We love Easter eggs and other chocolates and so do our pets! However while we can enjoy chocolate safely, our furry friends can get very sick if they get their paws on it. Chocolate poisoning is one of the top 20 most common poisonings that occur in pets. It happens most frequently around certain holidays such as Easter and Christmas.
Chocolate contains substances called ’Methylxanthine alkaloids’ that are toxic to dogs and cats. The most important of these are theobromine and caffeine. The toxicity is dose dependant, so is related to the amount consumed and bodyweight. For example, if a Labrador eats a few squares, this may not be a big problem however this amount could make a Chihuahua very sick!
The toxic substances stimulate the heart and the nervous system excessively. The first signs of chocolate toxicity are usually vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness and hyperactivity. Affected animals can then progress to neurological signs such as stiffness, excitement and seizures (fits). If left untreated, heart failure, coma and death can occur. This can happen as soon as 12-36 hours after ingestion.
If you suspect that your pet has eaten more than a small amount of chocolate, it is important to phone your local veterinary hospital to determine whether the amount consumed could be dangerous. Your pet should be kept calm and excitement or stress should be avoided. If the amount consumed is significant, your pet should be taken to the vet for treatment. The vet may administer something to induce vomiting in order to remove the chocolate from the stomach. The pet will be placed on a drip and any seizures will be controlled with medications. If treated early enough, fatal toxicity may be avoided. However, the safest thing to do is to keep chocolate away from your pets!