Does Your Dog Have a Sweet Tooth?

by Dr. Judy Morgan 

Dr. Morgan can be reached at Clayton Veterinary Associates, 714 North Delsea Drive, Clayton, New Jersey 08312 . 609-881-7470.

Every Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas and Halloween, we get phone calls because Fluffy has gotten into the candy or cookies. We take these calls seriously, because chocolate is actually toxic to animals. It contains chemicals called theobromine and caffeine, both of which can cause your animal to become ill.

The most dangerous product is baking chocolate, as it contains a much higher concentration of these chemicals. Four ounces of baking chocolate or one pound of milk chocolate could be lethal to a 16-pound dog.

Clinical signs of toxicity include vomiting and diarrhea, hyperactivity, tremors and seizures. The heart will race and an abnormal rhythm will develop. If you suspect or know that your animal has eaten a large quantity of chocolate, you should call your veterinarian or poison control center immediately.

Toxicity is treated by making the animal vomit up any chocolate that may still be in the stomach. However, you should only do this after speaking with your veterinarian. You may be told that your pet needs to be seen in the hospital. If the symptoms are severe enough, your pet may need to be hospitalized on intravenous fluids and sedation for seizures. If your pet eats a small amount of candy and develops only mild diarrhea, you should treat him with a bland diet until the diarrhea clears. Your veterinarian can recommend bland diet instructions.

Your pet should be seen by your veterinarian if there are any signs of vomiting, restlessness, irritability or a racing heart. The best way to avoid chocolate toxicity is to put all baked goods and candy out of reach during the holidays!