(Almost) Everyone loves chocolate….But not everyone should be allowed to eat it.
Chocolate contains the methylxanthines theobromine and caffeine. In dogs, these agents stimulate the central nervous system and kidneys, and increase contractility of some muscles – including the heart. This can result in very serious complications when enough chocolate is ingested. (photo credit: http://www.plantationpethealthcenter.com/veterinary-internal-medicine/chocolate-poisoning-dogs/)
The severity of signs is in large part due to the amount of theobromine ingested. This varies widely across the different types of chocolate, with milk chocolate containing the least, dark and semi-sweet chocolate being intermediate, and cacao powder/beans having the highest concentration. Clinical signs after ingestion can include vomiting, bloating, diarrhea, restlessness, hyperactivity, rapid heart rate and arrhythmias, tremors, and seizures. Severe toxicities can be fatal. Patients often start showing initial clinical signs 2-4 hours after ingestion, and signs may progress over time. There are multiple online “chocolate calculators” than can aid in determining how much theobromine your dog may have ingested (http://www.petmd.com/dog/chocolate-toxicity), and thereby give an initial impression of how worried to be. If you are ever concerned that your dog may have ingested a concerning amount of chocolate (or any other substance) it is advised to contact your veterinarian, a 24 hour Emergency Clinic - Silicon Valley Veterinary Specialists, or to call an Animal Poison Control service (http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control) for further advice.
If the ingestion has been recent, inducing vomiting may be considered based on the status of the patient and the amount of chocolate ingested. Further treatments will also be dependent on the individual patient but may include activated charcoal, IV fluids, anti-arrhythmia medication, and tremor/seizure medication. Some patients may need to be admitted into the hospital for ongoing care, and some patients can be treated as outpatients.
So for Valentine’s Day, if chocolates are brought into the house, feel free to share them with your 2 legged family, but make sure to keep them away from your 4 legged family!