Easter no excuse for ignoring dogs' fatal chocolate threat

Lauren Grey had done almost everything right – the 200 grams of dark chocolate was inside its own bag, inside a bigger shopping bag, stored one metre off the ground in a wardrobe in her bedroom.

But the vet's whippet Tilda was not discouraged, and after sneaking into the bedroom one day had soon devoured the ten 20-gram pieces while neatly leaving the foil.

Veterinary surgeon Amanda Nott with her colleague's eight-year-old whippet Tilda, who was saved from a likely lethal ...
Veterinary surgeon Amanda Nott with her colleague's eight-year-old whippet Tilda, who was saved from a likely lethal amount of chocolate prior to Christmas 2014. Photo: Graham Tidy

For the 11-kilogram dog, the dose of chocolate and its pet-toxic caffeine and theobromine would have been enough to cause seizures and kill her, her owner said.

"If we had of been out four to six hours, we may have come home to a dog that could have survived, but if it was 12 hours there would be a dead dog or one beyond saving," Dr Grey said.

Fortunately the vet's husband, who had been outside gardening, spotted the "guilty looking" dog and the foil and got medical help, with Tilda bringing up about 90 per cent of the chocolate via induced vomiting.

Together with some activated charcoal to soak up any that remained, Tilda avoided all symptoms which would have followed if the toxins made it into the blood stream.


Tilda's case was not rare, with private company Pet Insurance Australia reporting 341 claims of poisoning last year, with chocolate the most common cause.

Dr Grey, a vet with the Inner South Veterinary Clinic at Narrabundah, said Easter and Christmas were the most common times for chocolate poisoning, and the lesson for owners was clear.

"I don't think any amount of chocolate is appropriate for a dog, and I don't think you can teach dogs not to eat chocolate, so it's up to us as their owners to ensure it is hidden where they can't get it," she said.

Pet Insurance Australia spokeswoman Nadia Crighton agreed, saying chocolates should be out of reach just as paracetamol should be for children.

"All dogs and cats, young and old, have a sensational sense of smell," she said.

"So hiding that delectable box of choccies behind the sofa cushion will not be enough to deter an eager pet to investigate."

Dr Grey said dark chocolate was the most toxic form for dogs, but milk and white chocolate should also be avoided. She said quick action and a visit to a vet was the best advice if your pet consumed the treats.

"You want to get the chocolate out of the dog before they absorb it, within two to four hours of ingestion," she said.

Most common causes of poisoning / toxicity claims

  1. Chocolate
  2. Ibuprofen
  3. Toxin exposure
  4. Rodenticide
  5. Grape/raisin

Source: Pet Insurance Australia, 2015 claims.

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • High temperature
  • Rapid breathing
  • Abnormal behaviour
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Seizures
  • Increased heart rate