Chocolate is dangerous because it contains a chemical called theobromine, which is hard for pets to metabolize. If too much of the chemical gets into their systems, the result can be seizures, tachycardia (an abnormally fast heart rate), vomiting or other problems.

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It may be the most wonderful time of the year for people, but dogs, in particular, face a heightened risk of chocolate poisoning during the Christmas season. According to a new study, the risk is nearly five times greater than at holiday-free times of the year.

Researchers came to this conclusion by scouring records from 500 clinics that are part of the United Kingdom’s Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network. They reviewed 2.7 million records of dogs seen between November 2012 and May 2017 and identified 386 cases of “chocolate exposure” suffered by 375 animals.

The study authors, from the University of Liverpool, hypothesized that these illnesses were clustered around holidays known to feature chocolate, such as Christmas and Easter. Sure enough, they found that cases of chocolate poisoning were 4.74 times more common during the Christmas risk period than during less wonderful times of the year.

Chocolate is dangerous for dogs (and cats as well) because it contains a chemical called theobromine, which comes from cocoa beans. Humans can metabolize this, but it’s not so easy for dogs. When too much of the chemical gets into their systems, the result can be seizures, tachycardia (an abnormally fast heart rate), vomiting or other problems.

None of the 386 poisoning cases in the U.K. study were fatal. But nearly one-third were treated with activated charcoal to absorb the theobromine and reduce its circulation through the body. Activated charcoal is administered through a stomach tube or a large syringe.

About as many dogs (114) were treated with the drug apomorphine to induce them to vomit. Intravenous fluids and antiemetics (drugs to counteract vomiting) were also reported.