Halloween is almost here, and many of us will be handing out candy to eager trick-or-treaters. Chocolate remains a favorite type of candy, and our pets, especially dogs, may be tempted to raid the candy bucket to get treats of their own. However, it is important to remember that chocolate of all types is toxic to pets.
The toxic components in chocolate are theobromine and caffeine. The amount of these substances in chocolate varies with the type of chocolate. Baking chocolate usually has the highest amounts, followed by semi-sweet and dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and lastly, white chocolate. Chocolate flavored cakes and cookies usually fall between milk and white chocolate in the amounts of theobromine and caffeine they contain.
If you know your pet has eaten chocolate, please call us for advice. We will want to know the amount and type of chocolate your pet ate and his or her approximate weight. Depending on when it was ingested, inducing vomiting can be very helpful in removing undigested chocolate and possibly wrappings from the GI tract. Because the toxic components of chocolate can recirculate through your pet’s system for several hours after ingestion, we may administer a substance called activated charcoal to help bind the toxic components of the chocolate.
Signs of chocolate toxicity can vary depending on the amount and type of chocolate ingested. Ingestion of relatively small amounts may lead to vomiting and diarrhea, while larger amounts can lead to hyperactivity, tremors, seizures, rapid heart rate leading to abnormal heart rhythms, and, in rare cases, death.
Most chocolate ingestions can be managed on an outpatient basis, but if your pet ingested a large amount of chocolate or has more severe symptoms, hospitalization, IV fluids and medication may be necessary.
Remember, chocolate toxicity can largely be prevented by keeping chocolate safely out of pets’ reach. However, if your pet does ingest some, contact us or the nearest emergency veterinary hospital for advice. Most pets that ingest chocolate will make a full recovery with proper care.
Have a safe and happy Halloween!