First, it really is ok to cry over any lost Reese’s peanut butter cups… They are my favorite!
After you discover your dog has eaten candy, begin asking yourself these important questions. How much candy was actually consumed? How much was chocolate candy? Dark or milk chocolate? Nuts or no nuts? Did any candy contain xylitol, a common artificial sweetener, or raisins? Are the wrappers gone as well? Is your pet exhibiting any abnormal behaviors or showing signs of illness?

Once you have obtained as much information as you can, call the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-888-222-1222. The Pet Poison Helpline is staffed 24/7 with veterinary professionals who specialize in toxin exposures and are well equipped to formulate a best plan of action. More often than not they help ease your concerns by informing you your pet has NOT consumed a toxin in sufficient quantity to cause concern. Other times they direct you to our hospital for treatment. Often treatment involves making your pet throw up the offending substance and this is most safely done under veterinary supervision. In fact, there are certain substances that should NEVER be vomited back up as they can cause severe damage to the esophagus. After inducing emesis, hospitalization for intravenous fluid therapy, activated charcoal, and monitoring of blood chemistry values is sometimes indicated.

Longwood Veterinary Center is prepared for pet emergencies during our regular business hours. In the event of an emergency, you can feel confident Longwood Veterinary Center not only offers excellent doctors and nursing staff, but also:

  • Comprehensive In-House Diagnostic Blood Testing
  • Digital Radiology
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Blood transfusion capability
  • Complete In-House Pharmacy
  • Multi-modal pain management
  • 24-hour ICU nursing care (on case by case basis)
  • Surgical services

If you find yourself with an after hours emergency, please contact The Veterinary Specialty Center of Delaware (Blue Pearl), Hope Veterinary Specialists, or The Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

What is in chocolate that makes it so toxic?
Chocolate contains two potentially toxic substances theobromine and caffeine. Both have effects as a diuretic, cardiac stimulant, blood vessel dilator, and smooth muscle relaxant. Dogs are unable to metabolize theobromine and caffeine as well as people, this makes them more sensitive to the chemicals’ effects.

How much chocolate ingestion can cause a problem?
The amount of toxic theobromine varies with the type of chocolate. The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more dangerous it is to dogs. Baking chocolate and gourmet dark chocolate are highly concentrated and contain 130-450 mg of theobromine per ounce, while common milk chocolate only contains about 44-58 mg/ounce. White chocolate barely poses any threat of chocolate poisoning with only 0.25 mg of theobromine per ounce of chocolate (that said, dogs can still get sick from all the fat and sugar). To put this in perspective, a medium-sized dog weighing 50 pounds would only need to eat 1 ounce of baker’s chocolate, or 9 ounces of milk chocolate, to potentially show signs of poisoning.

What are the signs of chocolate toxicity?
Clinical signs depend on the amount and type of chocolate ingested. For many dogs, the most common clinical signs are vomiting and diarrhea. More severely affected animals show increased thirst and urination, panting or restlessness, and an increased heart rate. In severe cases, muscle tremors, seizures, and heart failure can be seen. Clinical signs of chocolate poisoning take several hours to develop, and may last for several days due to the long half-life of theobromine.

What is the treatment for chocolate toxicity?
Treatment depends on the amount and type of chocolate consumed. If treated early, removal of the chocolate from the stomach by administering medications to induce vomiting and administration of activated charcoal to block absorption may be all that is necessary. Theobromine is re-absorbed from the bladder. Dieresis via intravenous fluids to speed urinary excretion is necessary to prevent this. Dogs ingesting chocolate should be closely monitored for any signs of agitation, vomiting, diarrhea, or cardiac issues.

While a trip to the ER is scary, that’s not the kind of fun we want you to enjoy this Halloween. Keep the candy out of reach in tall cabinets or locked pantries! Have a happy and safe Holiday!

Written By: Tara Corridori, LVT
Edited By: Dr. Corrina Snook Parsons VMD

Information Obtained By: