Easter is almost here & that means we have stockpiles of chocolate in our homes. Unfortunately as delicious as chocolate is for us, it can be fatal for our pets.

Chocolate contains theobromine from cocoa beans. The amount of theobromine varies with the type of chocolate. Cooking chocolate has the highest concentration & white chocolate has insignificant amounts. The toxic dose of theobromine for a dog is 100-200mg/kg & for a cat is 80-150mg/kg. Below is a table showing amounts that lead to serious illness & possibly death:

4 kg cat 10 kg dog
Cooking chocolate 20-40g 70-140g
Dark chocolate (60%) 60-120g 200-400g
Milk chocolate 180-350g 560-1120g
White chocolate 1000-3000g 5000-8000g

** NB Amounts of white chocolate required to cause toxicity are large, but small amounts can cause gastroenteritis.

Most clinical signs are seen in 1-4 hours, but can sometimes take up to 6-12 hours. Initial signs are polydipsia (drinking too much), vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal distension & restlessness. These then progress to polyuria (urinating frequently), hyperactivity, ataxia, tremors & seizures. Final stage signs are tachycardia, cyanosis & coma. Death occurs due to cardiac arrhythmias or respiratory failure. The reason for these signs are due to theobromine’s stimulation of the nervous system & cardiac muscles. Additionally, high fat levels in chocolate can predispose to pancreatitis in those susceptible.

If concerned about your pet succumbing to chocolate toxicity, always give us a call. Depending on what clinical signs are evident, & the amount of time passed since ingestion, we might induce vomiting. As clinical signs worsen we can only provide supportive treatment as unfortunately there is no anti-toxin. Even with treatment signs can persist for up to 72 hours in severe cases.

To prevent the stress of whether your pet has consumed enough chocolate for serious illness, it’s best to keep it well out of their reach. Or even not store too much at home. Alternatively, if they don’t have access – that’s more chocolate for you!