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Is chocolate bad for my dog?

Often people will ask us if it is safe to feed chocolate to dogs. Generally it is NOT recommended to feed chocolate to dogs and cats. The poisonous chemical in chocolate is called theobromine and its toxicity depends on the type of chocolate and the size of the dog that eats it.

The type of chocolate that is most dangerous is unsweetened baking chocolate and cocoa powder. Other types containing high levels of theobromine are dark chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate. Lower levels of the toxin are found in sweetened milk chocolate, other candy/lollies and rarelyin landscaping containing cacao shells. White chocolate contains negligible amounts of theobromine.

The symptoms of toxicity include increased blood pressure, heart rate and rhythm interference, nervousness, excitability, tremors, panting seizures, urinary incontinence, coma and death.

Treatment is supportive and the goal is to remove the chocolate from the body as soon as possible to reduce the toxic effects. This involves induction of vomiting then rigorous lavage of the stomach and intestines under general anaesthesia. Activated charcoal will help reduce absorption in the gut and intravenous fluid therapy can help dilute the toxin in the body and help promote excretion of it. There is no antidote. Heart drugs may be needed to prevent life-threatening dysrhythmias.

Certain breeds are more susceptible than others. Those breeds with short noses and squashed upper airways like bulldogs, pugs and boxers are most at risk. There has been a report of a british bulldog in england that collpased and died within minutes of eating only spilt crumbs from the owners chocolate energy bar.