Why Easter is chocolate FREE for dogs


Chocolate and dogs are probably the two best things in the world for us, BUT they do not go together.

The problem is that trying to prevent your dog from eating chocolate is a bit like telling a kid that they’re not allowed to go into your room – it’s pretty much the first thing they’re gonna do when your back is turned. However, for your dog Chocolate can mean DEATH.


Chocolate contains cocoa and cocoa contains the compound theobromine. Theobromine is toxic to dogs and other pets at certain doses. Chocolate poisoning is a problem that occurs mainly in dogs but also occurs occasionally in cats or other animals. It is important not to give your pets any chocolate and to ensure they cannot accidentally access any of your chocolate supplies, especially over Easter!


The concentration of theobromine varies depending on the type of chocolate. For example, cocoa powder, baking chocolate and dark chocolate contain higher levels of theobromine compared to milk chocolate.

The toxicity of theobromine is dose-related, meaning that the overall effect of chocolate ingestion on the dog depends on the size of the dog, the amount of chocolate eaten and the type of chocolate eaten.


You can recognise that your dog has eaten a toxic dose of chocolate from the symptoms. Within the first few hours, the evidence includes vomiting, diarrhea or hyperactivity.

As time passes and there’s increased absorption of the toxic substance, you’ll see an increase in the dog’s heart rate, which can cause arrhythmia, restlessness, hyperactivity, muscle twitching, increased urination or excessive panting.


This can lead to hyperthermia, muscle tremors, seizures, coma and even death.

If your dog or pet has ingested chocolate (even a small amount) you should contact your local veterinarian as soon as possible for advice.


Vets can usually treat chocolate poisoning by inducing vomiting and with supportive therapy in hospital but it is important to seek veterinary attention quickly.

More dangerous foods for your dog

It can be tempting to share your food with your beloved furever mate, but what we consider to be treats can be extremely dangerous to our dogs. Some may cause only mild digestive upsets, whereas, others can cause severe illness, and even death. So here are a few pointers to keep your dog from needing a visit to the emergency vet.

If you suspect that your dog has ingested any of these items, please note the amount ingested and contact your vet as soon as possible.  Note; this list is incomplete, it would be impossible to list everything your dog may eat, so these are the common food items.


Items to avoid Reasons to avoid
Alcoholic beverages When consumed, alcoholic beverages and alcoholic food products may cause vomiting, diarrhoea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death. So, remember to keep alcoholic beverages well out of reach of your dog!
Avocado A substance called Persin that is contained in the leaves, fruit, seeds and bark of avocados can cause vomiting and diarrhoea in dogs. In addition birds and rodents are particularly sensitive and serious reactions such as the development of congestion, difficulty breathing and fluid accumulation around the heart can result.
Bones from fish, poultry, or other meat sources Whilst feeding your dog bones may seem like a good idea in that it takes our dogs back to their ‘roots’, it is important to remember that domestic dogs may choke on the bones, or sustain injury as the splinters can become lodged in or puncture your dog’s digestive tract, so if you choose to give your dog bones be sure to keep an eye on them while they tuck in, and avoid giving cooked bones (which splinter easily) or giving bones that are small enough to get stuck in their bowels.

Eating large quantities of bone can often cause constipation, so try to monitor the amount your dog manages to consume.

Cat food Generally too high in protein and fats.
Chocolate, coffee, tea, and other caffeine Dogs are more sensitive to the effects of these than people.  You may think a small piece of chocolate or a couple of laps of tea or coffee will not do any harm, but the ingestion of moderate amounts of these can lead to serious problems

Contain stimulants, caffeine, theobromine, or theophylline, which is poisonous to dogs.  These contents mainly affect the heart, central nervous system and kidneys.  Signs of poisoning will occur from 4 – 24 hours following indigestion and will vary depending on the amounts ingested. You may see vomiting, diarrhoea, restlessness, hyperactivity and seizures.

There is no antidote to theobromine. In most cases your vet will make your dog vomit. Other treatments will depend on the signs your dog is showing.  They may need intravenous fluids (a drip), medication to control heart rate, blood pressure and seizure activity (fits).

