Yes, chocolate really isn’t good for dogs’ health, and although it’s fortunately rarely fatal for your four-legged friend, chocolate can make your dog terribly ill. It also of course depends on the size of your dog, how healthy your pet is and how much of the treat he has consumed, but chocolate in large quantities can be deadly for pets.
According to the Johannesburg Animal Protection Society (SPBA), chocolate is poisonous because it contains a chemical component called theobromine, as well as caffeine. Humans can easily metabolize theobromine, but a dog’s system has trouble processing it, meaning it can build up to toxic levels.
According to the SPCA, chocolate is just as dangerous for your cat.
“The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. The chemical components are stimulants and older animals, or pets with heart problems, run a greater risk of dying from chocolate poisoning,” says this organisation.
Dark chocolate, dark chocolate and cocoa contain higher levels of theobromine; just 25 g can be enough to poison a 20 kg dog.
Signs of chocolate poisoning can usually appear within 6 to 12 hours after your pet ingests it and the symptoms can last up to 72 hours.
According to the experts at Hills Pet, a small amount of chocolate will probably just give your dog an upset stomach. He may also vomit or have diarrhea. However, large amounts of chocolate will have a more serious effect, which can lead to irregular heartbeats, internal bleeding or a heart attack.
What to watch out for:
The onset of theobromine poisoning is usually marked by severe hyperactivity.
At least you don’t have to worry too much if your dog has eaten a single bar of chocolate, but a small dog that has consumed an entire box of chocolates should go to the vet immediately.
Symptoms of chocolate poisoning:
- Increased urination
- Increased body temperature
- Increased reflex responses
- Muscle stiffness
- Rapid breathing or panting (not usually in cats, which don’t pant to cool themselves like dogs do)
- Increased heart rate
- Low blood pressure
- Advanced signs are heart failure, weakness and a coma
Both organizations recommend that you get your pet to the vet if you suspect the animal has eaten a large amount of chocolate.
“If your pet has consumed the chocolate less than two hours before, your vet can induce vomiting and give them several doses of activated charcoal, which works to move the toxins out of the body without being absorbed into the bloodstream.
“For more severe cases, veterinary intervention may be necessary to provide supplementary treatment, such as medication or intravenous fluids, to resolve the effects of the poisoning.
“Dogs suffering from seizures may need to be monitored overnight,” said the SPCA.
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