Ashley is a 4 year old female/spayed Standard Poodle who presented to Veterinary Emergency Care (VEC) on 19 January 2014 for acute onset vomiting after ingesting chocolate.
Prior to presentation Ashley helped herself to her owner’s pantry. She consumed 8oz of Bakers Chocolate and some chocolate chips. This amount and type of chocolate contains a very dangerous dose of theobromine, the active ingredient in chocolate, even for a large dog.
Upon presentation Ashley had a high heart rate and was nauseous. However, due to the large amount of chocolate ingested, vomiting was induced. Ashley produced approximately 4 cups of chocolaty liquid vomitus. She was then given medication to help calm her stomach and stop the vomiting.
Ashley was hospitalized for continued decontamination, supportive care, and symptomatic treatment. Activated charcoal was administered to bind any remaining theobromine within her gastrointestinal tract. She was also placed on a high rate of IV fluids to help flush the toxins from her body.
Ashley did continue to vomit for a few hours and she did develop urinary incontinence, another common clinical sign of chocolate toxicity. But with aggressive support and care, Ashley responded very well and returned home 24 hours after initial presentation to VEC.
Some information about chocolate toxicity:
Caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine are methylated xanthines (methylxanthines) found in coffee, tea, and chocolate, respectively. Some chocolate products contain caffeine; caffeine is considered to enhance the clinical toxicity of chocolate.
Although symptoms of chocolate toxicosis occur with ingestion of theobromine at a dose of 100mg/kg, every animal has different sensitivity to chocolate. Animals with a history of heart, liver, kidney, or seizure disorder may be more sensitive to chocolate.
Methylxanthines are rapidly absorbed orally and distributed throughout the body. Clinical signs of these toxins are restlessness, hyperactivity, urinary incontinence, vomiting, and diarrhea. Later clinical signs can include excessive hyperactivity, muscle twitching, seizures, elevated respiratory rate, elevated heart rate, and high body temperature. These clinical signs can be life-threatening; therefore hospitalization is advised.
The good news is that patients usually recover with hospitalization and aggressive therapy. Methylxanthine toxicosis is occasionally fatal if a large amount is ingested and allowed to be absorbed.
Dr. Shelley Ann Fetterolf, MS, DVM