April is the month of Easter – which means lots of chocolate goodies and sweets around the house! Even though chocolate is considered as a treat for humans, you may or may not know that chocolate is actually a toxic substance to our furry friends!
Both dogs and cats can suffer from chocolate toxicity, it is rarely fatal however may cause your pet to become very sick and cause a lot of nasty symptoms.
It is important to not give chocolate to your pets as a treat, and remember to put away any uneaten chocolate over Easter as some cheeky dogs and cats have been known to accidentally (on purpose) sneak a chocolate treat themselves!
So why is chocolate toxic to our pets but not humans?
The main toxic chemical that is found in chocolate is called theobromine. Caffeine is another ingredient in chocolate which is also harmful to pets. Both theobromine and caffeine are not well metabolised in cats and dogs and therefore build up in the body, in turn having certain negative side effects.
What are the clinical signs of chocolate toxicity?
The severity of the clinical signs depends on the type of chocolate ingested as well as the amount consumed. For example, dark chocolate is more toxic to our fur babies compared to milk chocolate, as dark chocolate contains a higher percentage of theobromine. You can expect to see these signs from time of consumption to several hours post-ingestion.
Common signs include:
– Increased thirst
– Excessive urination
– Increased heart rate
Severe signs include:
– Muscle tremors
– Heart failure
– Cardiac arrest
What is the treatment for chocolate toxicity?
If the chocolate was ingested a short time prior to making it into the vet clinic, your veterinarian will most likely induce vomiting to bring up any chocolate consumed and therefore decrease the risk of any toxin absorption.
If it has been some time since ingesting the chocolate or if clinical signs are observed, your pet may have to be admitted to hospital and have intravenous fluid therapy to encourage theobromine excretion from the body. Some pets my also require a substance called activated charcoal, which binds to toxic substances to prevent absorption to the bloodstream.
Depending on the clinical signs observed, your veterinarian will prescribe certain therapies to treat these signs. For example, if a pet began seizuring your veterinarian would administer diazepam to stop the seizure episodes.
In severe cases, gastric lavage under a general anaesthetic is necessary to decontaminate the stomach.
So what should you do if you observe your pet eating chocolate this Easter?
Please call us as soon as you suspect any chocolate ingestion. It is very helpful to us if you can provide the details of the type of chocolate eaten, as well as the quantity. We can then take the appropriate measures to ensure that we resolve the problem and allow you and your fur baby to have a wonderful Easter!