By Dr.Sophia Yin, DVM, CAAB, M.S. Animal Science (1966-2014)
Posted April 2009
Easter is typically a time when families come together and participate in numerous traditions. For some this means going to church. For others the focal point is the Easter egg hunt and Easter baskets. But for one little dog representing a not-so-unusual case, it involved some Cadbury chocolates and a veterinary visit.
It was the day after Easter, and while his owners were out, Chico the scrappy fox terrier was planning an hour of mischief. Finally, his chance had come to examine the previous day’s delivery. One by one he plucked the morsels from their bright yellow baskets.
It was a savvy heist except for one thing: too many clues. Upon their return, his owners immediately noticed that something was amiss. No bounding barker to greet them, and a trail of scrunched aluminum foil to tell them why. A quick Easter basket check confirmed their fears. They tossed Chico into the car and shuttled him to the vet hospital.
Not everyone knows it, but chocolate can kill a dog. Oh, sure, a couch-size mastiff can eat a batch of brownies, no problem. But mix just one chocolate bar with one Chihuahua, and within hours you’ll get an explosion of bouncing off every wall in the house, or worse, the little unfortunate dog will succumb to seizures or a coma. And that’s just with milk chocolate. A good dose of baking chocolate and even the mastiff’s a goner. The culprit is a chemical called theobromine, which is similar to caffeine.
Fortunately for Chico, his owners were on the ball and didn’t wait for his signs to get worse. Aside from a racing heart, Chico had no critical signs of toxicity yet. But judging from his twisted face, the pint-size thief was already paying for his crime in another way: with a tummy ache. He was lugging a stomach three Cadbury egg sizes larger than normal.
We gave Chico a medication to make him vomit without irritating his digestive tract further. Then we watched. Within a couple of minutes, we heard it and then saw it: a huge pile of pure milk chocolate. But maybe only two eggs’ worth. Would I have to give something to absorb the remaining toxins?
As if to answer, Chico made more heaving noises and came up with something that resembled a chocolate milk shake. Then, a few seconds later, he looked up and wagged his tail. His belly was back to its usually trim shape.
We kept our eye on Chico for a few hours, but sure enough he was back to his spunky self. No need for intravenous fluid, or anti-convulsants, or compounds to absorb the toxins in his stomach. He’d had a close call, but for Chico the day after Easter was a lucky day.