This is the season when pastries and other confections abound, particularly those with chocolate. It’s also the time for dog lovers to be aware that those Hershey’s Kisses, Cadbury bars and other chocolate delicacies can be fatal to Fido.
A study in the United Kingdom found dogs are four times more likely to be taken to the veterinarian for chocolate poisoning during the holidays than at other times of the year. The study was published in the journal VetRecord. Researchers made their findings after analyzing health records from 229 veterinary practices in the U.K., the study stated.
Chocolate contains both theobromine and caffeine, both which can speed the heart rate and stimulate the nervous system of dogs, according to the American Kennel Club website. Symptoms of chocolate poisoning can include vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, seizures and death.
“Are there spikes around the holidays? Absolutely,” said Steve Marks, associate dean and director of veterinary medical services at the N.C. State College of Veterinary Medicine. Poisoning from chocolate also is among the top five reasons for visits to veterinarians throughout the year, Marks said. Whenever he speaks publicly about holiday hazards and pets, “chocolate is always on the list.”
The best step is prevention, and the best way to keep a dog from eating chocolate is to put the chocolate in a cabinet, refrigerator or other closed space, Marks said. Make sure guests who may be at your house know not to give your dog chocolate, and when chocolate is out on the table during a party or other event, put the dog in another room, he said.
Symptoms may not show up for six to 12 hours after a dog has eaten chocolate, and the effects depend on the chocolate and the size of the dog, Marks said. “The concentration of the chocolate is what makes the diffrerence,” he said. Baking chocolate, dark chocolate and semisweet chocolate are more risky for dogs because of the concentration of theobromine, whereas milk chocolate is more diluted, Marks said.
“What would taste like a strong chocolate to you, that would have the strongest amount of the chemical that impacts [a dog],” he said.
By the time chocolate poisoning symptoms show up, the dog may be in danger, Marks said. When in doubt, the best practice is to be safe and call your veterinarian, an emergency veterinary clinic or a poison control center, he said.
Pet poison control numbers
▪ ASPCA Poison Control, 888-426-4435
▪ Pet Poison Helpline, 855-213-6680