It's common knowledge among dog owners that chocolate is toxic to dogs. While most dog owners know this, not everybody knows what symptoms to look for and how to react if their dog does get into a batch of chocolate.
For dog owners, there are several important things to know regarding chocolate ingestion in dogs. First, it is important to know which types of chocolate are most toxic and therefore most harmful to dogs. Second, they should know what symptoms might suggest that a dog has eaten chocolate. Finally, and most importantly, they should know how to react in the event that their dog does eat chocolate.
To understand what types of chocolate are most toxic to dogs, it is important to understand the harmful ingredients contained in chocolate. Methylxanthines, including theobromine, are the primary culprit in chocolate poisoning in dogs. Theobromine is a chemical substance closely related to caffeine. The darker the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains, and therefore the more dangerous it is for dogs.
Types of chocolate
At only 0.25 mg per ounce, white chocolate has a very low level of theobromine and will not lead to chocolate poisoning. Any symptoms caused by white chocolate are a direct result of either the fat or sugar in the candy and are not related to chocolate poisoning.
Milk chocolate contains mid-level amounts of theobromine at 44-60 mg per ounce. Depending on the amount consumed and the size of the dog, it may or may not cause problems. Ingestion of more than 0.50 ounces of milk chocolate for every pound of body weight is enough to induce chocolate poisoning in dogs.
Dark or semi-sweet chocolate has considerably higher levels of theobromine than milk or white chocolate, at around 135 mg per ounce. Consumption of more than 0.13 ounces of dark chocolate per pound of body weight is considered dangerous.
Baker's chocolate and cocoa powder
By far the most dangerous type of chocolate for dogs is baker's chocolate or pure, dry cocoa powder. The ultra-dark, bitter substance contains dangerous levels of theobromine, ranging from around 400 mg to over 700 mg per ounce. Any ingestion of baker's chocolate or cocoa powder should be considered an emergency, regardless of the size of the dog or the amount eaten.
Symptoms of chocolate poisoning
Dog owners should be familiar with the symptoms of chocolate poisoning. In some cases, symptoms may not become present until 6 to 12 hours after consumption and may remain for up to 72 hours. Common symptoms include:
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Extreme thirst
- Muscle contractions
- Tachycardia, or elevated heart rate
If you find your dog eating chocolate, there are a number of steps to be taken immediately, even before contacting your vet.
- Take the chocolate away from the dog.
- Ensure there are no wrappers or packaging stuck in the dog's mouth or throat.
- Make sure the dog is not gagging or having difficulty breathing. If it is, call the vet right away.
- Determine the type of chocolate eaten and the approximate amount consumed. This will allow you to determine whether or not the dog has consumed a dangerous amount for its body weight.
- If your dog has consumed only a small amount of chocolate for its body weight, it may not be necessary to rush to the vet right away. Instead, monitor the dog closely, watching for serious symptoms, including seizures and muscle contractions. If severe symptoms become present, seek immediate treatment.
- If your dog has consumed a dangerous amount of chocolate, seek treatment right away. Immediate treatment is the best way to ensure the recovery of your dog.
If your dog has ingested a dangerous amount of chocolate, call your vet immediately or go to an emergency clinic. Depending on the condition of your dog, a veterinarian may opt for one of several treatment plans, including:
- Mild sedatives to calm the dog
- Inducing vomiting with a drug called apomorphine
- Stomach pumping to flush fluids into the stomach
- Multiple doses of activated charcoal to prevent the chocolate from entering the bloodstream
- IV fluids to help with excretion
- Heart medications to reduce heart rate and blood pressure
- Anti-convulsant medications for seizures
- Antacids for diarrhea
- Urinary catheter to prevent theobromine from being reabsorbed into the bladder