Chocolate Toxicity In Dogs
All dog owners need to be aware that chocolate is toxic to dogs and what to do in case of ingestion! While rarely fatal, chocolate ingestion often results in significant illness in dogs. Chocolate is toxic to dogs because it contains the alkaloid theobromine. Theobromine is similar to caffeine and is used medicinally as a diuretic, heart stimulant, blood vessel dialator, and a smooth muscle relaxant. Theobromine can be poisonous to your pets in large amounts.
The amount of toxic theobromine varies based on the type of chocolate. Cooking or baking chocolate and high quality dark chocolate contains between 15-20 mg of theobromine per gram while common milk chocolate only contains about 1.5 mg/gm of theobromine. This means that a small dog, weighing five pounds, would only have to eat as two ounces of baking chocolate or as little as fifteen ounces of milk chocolate to potentially show signs of poisoning. A larger dog, weighing fifty pounds, would have to eat as twenty ounces of baking or dark chocolate to become ill.
The clinical signs of chocolate poisoning are based on the amount and type of chocolate ingested. For many dogs, the most common clinical signs are vomiting and diarrhea, increased thirst, panting or restlessness, excessive urination, muscle spasms and occasionally seizures. Increased heart rate and abnormal behavior are also common.
Clinical signs of chocolate poisoning can take up to twelve hours to develop. Once theobromine is absorbed into the body, it may remain there for up to twenty-fours causing damage. It is important to seek medical attention as soon as you suspect that your dog has eaten chocolate.
Since chocolate is potentially toxic to dogs, you should have your pet examined by your Veterinarian immediately. The sooner your pet receives treatment, the better your dog’s prognosis.
Treatment is based on the amount and type of chocolate eaten. If treated early, removal of the chocolate from the stomach by administering medications to induce vomiting may be all that is necessary. In cases where the chocolate was ingested several hours earlier, activated charcoal may be administered to block the absorption of theobromine in the stomach and small intestine. Activated charcoal may be administered every four hours for the first twenty-four to thirty-six hours to reduce the continued reabsorption and recirculation of theobromine.
It is very common to provide supportive treatments such as intravenous fluid therapy, to help dilute and promote excretion of the toxin. All dogs ingesting chocolate should be closely monitored for the first twenty-four hours for any signs of irregular heart rhythm.