Easter is a great time to gather with family and friends and eat good food, including, of course, chocolate! While we naturally want to include our pets in all the festivities, it is important to know that chocolate is in fact toxic to dogs.  In the lead up to Easter the chances of animals presenting with Chocolate (Theobromine) and caffeine toxicity are slightly more increased as Easter egg hunts take place in households around Australia.

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Clinical Signs

Onset of clinical signs following ingestion of chocolate at a toxic dose is rapid.  Due to the multiple effects theobromine and caffeine have on the body the following symptoms may be seen.

Initial symptoms include: hyperactivity, behaviour abnormalities and vomiting with possible diarrhoea.

Signs will progress rapidly to panting,  increased heart rate, weakness, increased urination, diarrhoea, severe hyperactivity, cardiac dysrhythmias (e.g. ventricular fibrillation) progressing to seizures then death.

What makes chocolate toxic?

Chocolate and cocoa are made from the fruit (beans) of the cacao tree.

The beans contain the compound Theobromine which is metabolised much more slowly in dogs and other animals than in humans. I.e. the half-life of theobromine in dogs is approximately 17.5 hours compared to 6-10 hours in humans.  This inability for the body to clear the metabolites quickly results in chocolate toxicity.

Caffeine is a second toxic component of chocolate, although it is present in smaller concentrations.  Both Theobromine and Caffeine are members of a drug class called Methylxanines.

It is important to note that chocolate toxicity is not as much dependant on the amount of chocolate ingested, but more on the type of chocolate ingested. For example, white chocolate contains lower concentrations of methylxantines than cocoa beans or cooking chocolate which contain the highest.

Chocolate type Theobromine mg/100g Caffeine mg/100g
White Chocolate 0.9 3
Milk Chocolate 155-210 21
Dark Chocolate 490-850 80
Cooking Chocolate 1,400 125-170

Onset of clinical signs following ingestion of chocolate at a toxic dose is rapid, therefore it is imperative you contact us as soon as possible if you suspect your pet has ingested any chocolate/showing symptoms.


Lastly we would like to wish all of our clients and patients a very happy Easter.  Hopefully you will all have a safe and enjoyable break.