Pally’s Story: Preventing Chocolate Toxicity

October 12, 2012


Pally, a super-sweet spayed female boxer mix, was about 7 months old and 40 lb. when she was able to sneak away approximately 2 oz of dark chocolate. Luckily, being a young and inexperienced pup, she was brazen enough to do it right in front of her owner! (I know what you're thinking... hard to believe this little gal would cause any trouble, right?)

Her person quickly called Lombard Animal Hospital and, within 25 minutes of ingesting the chocolate, Pally was admitted by Dr. Preston. Because her owner acted fast, Pally simply needed an injection of apomorphine to induce vomiting* and prevent the toxic effects of theobromine (the compound in chocolate that is toxic to pets). Pally threw up 5 piles of chocolatey liquid from ingesting just 2 oz!

When Dr. Preston checked in on his patient the next day, she was acting normally and had already eaten her breakfast with no symptoms of gastritis (stomach upset). Thus, no further treatment was necessary...good for Pally, and great for her person too!

*Note: Do not try to induce vomiting at home. There can be dangerous secondary effects, such as esophageal ulceration and aspiration pneumonia, when not performed appropriately.

Not all pets who ingest chocolate are as lucky as Pally! Some of them are not treated as quickly and can experience serious health effects from ingesting theobromine such as:

  • Vomiting and/or Diarrhea
  • Tremors, Shaking, Agitation or Hyperactivity
  • Dehydration
  • Seizures

Theobromine can stay in the system for up to 4 days. When pets are not treated promptly, they may need to spend 1-4 days in the hospital on Intravenous fluids and supportive care. Treatment is based on when the chocolate was ingested and the clinical symptoms of the pet during physical exam.

In addition to theobromine, chocolate also contains fat and sugar. These components can easily cause gastritis and pancreatitis (inflamed pancreas) in our 4-legged friends. Milk chocolate contains less theobromine, but more fat and sugar.

Take Home Points :

  • Contact your Veterinarian as soon as you suspect chocolate matter how much or how long ago it may have occurred!
  • Usually, if your vet is able to see the patient within an hour of ingestion, vomiting will be induced and further treatments may not be necessary as long as your pet is not symptomatic.
  • *Do NOT attempt to induce vomiting at home.
  • If greater than an hour is passed, your vet will determine the best way to treat your pet. Some type of fluid therapy and supportive care will most likely be necessary.
  • As a general rule, it only takes 0.25 - 0.5 oz of dark chocolate per 10 lb. body weight to cause theobromine toxicity. The darker the chocolate, the higher the concentration of theobromine.
  • Gastritis and Pancreatitis can occur from any amount or type of chocolate ingestion.

All's well that ends well! -- Pally

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