Chocolate Toxicity

Feel the Love this Valentine’s Day - Know the Signs of Chocolate Toxicity

A Guide To Chocolate Poisoning In Dogs

With nearly 58 million pounds of chocolate being sold each year for Valentine’s Day, it is no doubt that giving chocolates is one of the most popular ways that we express our affection! However, for our furry family members, eating chocolate does not make them feel the love!

Chocolate toxicity is one of the most common types of toxicity in pets. Cats are more susceptible than dogs, but dogs are far more likely to be naughty and get into large amounts of chocolate!

If you fear that your pet got into chocolate, please try to find out the type and amount of chocolate ingested. Dark chocolate, baking chocolate, or cocoa powder are far more dangerous than milk chocolate. Knowing the brand of chocolate is important as well; some brands contain high amounts of fat, artificial sugars, or other ingredients that could cause toxicity in your pet, other than the chocolate itself.

Signs of Chocolate Toxicity:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased Thirst

More severe cases may also experience:

  • Restlessness 
  • Muscle Tremors
  • Excessive Panting
  • Elevated Heart Rate
  • Gastrointestinal Upset
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Small amounts of chocolate ingested usually only lead to gastrointestinal upset, causing vomiting, diarrhea, and increased thirst. These signs are usually non-serious in otherwise healthy, stable pets. Higher amounts of chocolate ingested can lead to serious heart issues, as the active ingredients in chocolate, theobromine and caffeine, both work to destabilize the heart’s circulatory and contractility functions and stimulate the central nervous system. These pets will exhibit restlessness, muscle tremors, excessive panting, and an elevated heart rate in addition to gastrointestinal upset. These signs may progress to seizures, coma, and potentially sudden death if your pet has eaten a near lethal or lethal amount of chocolate.

If you believe that your pet has ingested chocolate, and you’re unsure if your pet ate enough to be seriously concerned about, there are a few things you can do at home! 

Please do not attempt to induce vomiting at home without contacting our veterinary staff or speaking to licensed veterinary professionals at Pet Poison Helpline. 

Merck Veterinary Website: Chocolate Toxicity Calculator

By using your pet’s weight and the amount and type of chocolate ingested, this free online tool can help you decide if your furry family member needs to see a veterinarian!

Pet Poison Helpline  1-855-764-7661

This 24/7 phone service for veterinary toxin emergencies, can be extremely helpful. They have access to proprietary information and exact formulations of different kinds of chocolates that are not available to the public or even other veterinarians. It is very important to obtain the packaging or exact product information of whatever kind of chocolate your pet ingested -- this will allow the veterinarians at Pet Poison Helpline or your regular veterinary clinic to do the calculations necessary to determine the next steps for your pet!

Treatment for chocolate toxicity is variable, depending on the amount of chocolate ingested, it can range from being sent home with nausea medications to a several day hospital stay. If your pet ever gets into chocolate, our veterinarians will create a treatment plan for your pet, based on their risk.

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