Lots of seasonal holidays are celebrated by giving gifts of chocolate – whether that is Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween, or something else. However, the dangers of pets ingesting chocolate remain the same on all days of the year.

We’re sure many of our readers are aware that chocolate can be poisonous to our furry friends, but each year many UK pets are admitted to the vets after consuming various amounts of chocolate.

Remember to keep chocolate out of reach of animals, and never leave them unattended around chocolate even for a brief period of time.


Why is chocolate so dangerous?

Chocolate contains cocoa and cocoa contains theobromine. Some chocolate also contains caffeine. These chemicals are very similar to each other and are both used medicinally as a diuretic, heart stimulant, blood vessel dilator, and a muscle relaxant. Although most humans have no problem breaking down these chemicals, animals struggle and cannot metabolise the chemicals as well as we can – therefore, are more sensitive to the chemicals’ effects.

Effects of Theobromine

Theobromine primarily affects the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, and respiratory system. It can also have a diuretic effect, relating to an increased passing of urine. Dogs may experience vomiting, haematemesis (vomiting blood), or polydipsia (excessive thirst).

Effects of Caffeine

Caffeine raises blood pressure and causes cardiac arrhythmias (an irregular heartbeat). This can lead pets to lose muscle control and experience tremors or seizures.


Signs of Chocolate Poisoning

The clinical signs of chocolate poisoning are dependent on the type of chocolate ingested (ie. dark, milk or white chocolate) and the amount. The most common signs are vomiting and diarrhoea, increased thirst, panting or restlessness, excessive urination, and an increased heart rate. In more severe cases, the symptoms may include muscle tremors, seizures, and heart failure.

Signs can take several hours to develop and can last for multiple days.



Straight away, you should notify your vet if you suspect that your dog has ingested any amount of chocolate – they will then be able to advise on the necessary next steps. If you suspect that they have eaten a larger amount that could prove to be poisonous, request immediate veterinary treatment.

Treatment depends on the type and amount of chocolate eaten. It may simply include inducing vomiting and administering activated charcoal in an attempt to move toxins out of the body whilst preventing absorption of theobromine into the bloodstream.

Nevertheless, all dogs should be monitored closely for the possibility of them displaying more severe signs. In these instances, they will receive treatment that targets the individual sign.

Untreated chocolate poisoning can lead to death.


Ensure your pets are kept safe by keeping all chocolate out of their reach. Chocolate can have devastating effects on pets, and at a minimum, they will end up with a poorly tummy.


If you do want to treat your pet in a safe way, why not try recreating one of the many pet-friendly recipes from our RSPCA DRB Pet Cookbook?