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Case Study: Chocolate Poisoning



This Easter, with all the chocolate Easter eggs in the home and Easter egg hunts on offer, there is an increased likelihood of chocolate poisoning in dogs. According to the BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Professions surveys from 2016-2018, 60% of vets had treated cases of chocolate poisoning over the Easter period.

At VPG, we can support you and your patient in potential poisoning cases.  

Our unique toxicology service provides affordable, flexible and rapid testing for toxins and toxic compounds.

Read our case study below to find out how we helped one practice after their patient got hold of an Easter egg.

Case Study:

Meet “Hudson”, a 15-month-old male neutered Labrador Retriever. Last Easter he presented to his Vet with sudden onset ataxia, vomiting and diarrhoea. Hypoadrenocorticism was excluded.

Stomach contents and a free catch urine sample were submitted to our VPG Leeds lab for a general toxicology screen. This screen tests for >30,000 different compounds.  

The urine tested positive for theobromine, a methylated xanthine that is a major alkaloid in chocolate. The highest content of which can be found in dark chocolate and cocoa. It is readily absorbed from the GI tract and distributed throughout the body. It is metabolised in the liver, undergoes enterohepatic recirculation and is eliminated rapidly in the urine.

This can result in stimulation of the Central Nervous System, cardiac muscle, can promote diuresis and induce smooth muscle relaxation. It also results in increased mental alertness and exaggerated response to normal stimuli.

The initial symptoms of theobromine poisoning in dogs usually appear within 2-4 hours and can last for 12 – 72 hours. First signs of poisoning include diarrhoea, polydipsia and polyuria and vomiting. Further symptoms can develop including hyperactivity, tremors, tachypnea and hyperthermia. In severe cases toxicity can result in seizures, cardiac arrhythmiias, coma and can be fatal. The development of symptoms and duration of signs are dose dependent.

In this case, the Vet undertook rapid detoxification, through gastric emptying and activated charcoal every 3-4hrs, which can reduce the serum half-life of methylxanthines. “Hudson” was also monitored for hypotension.

“Hudson” was able to make a full recovery and after treatment was able to return to his family.  

If you have any questions on our toxicology services, please get in touch by emailing [email protected] or by calling 0113 287 0175.