RSPCA Victoria is warning dog owners to keep chocolate well out of the reach of their four-legged friends this Easter, as the sweet treat is toxic to dogs.
While many of us will be tucking into our chocolate of choice over the coming weeks, vets are warning that chocolate contains cocoa, and cocoa contains the compound theobromine, which is toxic to dogs and other pets at certain doses.
RSPCA Victoria Chief Veterinarian Dr Rupert Baker said chocolate poisoning is a problem that occurs mainly in dogs, but also occurs occasionally in cats or other animals.
“It is important not to give your pets any chocolate and to ensure they cannot accidentally access any of your chocolate supplies, especially over Easter!”
Dr Baker said that theobromine is the part of chocolate that is toxic to dogs. The concentration of theobromine varies depending on the type of chocolate. For example, cocoa powder, baking chocolate and dark chocolate contain higher levels of theobromine compared to milk chocolate.
“The overall effect of chocolate ingestion on the dog depends on the size of the dog, the amount of chocolate eaten and the type of chocolate eaten.”
Symptoms of chocolate ingestion may include restlessness, excitement, hyperactivity, nervousness, trembling, vomiting, diarrhoea, increased drinking and increased urination, increased heart rate, muscle tremors, seizures and possibly death.
“If your dog or pet has ingested chocolate (even a small amount) you should contact your local veterinarian as soon as possible for advice,” said Dr Baker.
Vets can usually treat chocolate poisoning by inducing vomiting and with supportive therapy, but it is important to seek veterinary attention quickly.
Luckily, dog owner Sonia Baker heeded this advice after her dog Rocket ate some chocolate:
“Mum and I love dark chocolate. We left three unopened packets of 78% dark chocolate on our dining table. Rocket snuck into the room and pulled them off the table without us noticing. She opened the packets and ate two and a half blocks of the dark chocolate before we realised what had happened.
“I knew that chocolate is toxic to dogs and so we had to act quickly. We rushed her to the RSPCA Victoria vet clinic in Burwood – the vets immediately induced Rocket to start vomiting before she could digest the chocolate properly. The vets said we were really lucky to have caught it so quickly, as any longer could have caused Rocket some significant health problems. They said the first hour and a half was critical to act,” said Sonia.
“We are now so cautious with chocolate, always making sure to store it on the highest shelves of our pantry so Rocket can’t get her paws on it. It was a scary reminder of how careful we need to be around our dogs. There’s a lot of chocolate around Easter time so we know we need to be super vigilant this month.”