South Side Tails Blog


October 2014

Chocolate Ingestion
Written by Dr. Mary L Gaynor

We are approaching chocolate season with Halloween followed by the winter holidays. Chocolate is a treat enjoyed by most humans, and we have a good excuse to NOT share with our canine friends. As most of you know, chocolate is toxic to pets.

Chocolate contains a compound called methylxanthine. This chemical is absorbed quite quickly after it is eaten. Dogs cannot metabolize these alkaloids like we can, causing a myriad of signs ranging from gastrointestinal upset, cardiac (heart) effects, or neurological symptoms. The higher the amount of chocolate eaten, the more severe the symptoms will be - progressing from vomiting, diarrhea, restless behaviour, elevated heart rate (tachycardia), abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia), tremors, seizures, or even death.

Not all chocolate is created equal. Most store bought candy bars made of milk chocolate can contain 50mg/oz of methylxanthine); whereas the high quality dark chocolate can contain over 150mg/oz methylxanthine. Baking chocolate contains 400mg/oz methylxanthine. So as you can see….the size of the dog, the type of chocolate, and the amount of chocolate all contribute to how severely your dog may be affected.

If your dog has eaten chocolate you should call our hospital (or the emergency clinic if after hours) and let us know the type and amount of chocolate your pet may have eaten. If we haven’t seen your pet recently we will ask for an estimated weight. If the dose is a toxic dose, we will recommend coming down immediately for treatment.

Treatment of Chocolate Ingestion:
1. We will most likely induce vomiting on arrival (what I fondly call “chocoemesis”) to empty as much as possible from the stomach.

2. We will administer and send home Activated Charcoal. This will bind to any remaining chocolate in the gastrointestinal tract to prevent reabsorption into the blood stream.

3. If clinical signs are noted (shaking, elevated heart rate) then we will likely recommend your pet stay in hospital for monitoring and IV fluids to flush out the toxins. This will also enable us to administer any medications, if needed, to treat any symptoms.