We have just survived the last that the winter had installed for us. With Easter approaching we have lots of nice things to look forward to: all that chocolate and hot cross buns. But please be careful as our little companions lover these too yet they are highly toxic.
Chocolate contains a compound called theobromine which primarily affects the nervous system, cardiovascular system (heart and circulation) and urination. In high enough doses, it can be toxic to all species, including humans! Fortunately for us, chocolate contains a small enough quantity that humans can usually process it without a problem, however metabolism of theobromine from chocolate and cocoa is slow in the dog compared to their owners. The onset of clinical signs of chocolate toxicity is usually seen within 24 hours but more likely within four hours. Once seen the signs may persist for up to 72 hours.
The signs to watch out for if your dog has eaten too much chocolate include:
- Increased excitability / irritability
- Increased heart rate
- Increased urination
- Muscle tremors
- Severe intoxication, seizures, cardiac arrest and death can occur
Chocolate is also toxic for cats, but it is rarely a problem for them as cats do not generally like the taste
For a 10 kg dog such as a West Highland Terrier, potentially toxic levels can be reached by eating only 60 grams of cooking chocolate.
Your dog should be seen immediately by your veterinarian, but you will need to call your veterinarian first to find out if there is immediate care that you begin with. It is common practice to induce vomiting and control any seizures, should they occur. In the meantime, you will need to keep your dog cool, calm, and in a quiet space.
Fluids will be given to keep your dog to keep it hydrated as its condition improves. To avoid any further problems, it should be fed a bland diet for several days.
It is crucial to your pet’s health to keep chocolate products out of their reach, as there is no antidote to chocolate toxicity. Dogs unfortunately will NOT learn from their mistakes on this occasion. In fact “repeated offenders” are extremely common. Please make sure you keep chocolate out of their reach.
Grape and raisin poisoning will usually cause dogs to develop some combination of the following symptoms:
Vomiting/diarrhoea often within a few hours of ingestion. Vomit and fecal contents material may contain pieces of grapes or raisin.
Loss of appetite
Lethargy, weakness, unusual quietness
No urine passed or only small amount passed
Bad breath or mouth ulcers
Grape and/or raisin ingestion – even small amounts can be toxic for some dogs while other dogs can ingest relatively large amounts without developing obvious symptoms. The toxic agent has not yet been identified but appears to be associated with the flesh of the fruit. In other words, peeled and/or seedless grapes are still toxic.
This is an emergency, needing immediate treatment. If you are positive that your dog ingested grapes or raisins within the last two hours, you will need to induce vomiting as soon as possible, before all the toxins in the fruit can be absorbed.