Toxic Dose Mild symptoms occur with the ingestion of 9 mg per pound of body weight of either caffeine or theobromine. Severe signs occur around 20 mg/lb and seizures and possible death can occur after ingestion of 27 mg of theobromine or caffeine per pound of body weight. Since milk chocolate contains 58 mg/oz of theobromine, this means a dose of less than 1 oz of milk chocolate per pound of body weight could potentially cause death. Less that 0.1 oz of Baker’s unsweetened chocolate per pound of body weight could be lethal. Usually the more bitter the chocolate, the higher the level of theobromine.

Signs Common signs include vomiting, diarrhea, panting, bloating, increased drinking, hyperactivity, restlessness, ataxia, muscle tremors, increased or decreased heart rate, irregular heart rhythm, and increased body temperature. Signs usually occur 6-12 hours after ingestion. Seizures, coma, or death may occur. Less frequent symptoms include abdominal pain and blood in the urine.

Immediate Action Induce vomiting and seek veterinary attention.

Veterinary Care General treatment: The induction of vomiting may be continued, gastric lavage is performed, and activated charcoal is administered.

Supportive treatment: IV fluids are given to prevent dehydration and to induce urine production. The heart rate and rhythm are monitored, and medications are given if necessary. The animal is monitored and treated for hyperthermia. Seizures are treated. The urinary bladder may need to be catheterized to prevent reabsorption of the toxin.

Prognosis Usually recover with hospitalization and aggressive therapy. May be fatal, if enough of the toxin is absorbed.

Corn on the Cob Corn on the cob may seem like a healthy table scrap to give your dog, but unlike most vegetables, it does not digest well in a dog’s stomach. If your dog swallows large chunks of the cob, or even whole, it can cause an intestinal blockage due to its size and shape. If your dog gobbled up corn on the cob watch for signs of trouble such as vomiting, loss of appetite or reduced appetite, absence of faeces or sometimes diarrhoea and signs of abdominal discomfort.  In this case, have your dog see a vet immediately and be careful to never feed corn on the cob again.
Citrus oil extracts Citrus oil extracts such as those found in insecticidal sprays, dips, shampoos, insect repellents, food additives, and fragrances.

d-Limonene and linalool are citrus oils with insecticidal properties. These are metabolized in the liver resulting in liver damage or failure.

Toxic Dose Cats are more sensitive than dogs. The toxic dose for ingestion of d-limonene in dogs is 308 grams per pound of body weight. If cats are treated with dog products, the result may be fatal. Linalool exposure causes more severe clinical signs for a longer duration than d-limonene. If the product also contains piperonyl butoxide, the toxic effects of citrus oil extracts may be increased.

Signs Strong citrus smell to the skin, drooling, depression, weakness, hypothermia, trembling, ataxia, falling, low blood pressure, and dermatitis especially severe in the scrotal and perineal areas. Death may occur.

Immediate Action In cases of dermal exposure, bathe pet with liquid dish soap and warm water repeatedly until the citrus smell is gone. Dry thoroughly and do not allow the pet to become chilled. Seek veterinary attention for dermal exposure or ingestion.

Veterinary Care General treatment: Gastric lavage is performed and activated charcoal is administered, if the citrus oil was ingested. Vomiting is not induced because aspiration is a risk. Bathing is repeated in cases of dermal exposure.

Supportive treatment: Administer IV fluids, keeping the patient warm, and treat any other symptoms.

Prognosis Usually good to excellent, however, deaths have occurred and are more common in cats.

Fat trimmings Can cause pancreatitis.
Fish (raw, canned or cooked) If fed exclusively or in high amounts can result in a thiamine (a B vitamin) deficiency leading to loss of appetite, seizures, and in severe cases, death.
Grapes, raisins, sultanas and currants Contain an unknown toxin, which can damage the kidneys. There have been no problems associated with grape seed extract.

Toxic Dose Exact toxic dose is unknown, but has been estimated as low as 1/3 ounce of grapes per pound of body weight, and 0.05 ounces of raisins per pound of body weight.

Signs Vomiting, diarrhoea, lack of appetite, lethargy, or abdominal pain.

Immediate Action Induce vomiting and seek veterinary attention.

Veterinary Care General treatment: The induction of vomiting may be continued, gastric lavage is performed, and activated charcoal administered, if needed.

Supportive treatment: The animal will be monitored and treated for kidney disease/failure with fluids, diet change, and medications.

