None of the 386 poisoning cases in the U.K. study were fatal. But they were undoubtedly uncomfortable for the dogs. Nearly one-third of them (121 cases) 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 in the treatment of a smaller number of cases.
The data suggest that chocolate-eating dogs have learned from their mistakes. Dogs considered "old" (past their eighth birthday) were 58 percent less likely to need treatment than their young counterparts (those who had not yet turned 4 years old), the researchers reported.
There was no relationship between dog breed and vulnerability, they added.
Studies from the United States and Germany have found spikes in chocolate poisoning around Valentine's Day and Halloween, but this pattern did not hold up in the United Kingdom. That may be due to "alternate romantic gift choices (or more fastidious curation by their recipient) and different festival priorities," the University of Liverpool team wrote.
But when it comes to Christmas, let there be no doubt: Dog owners should be extra careful not to leave chocolate lying around in reach of their furry friends.
The results were published last week in the journal Vet Record.
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