To most of us, chocolate is a delicious brown substance, with no more problems than an expanding waistline or rotting teeth. To dogs, chocolate is also delicious, but potentially lethal. The humble cocoa bean, from which chocolate is produced, contains a chemical called theobromine. This is closely related to caffeine, which chocolate also contains. The toxicity of chocolate for dogs is due to its theobromine content.
Chocolate poisoning is very serious. Theobromine is a long lasting, very potent toxin that can cause death. This toxicity is largely unfamiliar to most people, who may not worry too much if their dog vomits after eating a large quantity of chocolate. It is one of the most common poisonings to occur in dogs in the UK.
If a dog consumes enough theobromine, the symptoms of poisoning will occur. Initially, the dog will develop abdominal pain and vomiting which may contain blood. The vomit in most cases will contain substantial amounts of chocolate, giving it a very characteristic smell. The dog may be restless, drooling saliva and could have difficulty standing or walking. Increased thirst is also common.
As the syndrome progresses, in the more severely affected dogs, there is an increased rate of breathing, muscle tremors, or rigidity. Urine may contain blood and the colour of the gums may take on a bluish hue, (this is known as "cyanosis"). Eventually, the dog may develop convulsions and die.
In the majority of cases, the symptoms occur within a few hours, but it has been known to be delayed for as long as 24 hours. It can take as long as three days for the dog to recover completely.
If you are concerned that your dog may have eaten chocolate this Easter then please contact the surgery ASAP to run through their symptoms and the potential need for urgent treatment.
The surgery is open 24hours over the Easter Period.