The British Veterinary Association today warned about chocolate poisoning in pets, noting that 54 percent of U.K. veterinarians treated such cases over the Easter holiday last year.
Chocolate consumption is more likely in dogs because of their tendency to eat just about anything. Chocolate contains theobromine, a chemical found in cocoa beans that dogs and other animals have a difficult time excreting, BVA stated.
Just one ounce of milk chocolate per pound of body weight is enough to kill a dog, according to The Merck Veterinary Manual. Dark chocolate and cocoa powder are even most toxic, BVA stated.
“It’s worth remembering that dogs in particular have a keen sense of smell and will easily win at any Easter egg hunt,” said BVA President John Blackwell, BVSc, MRCVS. “So wherever chocolate is being stored over Easter—inside or outside—make sure it is pet proof and stored out of reach of inquisitive and determined noses and paws to avoid an emergency trip to the vet at Easter.”
The survey of 1,208 veterinarians discovered that 46 percent had no chocolate-related cases last Easter but that 18 percent had one patient, 26 percent had two or three, and 10 percent had at least four.
The American Veterinary Medical Association advises that baker’s chocolate is particularly toxic to dogs, and the organization cautions that the sweetener Xylitol, which is found in some baked goods, chewing gum and candy, can be deadly.
An immediate trip to a veterinary office is recommended when a dog is believed to have eaten chocolate, Dr. Blackwell said.
“The quicker we can offer advice and treatment, the better,” he said. “Vets will want to know how much chocolate your dog has eaten and what type. If possible, keep any labels.”
Symptoms of chocolate poisoning usually occur within six to 12 hours, the Merck manual states, and include diarrhea, vomiting, restlessness and excessive thirst.
Among the recommend treatments are forced vomiting and repeated use of activated charcoal.