Protect your dog from chocolate toxicity this Easter
Written by Dr Claire Stevens
Let’s face it, we all love chocolate right. What’s not to love. It must be one of life’s most decadent pleasures. While you may have some concerns about how much of your indulgence will show on the hips this Easter, if you are a dog owner, there are bigger things to fear as chocolate is highly toxic to dogs.
Chocolate is made from roasted cocoa beans, which contain two toxic ingredients: theobromine and caffeine. Since dogs are unable to metabolise these chemicals as readily as humans, they are more sensitive to their stimulatory effects and can become seriously ill if they are ingested.
Symptoms and Effects
The symptoms and side effects from ingesting chocolate will vary depending on the size of the dog, the type of chocolate and how much of it a dog consumes, as this will affect the toxicity. Common symptoms include:
- Raised body temperature
- Muscle stiffness
- Rapid breathing
- Low blood pressure
- Rapid heartbeat
- Heart failure, weakness, coma (advanced symptoms)
There are three types of chocolate that are cause for concern:
- Milk Chocolate — a dog can exhibit mild symptoms after ingesting 20 grams of milk chocolate per half kilo of body weight. Ingesting larger amounts (>50 grams per half kilo body weight) can have more serious toxic effects (for example a 9-kilogram dog eating just 450 grams of chocolate).
- Semi-Sweet Chocolate (like choc chips used for baking) — a dog can exhibit mild symptoms of toxicity after ingesting 8.5 grams per half kilo body weight, and severe toxicity symptoms after ingesting 20 grams per half kilo body weight. A 9-kilogram dog, for example, will need to ingest just 179 grams to bring on severe toxicity symptoms.
- Baking Chocolate — Chocolate used for baking has the highest concentrations of theobromine and caffeine and is, therefore, the most toxic of all. It takes just two small squares (57 grams) of baking chocolate to bring on toxic effects in a 9-kilogram dog (less than 3 grams per half kilo body weight). Cocoa used in baking is also highly toxic, compounding the problem if your pet eats a chocolate cupcake topped with chocolate icing.
Diagnosis & Treatment of Chocolate Toxicity
If your dog shows any of the above symptoms and you suspect he may be suffering from chocolate poisoning you should consult your veterinarian immediately. Your vet may suggest some interim measures you can perform at home, such as inducing vomiting, before bringing him in for an examination. Your vet will perform a thorough physical examination, which may include an ECG to check the heart rate, as well as blood and urine tests. Treatment usually involves feeding your dog a diet consisting of bland foods for several days and ensuring that your pet receives adequate fluids to prevent him from dehydrating until his condition improves.
Preventing Chocolate Toxicity
If a dog eats enough chocolate it can cause toxic effects, which can be fatal in severe cases. Since there is no antidote for chocolate toxicity, it is vitally important that you keep chocolate and products that contain chocolate out of your pooch’s reach. Never feed raw chocolate, Easter eggs, chocolate cookies or cupcakes that contain chocolate to your dog as a treat. Although your intentions may be good, the consequences could be dire. By all means, go ahead and indulge yourself on Easter eggs and other chocolate goodies this Easter, but do not share your choccies with your pooch. Rather offer your pet high-quality low fat treats, such as Hypro Premium Tasty Chews, which come in Duck and Kangaroo flavours. These low-fat chews are not only highly palatable, but they are also rich in lean protein, vitamins and antioxidants essential for good health. Not only will your dog be happy and safe, it means all the more chocolate for you!