Can Chocolate Kill My Dog? All You Need to Know about Pet Poisoning

Can Chocolate Kill My Dog? All You Need to Know about Pet Poisoning

            Many myths exist about substances that can kill your pets, but is any of it true? This blog will help define the line between fact and myth so that you can care for your pet worry-free!

Chocolate can kill my dog.

            FACT: Theobromine is the component in chocolate that can be so toxic to dogs. Humans can easily metabolize theobromine, but dogs metabolize it much more slowly which can allow it to build to toxic levels. The larger the dog, the more chocolate it can eat without having serious issues.

            SYMPTOMS: Chocolate consumption responses can range from no response, to vomiting and diarrhea, all the way to muscle tremors, seizures, an irregular heartbeat, internal bleeding or a heart attack. The biggest sign of theobromine poisoning is hyperactivity. If a small dog eats chocolate, go straight to the veterinarian. If a large dog eats chocolate, it may just need time to work through its system, so call you veterinarian and explain the symptoms to determine the best plan of action.

            PREVENTION: Keep any chocolate products out of your dog’s reach. Make sure that any chocolate candies are thoroughly sealed and put away.

It is safe to you use human toothpaste on your pet’s teeth.

            MYTH: Xylitol is one of the main ingredients in human toothpaste as well as sugar-free gum, candy, and some nasal sprays and medications. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that can cause quick drops in blood sugar levels and even liver failure in dogs.

            SYMPTOMS: Weakness, vomiting, seizures and liver dysfunction or failure are all symptoms of Xylitol poisoning. Treatment usually includes hospitalization where veterinarians may monitor blood sugar and administer glucose along with IV fluids.

            PREVENTION: Check all labels and keep anything containing xylitol as an ingredient out of your dog’s reach.

Poinsettias are highly toxic, especially to cats

            MYTH: Poinsettias are only mildly toxic for cats. The stronger toxins come from different varieties of lilies (Easter Lily, Tiger Lily, Day Lily and Star-Gazer Lily). All parts of the plant can cause kidney failure and death to a cat.

            SYMPTOMS: Vomiting, lethargy, dehydration, drooling and loss of appetite are all symptoms of Lily toxicity. Lily toxicity is typically treated with by hospitalizing the cat where veterinarians may induce vomiting, administrate activated charcoal, perform gastric lavage, administer IV fluids, and perform blood tests to monitor kidney function.

            PREVENTION: Keep any lilies out of the house and the garden completely. Holidays are a great time to be on the lookout for lilies if you receive bouquets as gifts. If you send a bouquet to a cat owner, make sure that you request one with no lilies.

Veterinary medications can be harmful to my pet.

            FACT: As long as veterinary medications are used as directed, they won’t harm your pet, but since many of these medications look and smell like treats, it is easy for a pet to get ahold of them and to overdose.

            SYMPTOMS: Vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy are all signs of drug poisoning. It can be treated by veterinarians who may induce vomiting, administer IV fluids, and perform blood tests to monitor liver and kidney function.

            PREVENTION: Keep all medication (for yourself or your pet) out of your pet’s reach. If you find any chewed bottles or spilled pills, call your veterinarian immediately.

Flea and tick medication formulated for dogs may also be used safely on cats.

            MYTH: Flea and tick medication formulated for dogs is perfectly safe for use on dogs. However, many of these treatments include an ingredient called permethrin that is toxic to cats. A cat can obtain permethrin poisoning when wrongfully treated with flea and tick medication intended for dogs or after being in close contact with a dog who just had topical treatment applied.

            SYMPTOMS: Permethrin toxicity commonly causes tremors and seizures. It can be treated with tremor and seizure control as well as bathing your cat to completely decontaminate its skin.

            PREVENTION: Any product that is intended for dogs, should only be used on dogs, so make sure to read all labels.

I can give my pet human medication to relieve pain.

            MYTH: Our pet’s bodies are very different from our own, so they metabolize medication differently, making it difficult to predict appropriate dosages. If a dog ingests medications such as Advil, Motrin, and Aleve, it can lead to stomach and intestinal ulcers as well as kidney failure. Medications like Tylenol can cause damage to red blood cells and even liver failure. Cats are much more sensitive to these medications and one dose could be lethal.

            SYMPTOMS: Vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, difficulty breathing, increased urination or thirst, abdominal pain, loss of appetite and seizures are all symptoms of this kind of poisoning. To treat this poisoning, call your veterinarian immediately. They may determine that hospitalization is necessary where your pet will go through induced vomiting or gastric lavage, IV fluids may be administered as well as blood tests to monitor organ function.

            PREVENTION: Make sure to consult with your veterinarian before giving your pet any medication. Keep all medication out of your pet’s reach and call your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pet has ingested any medication intended for humans.

Human food is safe for pets to eat.

            MYTH AND FACT: There are many foods safe for both humans and their pets to ingest, just do thorough research before feeding your pet any food that you would eat. Some foods, such as coffee, alcohol, chocolate, onions, garlic, leeks, avocado, salt, yeast dough, macadamia nuts, grapes and raisins, should be avoided.

            SYMPTOMS: Drooling, retching, vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, fever, distended belly, collapse and seizures are all symptoms of food toxicity.

            PREVENTION: Do thorough research before feeding your pet any new foods especially if those foods aren’t specifically made for your pet to eat.


            We have gathered these facts from Hill’s Pet Nutrition and The Drake Center for Veterinary Care. If you would like to read further information on pet poisons these are great places to start your research.