Food and drink  |  Pet hazards

Chocolate and Dogs Death by Chocolate

The Bottom Line

When swallowed by dogs, chocolate can cause nausea, vomiting, tremors, and seizures. Effects can begin within a short time. Treatment should begin quickly. There are no specific antidotes for this poisoning in animals.

The Full Story

Chocolate is everywhere now - from Easter baskets, to holiday desserts, to the 50% off tables at retailers right after the holiday. For most people, the only danger of overindulgence is an expanding waistline. But for dogs, eating chocolate can cause seizures and death. Since chocolate tastes as good to Fido as it does to us, it's easy for your pet to quickly swallow a dangerous amount.

All forms of chocolate - milk, dark, semi-sweet, baking, cocoa - contain theobromine, a substance related to caffeine and some asthma medicines. Cocoa bark mulch can also poison dogs, horses and some other animals.

When swallowed by dogs, chocolate can cause nausea, vomiting, tremors, and seizures. Effects can begin within a short time. Treatment should begin quickly. There are no specific antidotes for theobromine poisoning in animals. Depending on how long it takes between ingestion and treatment, veterinarians may attempt to empty the stomach and inactivate some of the theobromine by giving activated charcoal. Otherwise, treatment is given as needed for heart and blood pressure problems and seizures.

In some ways, pets are like children. Since they can't protect themselves from poisons, we need to store poisons where pets - and children - cannot reach them.

Rose Ann Gould Soloway, RN, BSN, MSEd, DABAT emerita
Clinical Toxicologist


For More Information

Chocolate and many other things that pets get into (ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center)

References

Corley KTT Mathews K, Drobatz KJ, Bain FT, Hughes D. Veterinary critical care. Crit Care Clin. 2003;19:315-32.

Farbman DB. Death by chocolate? Methylxanthine toxicosis. Veterinary Technician. March 2001:146-147.

Poisoned?

CALL 1-800-222-1222

Prevention Tips

In some ways, pets are like children. Since they can't protect themselves from poisons, we need to store poisons where pets - and children - cannot reach them.

This Really Happened

A three-month-old male dog was brought to a veterinary clinic for possible chocolate poisoning. Five hours earlier, he had eaten a very large piece of chocolate cake. En route to the veterinarian the dog was vomiting, salivating and having trouble breathing. The veterinarian's examination revealed a high heart rate, shortness of breath and a bloated and painful abdomen. Chest x-rays revealed fluid accumulation in the lungs. The dog was diagnosed with chocolate intoxication associated with secondary non-cardiogenic (not caused by heart failure) pulmonary edema. The dog spent five days at the veterinary hospital. He was treated with medications to open his airways and remove fluid accumulation as well as intravenous fluids and oxygen. The dog was sent home on the 6th hospital day.

Reference: Agudelo, C.F., Filipejova, Z. & Schanilec, P. (2013). Chocolate ingestion induced non-cardiogenic pulmonary oedema in a puppy: a case report. Veterinarni Medicina (58) 2, 109-112.