Theobromine & Caffeine are toxic to dogs and cats

Chocolate contains a compound called theobromine. Caffeine is also commonly present but in much smaller amounts. Both of these chemicals are toxic to dogs and cats. They affect the brain, the nerves, heart, and gastrointestinal tract. The darker the chocolate (with a higher percentage of cocoa) the more toxic it is. White chocolate is the least toxic, whereas dark chocolate, bakers’ chocolate and cocoa powder, are significantly more toxic.

Symptoms of Chocolate Toxicity

  • Excessive thirst or urination
  • Hyperactivity
  • Lack of coordination
  • Racing heart rhythm sometimes with abnormal rhythms
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Sudden death in severe cases

These signs are usually seen within 6 – 12 hours of ingestion

If you witness your pet consuming chocolate, or think that your pet is acting strangely and has had access to chocolate, you should seek veterinary attention immediately.

What to expect at the vet

Ingestion within the last 1 – 4 hours:

  • Induction of vomiting (emesis)
  • Administration of oral charcoal solution to prevent further absorption of toxin

Ingestion > 4 hours before arriving at the vet and/or showing signs of toxicity:

  • Intravenous fluids
  • Intravenous medications as needed to control seizures/muscle tremors and heart arrhythmias
  • ECG monitoring if heart arrhythmias present
  • Administration of oral charcoal solution to prevent further absorption of toxin
  • Sedation with medication to help slow the heart and reduce anxiety

With appropriate treatment the prognosis for animals with chocolate toxicity is very good and they are usually discharged from hospital within 24 hours. Nonetheless, pets should be monitored for vomiting and inappetence over the next few weeks as the high fat content in some chocolates can sometimes be associated with a tummy upset or pancreatitis.

Pets & Toxins  |  Pet Seizures  |  Non Toxic Plants  |  Vomiting Pets

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