Prognosis Variable

Hops Unknown compound causes panting, increased heart rate, elevated temperature, seizures, and death.
Human vitamin supplements containing iron Can damage the lining of the digestive system and be toxic to the other organs including the liver and kidneys.

Toxic Dose Varies depending on source and route of exposure.

Signs Vomiting and diarrhea which may be bloody, and drowsiness. Symptoms may not occur for up to 6-12 hours after ingestion. This may be followed by a period of apparent recovery before relapse occurs. Other symptoms include CNS depression and liver and kidney failure. Iron passed in the urine will cause the urine to be dark.

Immediate Action Induce vomiting and administer Milk of Magnesia (to precipitate the iron in the GI tract to decrease absorption). Egg, water, or milk may also be given. Seek veterinary attention.

Veterinary Care General treatment: The induction of vomiting may be continued, gastric lavage is performed, and Milk of Magnesia is administered.

Supportive treatment: IV fluids, oxygen, and blood transfusions may be administered. Iron levels will be monitored for several days.

Specific treatment: Deferoxamine (Desferal) may be administered which chelates the iron. This chelation will cause a reddish brown discoloration of the urine. Vitamin C may be used with deferoxamine to enhance iron chelation, but should not be used without deferoxamine as it will increase the absorption of the iron by the body.

Prognosis Variable

Macadamia nuts Contain an unknown toxin, which can affect the digestive and nervous systems and muscle.

Within 12 hours of ingestion macadamia nuts can cause dogs to experience weakness, depression, tremors, vomiting and hyperthermia (increased body temperature). These symptoms tend to last for approximately 12 to 48 hours, and as with all the other food groups mentioned if you suspect your dog has consumed macadamia nuts note the possible quantity consumed and contact your vet. Symptoms usually start within 3-12 hours of ingesting the nuts, and tend to resolve over 24 hours.

Toxic Dose 10 grams per pound of body weight.

Signs Lethargy, vomiting, and hyperthermia are initial symptoms with progression to ataxia or hind-limb paresis. Also seen are tremors, abdominal pain, lameness, joint stiffness, and pale mucous membranes.

Immediate Action Induce vomiting if ingestion was within the past hour. Seek veterinary attention.

Veterinary Care General treatment: The induction of vomiting may be continued, gastric lavage is performed, and activated charcoal administered, especially if the macadamia nuts were covered with chocolate. If large amounts were eaten, enemas may also be recommended.

Supportive treatment: In severe cases, IV fluids are administered to prevent dehydration. The animal will be monitored and treated for hyperthermia, and the pet will be protected from injury during the ataxia/paresis.

Prognosis Good.

Marijuana Pets are more commonly poisoned from marijuana through ingestion other than inhalation. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the toxin that causes the symptoms and is absorbed quickly after ingestion. THC has strong antiemetic effects which make it difficult to successfully induce vomiting to remove the toxin from the pet. Most animals will recover, but it may take 1-3 days.

Source Hashish, marijuana, and hemp, Cannabis.

Toxic Dose Depends on the concentration of THC and the form of marijuana ingested.

Signs Ataxia, dilated pupils, ‘glazed’ eyes, drop in body temperature, increase or decrease in heart rate, bizarre behavior, hyperesthesia, disorientation, somnolence, depression (may last 18-36 hours), coma, excitation is seen occasionally, drooling, tremors, respiratory depression, or death.

Immediate Action Induce vomiting. Seek veterinary attention.

Veterinary Care General treatment: The induction of vomiting may be continued, gastric lavage is performed, and activated charcoal is administered.

Supportive treatment: The temperature, pulse, and respiration are monitored and different medications are given depending upon the signs present. A safe environment should be provided where the pet cannot hurt itself or others while disorientated.

Prognosis Fair

Milk and other dairy products As dogs do not have significant amounts of the enzyme lactase that breaks down lactose in milk, feeding your dog milk and other milk-based products can cause diarrhoea or other digestive upset.
Moldy or spoiled food, garbage Can contain multiple toxins causing vomiting and diarrhea and can also affect other organs.

Toxin Food poisoning caused by bacteria including Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Salmonella spp., Bacillus spp., Clostridium perfringens, and Clostridium botulinum, or Penitrem-A (a neurotoxin).

Source Ingestion of decomposing carrion, garbage, spoiled food, and compost. Ingestion of moldy nuts, food, or grains can cause exposure to Penitrem-A.

