount of chocolate ingested, the smaller your pet and the longer the time since ingestion, increases your pets chance of developing signs.

Please ensure all chocolate is kept out of reach of all pets.  If you are planning an Easter egg hunt, ensure all pets are locked away where they cannot eat all the chocolate before the hunt starts.