August 9, 2010

Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs

Filed under: poisoned pet — Dr. Amber Reed @ 9:05 am

We’ve probably all heard it and yet we wonder if it’s true that chocolate will kill your dog.  More importantly, you probably want to understand what you’ll need to do in the event that your dog ingests some chocolate and to that end you have several questions.  Chocolate contains a substance known as theobromine that is most certainly toxic to dogs if a large enough quantity is consumed.

Fortunately, for chocolate to be poisonous and potentially lethal to your dog, they must consume a relatively large quantity.  In fact, on average your dog must ingest somewhere around 150mg of theobromine per kilogram of body weight to cause a toxic reaction.  Every type of chocolate contains different levels of theobromine.  For example, milk chocolate contains around 44mg of theobromine per ounce of chocolate, semisweet chocolate around 150mg per ounce, and baker’s chocolate around 390 mg per ounce.  This means a dog weighing 10 kilograms would have to consume 22 ounces of milk chocolate, 11 ounces of semisweet chocolate, or around 3 ounces of baker’s chocolate.

Still, even when dogs consume smaller quantities of chocolate, some digestive problems like stomach upset, vomiting, and diarrhea are likely to occur.  Also, while these quantities are quite large, you can easily see that it’s not impossible for a dog to eat that much chocolate, especially around Easter and Christmas holidays.

The predominant symptoms of chocolate toxicity include:

  • Hyper excitability
  • Irritability
  • Increased heart rate
  • Restlessness
  • Frequent urination
  • Muscle tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate, contact your veterinarian immediately.  In most cases you will need to induce vomiting within 2 hours if you don’t know how much chocolate he has ingested.  In emergency situations, your veterinarian may want to use activated charcoal to prevent the absorption of the toxin and anticonvulsants may be prescribed if neurological symptoms are apparent.

About Dr. Amber Reed

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