Chocolate poisoning in dogs continues to be amongst the most common toxicities we see each year. With it being Valentine’s Day, it must be remembered that chocolate-based treats and gifts can be toxic to our pets.
Chocolate is made from cocoa beans, the dried and partially fermented seeds of Theobroma cacao native to the deep tropical region of Central America. The toxic constituent, theobromine, is a related to caffeine. Chocolate also contains a small amount of caffeine.
The amount of theobromine in chocolate products varies considerably due to natural differences in cocoa beans as well as the ingredients of products. There may also be some genetic susceptibility to theobromine toxicity in certain breeds. White chocolate is very low in theobromine and therefore considered non-toxic.
In dogs, the most common clinical signs include vomiting, abdominal discomfort, diarrhoea, weeing a lot and bloating. Theobromine intoxication will also stimulate the myocardium and CNS stimulation – resulting in tremors, high heart rate and a fever. There is also the risk of pancreatitis following ingestion of chocolate products that contain a large amount of sugar and fat.
Treatment is largely supportive with particular emphasis on the management of cardiovascular and neurological effects, as well as rehydration. The prognosis is generally good and most dogs make a full recovery within 48-72 hours. There have been very few fatal cases reported (about 5 in 1000).
Chocolate is also toxic to cats, rodents and rabbits, but there are limited case reports, therefore a toxic dose is yet to be established. Cats seem less inclined to eat chocolate, although, nationally, there are a few cases each year where significant clinical effects are seen.
If your dog (or other pet) has eaten more than a small amount of dark or continental chocolate, call us for advice as soon as possible.
On Valentine’s Day, you may be lucky enough to receive a bouquet of flowers from a loved one. Some of these flowers can be hazardous to pets.
A flower of particular concern is the Lily. Lillium species can cause kidney failure in cats. All parts of the plant are toxic, including the pollen. Ingestion of less than one leaf may cause severe poisoning. In one case, a cat developed severe clinical signs after playing in a box in which the owner had received a delivery of lilies. This cat was reportedly only exposed to the residual pollen inside the box. Treatment is essential in all cases, with focus on the prevention of kidney failure and the skin should be washed thoroughly to remove any residual pollen on the coat. Kidney failure following lily exposure has not been observed in other animals, however, ingestion of plant material may cause some upset stomach problems.
Other flowers that may be found in bouquets are stated below:
- Eating Roses (yes, it happens) will often cause gastrointestinal signs including vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain are expected in cats and dogs.
- There are numerous species of tulip commonly available as cut flowers or as bulbs for growing in gardens and parks. The bulbs are particularly irritant. Ingestion may lead to drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea, flatulence and abdominal pain.
- Daffodils contain alkaloids, found in all parts of the plant. These components have irritant, emetic and purgative actions. Mild gastrointestinal irritation is most common. More severe cases have shown dehydration, collapse, hypothermia, low blood pressure, slow heart rate and high blood sugar, although such cases are very rare.
Hydrangea commonly causes vomiting, as well as, abdominal discomfort, diarrhoea, lethargy and depression. Dermatitis has been reported in humans who regularly handle the plants, but it has not been reported in animal exposed.
Ending on a positive note, Happy Valentine’s Day to all our loved pets – just stay off the chocolates and flowers and stick to pet treats…