With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, there is most likely going to be more sweets and chocolate around the house!  Although all of us humans enjoy chocolate, chocolate can be deadly for our dogs.  If dogs consume this tasty treat, they are at high risk of developing cardiac arrhythmias, central nervous system dysfunction, and potentially death.  It is important to get medical treatment as soon as possible.

You are probably wondering what makes chocolate so toxic? Why can humans have it and not our pets?  Chocolate contains certain compounds called methylxanthines.  The specific kinds found in chocolate are theobromine and caffeine.  When dogs ingest these substances, they get rapidly absorbed in their gastrointestinal tract and distribute to the rest of the body.  The dog’s body is unable to process these substances in the same way humans can.  A key thought to keep in mind is that the darker the chocolate, the higher the concentrations of these compounds.  In the grand spectrum of chocolate available to us, white chocolate contains the lowest concentration and dry cocoa powder contains the most.  With that being said, white chocolate isn’t any more “safe” it just takes a lot more to reach toxic levels compared to darker chocolates.

dog and candy

Let’s go over some important things to keep an out for if you believe your dog has ingested chocolate.  Symptoms can appear within 6-12 hours of ingestion.  Some signs or symptoms you may see include: increased thirst, diarrhea, vomiting, bloating, restlessness, increased urination, hyperactivity, difficulty walking, and seizures.  In optimal circumstances, it is best to bring your dog in to the veterinarian within 1 hour of ingestion.  In most circumstances, you may not be home when the dog ingests the chocolate to come in during this time frame.  If you come home to an empty container of chocolate it is important to call your veterinarian right away.  Things to have ready to tell the veterinarian include: your dog’s weight, what type of chocolate you believe was consumed, how much, and what time frame the dog consumed the chocolate.

After talking to your veterinarian, you will most likely be visiting the clinic.  When you get here we will examine your pet and determine what concentration we believe was consumed.  Based on this concentration we will know how toxic the dog is.  The treatment we most often use is inducing emesis (vomiting) to force the dog to bring up anything that still remains in the stomach.  Sometimes this will be enough, but other times we will have to give activated charcoal to further bind the toxins in the dog’s body so they can no longer absorb it.  After these medications have been given, we will give your pet an anti-nausea medicine.  Depending on the severity of the toxicity, we may have to give your dog fluids to increase urine production and flush the toxins out.

chocolate              Our recommendation to you during the holidays is to keep chocolate and other sweets locked away or out of reach of your animals. Enjoy the chocolate yourself and don’t share with your pet!

~Jesselyn Carr, Pharmacy Intern at The Veterinary Center of Hudson