General Information Ingestion of these types of substances by dogs is not uncommon. Cats tend to be more selective about what they eat. Once ingested, these substances alter the GI motility and permeability as well as produce CNS signs due to the endotoxin release from the dead bacteria. Each species of bacteria affects the body in a different way, but all can produce potentially life-threatening diseases affecting multiple body organs.

Penitrem-A is a neurotoxin which affects nerves by causing uncontrolled firing of the nerves that cause muscle movement. This causes muscle injury, muscle cell breakdown, and hyperthermia. This action is very similar to that of strychnine.

Toxic Dose Undetermined

Signs Signs of garbage intoxication from bacteria typically begin within 3 hours of ingestion. They include vomiting, diarrhoea which may become bloody, dehydration, fever, and signs of endotoxic shock which include depression, hypotension, collapse, either rapid or slow capillary refill time, hypothermia or hyperthermia, and decrease in urine production.

Signs of botulism include vomiting, drooling, abdominal pain, dry eyes, and rear limb weakness. Certain reflexes of the tendons, eyes, and throat are depressed.

Signs of Penitrem-A toxicity include panting, restlessness, drooling, incoordination, fine muscle tremors of the head and neck which progress to the entire body, tonic spasms, hyperthermia, ataxia, seizures, and death. The muscle spasms may be worsened by external stimuli similar to, but not as consistent as with, strychnine intoxication.

Immediate Action Seek veterinary attention. The pet has probably already emptied the stomach by vomiting. Inducing vomiting is generally contraindicated since excessive vomiting is a symptom of this disorder that typically requires treatment.

Veterinary Care General treatment: Gastric lavage is performed, and activated charcoal is administered.

Supportive treatment: IV fluids are administered to maintain hydration, oxygen, and antiemetics. Seizures and tremors are treated with medication. The patient may be treated with other types of fluids also especially if showing signs of shock. Antibiotics are administered.

Specific treatment: Administering botulism antitoxin to patients with suspected botulism.

Prognosis Guarded, depending on the severity of signs at time treatment begins and the exact toxin.

Mushrooms The kind of toxin in mushrooms vary with species. They can contain toxins, which may affect multiple systems in the body, cause shock, and result in death.  Some cause CNS effects including hallucinations, hyperactivity, and coma. Others damage the liver, heart, or kidneys causing death. Clinical signs usually occur within 6-8 hours following ingestion. Mushrooms grow in the wild in most areas, and pets need to be closely supervised to prevent ingestion, if access to the mushrooms cannot be prevented.

Toxin Ibotenic acid, indoles, muscimol, gyromitrin, amanitin, phalloidin, psilocybin, or psilocyn.

Source Mushrooms including Amantia phalloides (death angel), A. virosa (destroying angel), A. muscaria (fly agaric), some Boletus spp., Chlorophyllum molybdites (backyard mushrooms), some Clitocybe spp., Cortinarius spp., Galerina spp., Gyromita spp. (false morels), Inocybe spp., and some Psilocybe spp. (‘magic mushroom’).

Toxic Dose Varies with the species of the mushroom.

Signs Abdominal pain, ataxia, coma, depression, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hallucinations, hyperthermia, tearing, urination, drooling, defecation, seizures, liver failure, kidney failure, and death.

Immediate Action Induce vomiting if the patient is alert. Seek veterinary attention.

Veterinary Care General treatment: The induction of vomiting may be continued, gastric lavage performed, and activated charcoal administered.

Supportive treatment: The animal will be monitored and treated for seizures and hyperthermia. The liver and kidney function will also be monitored and treated as needed.

Prognosis Varies with the species ingested, the toxic effects, and the amount ingested.

Onions, garlic and chives (raw, cooked, or powder) Contain sulfoxides and disulfides, which can damage red blood cells and cause anemia.

These vegetables and herbs can cause gastrointestinal (stomach and gut) irritation and could lead to red blood cell damage. The exact amount that causes the toxic issues is unknown, although cats are more susceptible, dogs are also at risk if a large enough amount is consumed.

Onions are particularly toxic and signs of poisoning occur a few days after your dog has eaten the onion. All forms of onion can be a problem including dehydrated onions, raw onions, cooked onions and table scraps containing cooked onions and/or garlic. The bulbs, bulbets, flowers, and stems of the garlic and onion are all poisonous.

