Chocolate…Great for the Holidays but not the Dog!

As the holidays approach various threats to your pet increase in likelihood. With Halloween just arround the corner there is no more potentially serious substance available than chocolate. While there are many myths regarding chocolate such as causing parasites or imminent death with the ingestion of small quantities the truth is that chocolate can be a serious threat to your pet. 

There are two primary toxins that occur in chocolate.  One is the commonly known chemical Caffeine and the other is the less familiar substance Theobromine.  Both of these potentially powerful substances can act as stimulants causing hyperexcitability, vomiting, diarrhea, cardiac problems and ultimately  death if the dose is sufficient. The ingested amount is not the most important feature of chocolate intoxication but rather the type of chocolate that is consumed.  While a sixty pound dog may be able to consume a  pound or more of milk chocolate without any serious effects, as little as three or four ounces of baking chocolate may be sufficient to cause serious and potentially fatal illness. 

So how should you handle a suspected chocolate ingestion?  The first step is to contact your local vet or urgent care veterinary facility.  If you have any information regarding the type and the quantity of chocolate make sure to have that available. What may seem like a large quantity to you may in fact be a lesser quantity if the chocolate is mixed with nuts and or other substances.  Similarly small amounts of dark chocolate can be very significant. Be prepared to transport your pet quickly to the hospital where a thorough physical exam will be performed and  laboratory testing will occur.  Electrocardiogram  ECG as well as neurological evaluation may also be undertaken. Dogs that are treated quickly and efficiently will usually recover as long as the ingested amount is not too great.  Of course, as always, prevention is the best line of defense.

So as the holiday season approaches, ensure that your pets are safe and secure to share the fun with you.  When the chocolate arrives…..keep that treat for yourselves.