Can dogs eat chocolate and what are the symptoms?

13 April 2017
Warning: owners who allow their pets to eat chocolate this Easter could be left with a veterinary bill running into the thousands!

Why is chocolate bad for dogs?

Theobromine, a chemical compound present in cocoa, is fatal to both cats and dogs. Unfortunately, our doggy friends just love the sweet taste of many chocolates sold in Australia.

Australian Veterinary Association warns that dogs who eat chocolate can contract toxicoses or poisoning, which can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, seizure, coma and even death. Dr Lisa Henshaw, vet at Camden Valley Animal Hospital, says just 2 squares of dark chocolate may be fatal for a 5kg dog.

If owners have concerns that their pet has consumed chocolate, they should take them to a vet immediately. If you cannot get your pet to the vet within an hour of them eating chocolate, it is advised that you call your vet for advice.

Dr Liisa Ahlstrom, Technical Service Veterinarian with Bayer Australia, advises pet owners to be aware of the symptoms of chocolate poisoning, which include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Trembling
  • Restlessness, hyperactivity, or nervousness
  • Increased heart rate or abnormal heart rhythm
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Increased temperature
  • Seizures

James Crowley, a vet on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, says these types of incident are common and speed is of the essence – for the animal’s health, and the cost likely to be incurred for treatment. Vets could induce vomiting if the ingestion was recent, but if not, owners could face a hefty bill for treatment.

“In severe cases, dogs will need intense monitoring by vets and nursing staff, muscle relaxants, medication to control their heart rates and rhythm, and possibly anti-seizure medications,” said Crowley.

“This could cost over $1,000 – and there is no limit based on the length of hospitalisation and owner compliance.”

Also remember that there are other human foods that are not good for dogs.

Chocolate is also fatal for cats, but since cats are typically less attracted to sweet smells and flavours, Dr Henshaw says it is far less common that it’s your kitty getting into the chocolate stash.

Source: Today I Found Out

What are the vet bills like if dogs eat chocolate?

Dr Liisa Ahlstrom, Technical Service Veterinarian with Bayer Australia, says treatment for chocolate-related illness could cost up to $1,500, depending on the breed of dog and severity of the case. Out-of-hours vet charges are also likely to see the total bill increase significantly.

It could prove to be a very costly Easter egg if your canine friend accidentally gets hold of it and if you don’t have pet insurance!


Does pet insurance cover dogs eating chocolate?

If your dog or cat accidentally gets hold of some Easter eggs, you may find that the cost of the subsequent vet visit is covered under your pet insurance policy. Some costs are likely to be covered under Accident & Illness or Comprehensive insurance policies.

Even if you do have pet insurance though, be sure to read the small print and check exactly what you are covered for.

Then of course there’s the cost. While costs for different breeds vary, the following table shows average annual premiums per $1,000 of cover for an Accident & Illness policy, for dogs at various stages of life:

Age of dog Policy type Average monthly premium
<1 year Accident & Illness $59.91/year
3 years Accident & Illness $61.92/year
5 years Accident & Illness $71.31/year
7 years Accident & Illness $82.33/year
Source: Pet Insurance Star Ratings Report, 2016.
Prices represent annual premiums per $1,000 of cover.

Canstar has researched and evaluated pet insurance products on a combination of competitive pricing and product features. You can compare pet insurance policies using our website:

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