Christmas is Coming: Chocolate

It’s incredible, I can’t believe that this last year has disappeared so quickly. December has come around again, and the Christmas decorations are now up. Its dark early but the outside lights are brightening up the streets and indoors we are starting to put presents under the tree. Which reminds me, my dog can sniff out food like a Bloodhound, and chocolates wrapped in cellophane and cardboard stand no chance.

Chocolate contains, apart from some delicious ingredients, the chemical theobromine which is related to caffeine. This is toxic to dogs, but humans can tolerate it – although having once binged on a box of After Eights, I can testify that the effects on humans are rather unpleasant too. The most common effects of theobromine toxicity in dogs are trembling, nausea and vomiting. A high enough dose can eventually cause seizures and even death. The amount of theobromine contained in chocolate varies with the different types – dark chocolate and cocoa powder contain the highest concentrations with milk and white chocolate containing lesser levels. 

Dogs enjoy the taste of chocolate just like we do, and most of the cases vets see are because dogs have stolen chocolate when their owners were not looking. My friend’s dog could suck the chocolate out of the chocolate Santa tree decorations and leave the Santa still hanging just a little thinner than before. 

There is no antidote to theobromine poisoning, so treatment is aimed at preventing the absorption from the digestive tract and supporting the body. If the chocolate has been eaten within the hour, then bringing your dog to the vet to make him vomit is very effective. Of course, this is a horrible experience for your dog and they look very hangdog afterwards, but they don’t relate the nausea to eating the chocolate and never “learn a lesson”. Activated charcoal is also given to prevent absorption from the gut. This is a very messy medication and will produce black faeces over the next 24 hours as it passes through the intestines unchanged, but it is effective at absorbing the theobromine. Hospitalisation with drips and careful monitoring are required if signs of chocolate poisoning are present. Cats can also, theoretically, be poisoned by chocolate but since they don’t like the taste, it is highly unlikely to happen.

So, I hope you have a wonderful and worry-free Christmas and that all your chocolate is well out of reach of even the most chocolate obsessed dog.