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Why is chocolate toxic to dogs and other animals?

Chocolate on table
Photo credit: Anete Lusina

Chocolate contains cocoa, and cocoa contains the compound theobromine. Theobromine is toxic to dogs and other animals at certain doses. Chocolate poisoning is a problem that occurs mainly in dogs but also occurs occasionally in cats or other animals. It is important not to give your animals any chocolate and to ensure they cannot accidentally access any of your chocolate supplies, especially over Easter!

The concentration of theobromine varies depending on the type of chocolate. For example, cocoa powder, baking chocolate and dark chocolate contain higher levels of theobromine compared to milk chocolate.

The toxicity of theobromine is dose-related, meaning that the overall effect of chocolate ingestion on the dog (or other animal) depends on their size, the amount of chocolate eaten and the type of chocolate eaten.

The symptoms of theobromine ingestion may include restlessness, excitement, hyperactivity, nervousness, trembling, vomiting, diarrhoea, increased drinking and increased urination, increased heart rate, muscle tremors, seizures and possibly death.

If your dog or other animal has ingested chocolate (even a small amount) you should contact your local veterinarian as soon as possible for advice. Veterinarians can usually treat chocolate poisoning successfully, but it is important to seek veterinary attention quickly to give your animal the best possible chance of recovery.

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Updated on April 19, 2022
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