Chocolate at Easter is a popular treat for humans, but it’s also the most common poison to affect dogs. Nearly 2000 cases were reported last year.
A small dog can die after eating a single Easter egg. The chemical in chocolate that gives humans a pleasant buzz, the theobromine, has a highly toxic effect on dogs.
A small chocolate indulgence that would be an enjoyable treat for us can sadly kill a dog, and the toxic dose is surprisingly small. Half a small bar of dark chocolate – around 50g (2 ounces) – is enough to end the life of a little terrier weighing 5kg. Milk chocolate is less dangerous, needing twice as much for the same effect. And a standard Easter Egg may weigh around 200g meaning that half an egg can be enough to kill a small dog.
Dogs love eating chocolate and they don’t have an “off switch” when they are full. They just keep eating until the chocolate is finished.
Last year Elly’s dog managed to steal an unopened box of chocolates from the kitchen side when she was alone in the room. He had to have emergency treatment to empty his stomach.
Stumpy was lucky Elly was as a vet, she had the drugs available to cause him to vomit, but what should an owner do in a similar situation?
You need to:
a). Act quickly. If the chocolate is removed from the stomach within an hour, there’s a good chance that this will be soon enough to prevent serious ill effects of poisoning.
b). Work out exactly how much chocolate, and what type of chocolate, your dog has eaten, in grams. Write this down.
c). If possible weigh your dog, and write this down too.
d). Phone us and explain what has happened. If it is after-hours, then call the emergency vet – their number is on our ansaphone. Listen to the whole message. This is urgent, and there is no time to waste.
e). We will be able to advise you whether or not you need to take action: this will be calculated from the quantity and type of chocolate and the size of the dog. If there is a risk, the vet may tell you how to attempt to make the dog vomit at home (this is not always possible) or may recommend that you rush the animal in to see us at once (the vet can give an injection that immediate induces vomiting).
The most important message is “Do not delay”. Once the chocolate has been absorbed into the
dog’s bloodstream, there’s sometimes little that can be done to help.
Poisoning signs start within six hours of the chocolate being eaten, reaching a peak at around twelve hours. Classic signs include restlessness, vomiting and diarrhoea, with tremors, convulsions and heart failure following soon after. Even with treatment, some dogs survive but many don’t. Sadly dogs die of chocolate poisoning every year.
This weekend, enjoy your Easter eggs, but whatever you do, please keep them out of the reach of your dogs.