Cocoa and chocolate contain a drug known as theobromine.
When ingested to excess this causes a very characteristic
picture of central nervous system stimulation with heart
and lung hyperactivity. This leads to symptoms of abdominal
pain, excessive salivation, hyperactivity, vomiting and
diarrhoea.In fatal cases this progresses to convulsions
and heart failure.
This only occurs however at dose levels around 100mg/kg.
Products where the concentration of cocoa is greatest are
the most toxic. Therefore plain chocolate is potentially
more dangerous than milk chocolate.Cocoa shell mulches popular
with gardening enthusiasts are also potentially very risky.
Clients are encouraged to ensure that presents containing
chocolate are not placed at a convenient height for dogs.
Additionally, keeping a medicine cabinet for your pet's
overindulgence is also useful. Soda crystals given in some
water can induce vomiting and allow regurgitation of any
potentially toxic substance before it has had a chance to
be fully absorbed. Activated charcoal can also be very useful
to limit absorption where the chocolate has been eaten several
The patient featured this week managed to gorge on a chocolate
gift located at the foot of the tree. Fortunately he did
not consume a toxic dose and therefore had all the pleasures
of chocolate consumption (although he was rather hyperactive)
without any of the more severe effects...............and
this patient's name........."Lucky!"
Dunne BVMS, Cert SAO, MRCVS
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