Pets will eat anything and everything, even what they are not supposed to. They like to scavenge, go through garbage bins, they are drawn to food smells. Pets are inquisitive and always hungry.
Chocolate is derived from roasted cacao (theobroma). In addition to high fat content, it also contains high levels of caffeine and theobromine. These are nervous stimulants and highly toxic to animals. If ingested can lead to varying levels of complications. Depending on the type of chocolate ingested, clinical signs such as diarrhea, vomiting, high heart rate, trouble breathing, muscle spasms, disorientation, loss of reflexes are observed and if very severe cases, it can also cause death.
Chocolate is a human food, designed and made specifically for human consumption. Pet owners need to cautious if they are keeping or storing chocolate in a household which includes pets.
Do NOT leave any forms of chocolate unattended. Always keep them away in a safe place – Away from your pet’s reach. Chocolate is POISONOUS to pets. It can even lead to death.
Ingesting and form of chocolate can cause poisoning. Clinical signs depends on the following:
Baking chocolate: It has the highest content of caffeine and theobromine. Mild signs occur when 0.1 (2.8 grams) ounce per pound (2.2 kilos) of body weight is consumed. Severe signs occur when 0.3 (8.4 grams) ounce per pound (2.2 kilos) of body weight in ingested.
Semi-sweet chocolate: Mild signs occur when 0.33 (10 grams) ounce per pound (2.2 kilos) of body weight is consumed. Severe signs occur when 1.0 ounce (28 grams) per pound (2.2 kilos) of body weight in ingested.
Milk chocolate: Mild signs occur when 0.7 (20 grams) ounce per pound (2.2 kilos) of body weight is consumed. Severe signs occur when 2.0 ounce (56 grams) per pound (2.2 kilos) of body weight in ingested.
White chocolate: Mild signs occur when 45 ounces (1.2 kilos) per pound (2.2 kilos) of body weight is consumed. Severe signs occur when 90 ounces (2.4 kilos) per pound (2.2 kilos) of body weight in ingested. A normal 20 pound (44 kilos) of body weight pet needs to consume 55 pounds (110 kilos) of white chocolate to show clinical signs. However this should not be ignored.
Clinical Signs & Symptoms
Ingesting any form of chocolate can cause poisoning. Symptoms can be seen within a few hours of ingesting chocolate. Clinical signs can be seen for days post consumption. The severity of chocolate poisoning depends on the amount (quantity) and the type (dark or white) of chocolate ingested.
Common symptoms include:
› Diarrhea (Loose stools)
› Polydipsia and Polyuria (excessive drinking and urinating)
› Abdominal Distension (swelling)
› Tachypnea (Rapid Breathing Rate)
› Hypotension (low blood pressure)
› Hypertension (high blood pressure)
› Tachycardia (rapid heart-rate)
› Arrhythmia (Irregular heartbeat)
› Cardiac Arrest (Heart failure or heart attack)
› Muscle spasms
› Muscle stiffness
› Ataxia (Loss of balance)
› Aspiration pneumonia
› Respiratory failure
› Coma or Death
Veterinarians will require a complete history of your dog which includes medical history, vaccination records, existing health concerns, current and previous medications, onset of symptoms, diet and exercise routine and any information which can help in establishing a correct diagnosis. Diagnosis is done with a combination of tests. These include routine lab examinations and special tests. They are:
› Complete Blood Count (CBC)
› Physical examination
› Biochemical profile
› Electrolyte Panel test
› Electrocardiogram (EKG)
Once it is confirmed that chocolate is consumed, treatment needs to started immediately.
Chocolate Poisoning is a MEDICAL EMERGENCY.
Treatment focuses on removing chocolate from the body and minimizing the adverse effects. This includes:
› Medications to induce vomiting
› Fluid therapy
› IV Fluids
› Sedatives (to reduce the effects of chocolate)
› Medications to reduce heart rate
› Medications to reduce blood pressure
Chocolate is a human food. The best way to prevent pet poisoning is to keep any and all forms of chocolate away from pets. Do not leave bits and pieces on kitchen or any other areas. Pets like to scavenge, while disposing chocolate, make sure garbage bins are properly covered.
Prognosis is always good if the treatment is started immediately post consumption of chocolate. Pets generally start to show signs of recovery with 2 to 3 days.
› It is mandatory to provide a stress-free environment for your cat. Keep water and food bowls within reach. Avoid physical activity. Keep your dogs away from any noise and commotions.
› You have to administer and monitor all prescribed medicine as directed by your veterinarian.
› Do NOT travel with your dog.
› Do NOT allow your dog to roam freely, it reduces the chances of contracting other infections which can affect the eye.
› Use of environmental disinfectants is recommended. Prompt disposal of any and all materials after use is suggested.
› A well planned, nutritious diet post recovery is necessary in such conditions.