To all of you chocolate lovers out there! That innocent looking pooch that lives with you is secretly planning to find your stash and get the lot! Dogs love chocolate! Don’t we all!!??

However, for dogs it is bad news. They can get chocolate poisoning and it can have very serious consequences including the occasional death. At this festive time of year we start to see a few cases as people receive presents of chocolate from the Easter Bunny or do baking with cooking chocolate.

The main active ingredient in chocolate that is toxic to dogs is theobromine, although it also contains the similar but less toxic ingredient, caffeine. Dogs are much more sensitive to these ingredients than people. They are stimulants and cause:

  • increased heart rate and cardiac arrhythmias;
  • hyperactivity to the point to seizures in severe cases;
  • vomiting;
  • increased or decreased breathing;
  • increased urination

The darker the chocolate the more toxin it contains per 100 g. Dark chocolate or cooking chocolate are the usual culprits for acute poisonings though I would recommend that you seek veterinary advice if your dog eats any chocolate.

Logically, the smaller the dog the more likely it is to be poisoned by chocolate. Dogs can show signs of toxicity after having eaten as little as 20 mg/kg of theobromine. Deaths have been reported when 60 mg/kg of theobromine has been eaten. Given that cooking chocolate can contain 1400 mg of theobromine per 100 g of chocolate, it can be easy for an average sized dog to get poisoned from eating less than a 100 g of cooking chocolate.

Treatment needs to be intensive and started as soon as possible to treat the signs, help get rid of the poison already absorbed and prevent further absorption of the toxins from the gut.

So, enjoy your chocolate treats but just make sure your dog doesn’t!