So this last week has been quite interesting. Within a few days, we had two dogs consume some form of chocolate candies. Both were small breed doggies that thought dark chocolate was a delicious choice. Unfortunately for them, chocolate is toxic. Their parents in this case were very diligent and brought them in immediately.
Chocolate toxicity levels:
dry cocoa powder > unsweetened (baker’s) chocolate > semisweet chocolate/sweet dark chocolate > milk chocolate
So, why is chocolate toxic? The actual ingredients in chocolate that are toxic are called Theobromine (major issue) and Caffeine (minor issue). They are absorbed in the GI tract quickly and if no immediate GI decontamination (inducing vomiting) is completed, there are many side effects that can be seen.
We what will we see!?
Normally sings of toxicosis occur within 6-12 hours after ingestion. All clinical signs are dependent of size of animal, type of chocolate, individual sensitivity to toxins, and the amount consumed. The initial symptoms are are increased thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal distention/swelling, and restlessness. It then may progress to rapid heart rate, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures, elevated temperature, rigidity, coma, and death.
The most ideal situation is to call and bring your animal to your veterinarian ASAP! It is best to be within 30 minutes to 1 hour following ingestion for GI decontamination to be effective. It is then important to administer activated charcoal orally to help bind to any left over circulating toxins. If any clinical signs occur, you treat symptomatically and continue activated charcoal administration every 12 hours until resolution of signs. In severe cases, signs may continue for 72 hours.