By Dr. Andrew Jones
Chocolate in surprisingly small amounts can seriously affect your dog, and in some cases cause your dog to die. Small animal veterinarians are seeing increasing number of dogs with chocolate toxicity as more of us are eating the ‘healthier’ dark chocolate. Unfortunately your dog only needs to eat 1/3 as much dark chocolate as opposed to milk chocolate to become seriously ill. In this article I will show you why chocolate is toxic, the types and amounts that will cause poisoning, the symptoms of toxicity, and what you can do if your pet consumes chocolate.
The toxic components in chocolate are caffeine and theobromine. The theobromine is found in high concentrations in chocolate, and causes most of the clinical signs in dogs. Theobromine affects your dog’s intestinal system, nervous system (brain), cardiovascular system (heart and lungs), and the kidneys.
The symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs are based upon the amount of chocolate eaten, the type of chocolate, and the time since it was ingested. The most common sign after your dogs eat chocolate are gastro-intestinal, meaning stomach upset, bloating, vomiting and diarrhea. Not uncommonly you may see hyperactivity, restlessness, elevated heart rate and increased drinking and urinating. The most serious signs are when the nervous system is affected; these may show up as tremors, seizures, increased breathing rate, high body temperature ( hyperthermia) and coma.
The toxic and potentially fatal dose of chocolate is 60mg/kg- so a 10lb dog only needs to consume 300mg of chocolate. Clinical Signs can be seen as low as 20mg/kg- meaning a small 10lb dog only needs to consume 100mg to have problems. Severe signs are seen at 40mg/kg- or consuming 200mg of chocolate.
Let’s look at how much theobromine is in certain types of chocolate, then we can best know if you need to be concerned about chocolate poisoning in your dog if he has eaten some. A 5oz milk chocolate bar contains 250mg of theobromine, a dark chocolate bar contains 600 mg. Unsweetened baking chocolate contains 400mg theobromine per square, Semisweet chocolate chips (30 chips), 250mg. Dry cocoa powder contains 700 mg of theobromine per ounce.
A poodle weighing 10lbs can be fatally poisoned by as little as one milk chocolate bar containing 250mg of theobromine. A 75lb larger breed dog, such as a Golden Retriever, would need to eat to eat 8 milk chocolate bars to become seriously ill. On the other hand, the dark chocolate and bakers chocolate are far more toxic; the 75lb Golden only needs to consume 3 of the dark chocolate bars to be fatally poisoned.
If your dog eats any amount of chocolate, the first thing is to figure out how much has been consumed. Then based on the type of chocolate, determine if your pet has eaten a potentially toxic amount. If the dose of chocolate is 20mg per kg of theobromine or higher, you should be seeing your veterinarian and inducing vomiting, or doing this at home. So this means that if your 10lb (5kg) poodle eats a milk chocolate bar, then induce vomiting as he has eaten more than 200mg of theobromine. I have calculated this dose by multiplying the poodle’s weight of 5kg times the toxic dose amount of 20mg/kg giving a level of 200mg.
The method I prefer to induce vomiting is by giving hydrogen peroxide at 1 teaspoon per 10 lbs of body weight. If your pet doesn’t vomit in 10 minutes, repeat again. I advise to never do more than 2 treatments of peroxide. You can also try salt: dilute 1 teaspoon of salt in a tablespoon of water per every 10lbs of body weight. If you are unable to induce vomiting, if your dog is showing any serious signs such as tremors, seizures, excessive vomiting, diarrhea, or you are at all unsure please see your veterinarian.
You can now see how even a small amount of chocolate can cause serious problems to your dog. As a responsible dog owner, you should be aware of the types of chocolate, and the amounts of chocolate to cause poisoning in your dog. You should be able to recognize the symptoms of chocolate toxicity, and know how to induce vomiting if your dog is to eat toxic levels of chocolate.
Dr Andrew J
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