Chocolate is
Poison to Your Dog

Being aware of impending dangers is our best defense to preventing disaster.

Dogs like to eat nearly everything they see you eat, including chocolate. So, putting candy out in a dish for guests to enjoy is often more temptation than they can bear. Do not test your dog's will-power on something that could be fatal if ingested. Chocolate is ecstasy to humans and poison to dogs. Oh, they like it. They'll eat it and eat it and eat it. And therein lies the problem.

Just before the holiday, a large basket arrived in the mail for Jolene. It was filled with candy, cookies, taffy, a stuffed toy, a cellphone and chocolate - lots of chocolate. She put her basket in the closet in her room and never gave it a second thought.

While out on a short shopping trip the next day, Buddy, our Shitz-Su/ Maltese mix, went into Jo's room and headed straight for her basket. He pushed aside the stuffed toy, the artificial grass, the cellphone and the jelly beans, and proceeded to devour a very large candy bar, putting Buddy's health and life at risk.

Why is chocolate fatal for dogs?

Chocolate is made from the beans of the cacao tree. It is not the caffeine but Thebromine that is the toxic chemical found in chocolate that affects dogs adversely. Although caffeine is also present in chocolate, it is in much smaller amounts.

Theobromine's effect on the canine body:

  • It is a stimulant to the CNS - Central Nervous System
  • It is a stimulant to the cardiovascular system
  • It increases blood pressure
  • It causes nausea and vomiting

Three important factors determine the degree of damage and toxicity; the size of the dog, the type of chocolate eaten and the amount of chocolate consumed.

All chocolate is not alike. Unsweetened [baker's] chocolate contains 8-10 times the amount of Theobromine as milk chocolate. Semi-sweet is 4-5 times more potent than milk chocolate. White chocolate contains Theobromine, but is smaller amounts; therefore Theobromine poisoning is unlikely with white chocolate. Concentrations of Theobromine varies as follows: Milk chocolate has 44mg/oz. Semisweet chocolate has 150 mg/oz.; and Baking chocolate has 390mg/oz.

Signs of Theobromine poisoning are usually seen within 12 hours [or less] of ingestion. Depending upon the amount of Theobromine ingested - signs may include:

  • Excitement, nervousness, and trembling
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Excessive thirst and urination.
  • Muscle spasms.
  • Seizures.
  • Coma and/or death.

In case of chocolate ingestion - ALWAYS CALL YOUR VETERINARIAN. They will ask when you suspect the chocolate was eaten and how much. They will want to know if your dog is showing any outward signs of theobomine poisoning. They may tell you to bring in your dog or if smaller amounts were eaten, they may just instruct you on what to give your dog and what to watch for. [In Buddy's case, he had just eaten the chocolate within the last two hours. He is 15 lbs and had eaten a 7oz bar of semi-sweet imported chocolate.]

There is no specific antidote for Theobomine poisoning. All medical treatment is supportive. The intent is to get the chocolate out of the system as fast as possible and to treat the symptoms while the chocolate is being processed through the dog's digestive system.

  • Emetics - medication used to induce vomiting, if discovered within the first 4 hours of ingestion. [They told us to give Buddy 3 teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting. And told us he would have diarrhea most of the day so we should withhold his food but give him plenty of water. And of course to call them back if any other complications arose.]
  • IV fluids - to prevent dehydration [caused by vomiting, diarrhea and increased urination] and to flush the Theobromine out of the system.
  • Activated charcoal - for ingestion greater than 4 hours or where the dog continues to show signs of toxicity.
  • Anti-seizure medications - for seizures and muscle tremors
  • Cardiac medications - for dogs with irregular heart rhythms.

The bottom line is - KEEP CHOCOLATE AWAY FROM YOUR PETS. If even after your careful housekeeping, your pet finds and eats chocolate - you must know the warning signs and CALL YOUR VET if you want to save their life.

As a sidenote: Buddy is fine now. He had a difficult day which none of us would want to repeat. The carpet had to be shampooed. The porch had to be cleaned. He needed a bath and it truely was painful to watch him suffer. We are grateful we discovered the problem so quickly so he could be treated immediately.

Chocolate still has a place in our house, but it is NEVER where Buddy can reach it.

Buddy_little_pic.jpg - 4739 Bytes

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