The weather is warming up, birds are chirping, flowers are starting to bloom and the grocery stores are full of Easter candy!  Who can resist bags of Reese’s, M&Ms and chocolate bars when they come in such colorful packaging?  If you have curious pets, then you know they will also be checking out the goodies you bring home from the store.  Did you know chocolate is toxic to both dogs and cats?  Chocolate contains two toxic chemicals, theobromine and caffeine.  Animals cannot metabolize these chemicals as well as people can. That makes them more sensitive to the chemicals’ effects. Chocolate ingestion can cause serious symptoms and in severe cases even death, so be sure to store those treats in an area where your pets cannot ingest them.

If your pet does accidentally gets into chocolate, you can see many different signs, which can take several hours to develop, and can last for days. Clinical signs depend on the amount and type of chocolate ingested. For many pets, the most common clinical signs are: hyperactivity, restlessness, vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, elevated heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature, heart abnormalities, tremors and seizures.  Complications, such as developing aspiration pneumonia or pancreatitis, can make the prognosis for chocolate poisoning worse. There is also concern that the ingestion of wrappers or packaging can sometimes cause an obstruction in the stomach or intestines. Be aware that some chocolate-containing products may contain other toxins such as macadamia nuts, raisins, coffee or espresso beans, or xylitol.

When in doubt, immediate treatment by your veterinarian is warranted if a toxic amount of chocolate is ingested.  If treated early, removal of the chocolate from the stomach, outpatient fluid therapy, and administration of activated charcoal to block absorption of the toxins into the body may be all that is necessary.  If the toxic level of chocolate exposure is high, it is very common to provide hospitalized care. This will include intravenous fluid therapy and supportive treatments to help stabilize your animal and promote theobromine excretion. Often, medications to slow the heart rate (e.g., beta-blockers) may be necessary to treat an elevated heart rate and arrhythmia. Dogs should be walked frequently as the toxins can be re-absorbed from urine sitting in the bladder.

If you are concerned that your pet may have ingested chocolate, please call our clinic at 614-829-6444 to talk to one of our client service representatives.  Please try to have the weight of your pet and the approximate amount of chocolate he/she ingested.  Our staff will be more than happy to give you additional information at that time.