These foods are often used as flavour enhancers in food. Left over pizza, Chinese dishes and commercial baby food containing onion, sometimes fed as a supplement to young pets, can cause illness.

Signs Vomiting, diarrhea, anemia, discolored urine, weakness, liver damage, allergic reactions, asthmatic attacks, and in case of skin exposure, contact dermatitis.

Immediate Action Induce vomiting and seek veterinary attention. If dermal (skin) exposure, bathe thoroughly and contact a veterinarian.

Veterinary Care General treatment: The induction of vomiting may be continued, gastric lavage is performed, and activated charcoal administered, if ingested. If dermal exposure has occurred, the animal will be bathed and dried thoroughly.

Supportive treatment: IV fluids are administered to maintain hydration. The animal will be monitored and treated for liver damage. Repeated blood tests will be performed to monitor for anemia; blood transfusions will be administered if necessary.

Prognosis Variable.

Persimmons Seeds can cause intestinal obstruction and enteritis.
Pits from peaches and plums Can cause obstruction of the digestive tract.
Raw eggs Contain an enzyme called avidin, which decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin). This can lead to skin and hair coat problems as well as neurologic abnormalities. Raw eggs may also contain Salmonella.
Raw meat May contain bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea.*
Rhubarb leaves Contain oxalates, which can affect the digestive, nervous, and urinary systems.
Salt If eaten in large quantities it may lead to electrolyte imbalances, seizures, and even death.
String Can become trapped in the digestive system; called a “string foreign body.”
Sugary foods Can lead to obesity, dental problems, and possibly diabetes mellitus.
Table scraps (in large amounts) Table scraps are not nutritionally balanced. They should never be more than 10% of the diet. Fat should be trimmed from meat; bones should not be fed.
Tobacco Contains nicotine, which affects the digestive and nervous systems. Can result in rapid heartbeat, collapse, coma, and death.
Yeast dough Can expand and produce gas in the digestive system, causing pain and possible rupture of the stomach or intestines.

Ingestion of yeast dough can cause gas to accumulate in your dog’s digestive system as a result of the dough rising. Not only can this be painful but if may also cause the stomach or intestines to become obstructed (blocked) or distended. So whilst small bits of bread can be given as a treat due to the fact that risks are diminished once the yeast has fully risen, it is advised to avoid giving your dog yeast dough.

Xylitol (artificial sweetener) Many dogs like sweet foods, and can be attracted to human foods containing xylitol. The artificial sweetener xylitol found in many foods such as sugar free gum, diabetic cakes, diet foods etc. causes insulin release in many species leading to potentially fatal hypoglycaemia (lowered sugar levels). The initial symptoms include lethargy, vomiting and loss of coordination, following this recumbency (unable to stand) and seizures may occur. Xylitol has also been linked to fatal acute liver disease and blood clotting disorders in dogs. Even very small amounts can be extremely dangerous and if you think your dog has eaten any amount of xylitol then you should seek veterinary advice immediately.

Toxic Dose One or two pieces of xylitol-sweetened gum could cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in a 20 lb. dog. As little as 5 pieces of gum could cause acute liver failure in a 10 lb dog.

Signs Signs of hypoglycemia may include weakness, lack of energy, incoordination, and sometimes seizures. The hypoglycemia may not occur until 12-18 hours after ingestion. Signs of liver failure from xylitol toxicity may include vomiting, depression, weakness, lack of appetite, jaundice (yellowing of the gums and inner eyelids), blood in the feces, and other bleeding.

Immediate Action Induce vomiting and seek veterinary attention.

Veterinary Care General treatment: The induction of vomiting may be continued, and gastric lavage is performed. Activated charcoal is not effective for xylitol toxicity.

Supportive treatment: Intravenous fluids will be started and blood glucose levels will be monitored for several days and tests for liver disease will be performed. In cases of vomiting, medications to control the vomiting may be given. In liver failure, antibiotics and medications to support the liver may also be given.

Prognosis Recovery from hypoglycemia is likely if treated. The prognosis for dogs with liver failure is guarded.

*We suggest that people considering a raw diet for their pet educate themselves thoroughly regarding the safe handling and preparation of raw ingredients, and the proper balance of nutrients required to maintain their pet’s health.