Veterinarian - San Diego
1540 Morena Boulevard
San Diego, CA 92110

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By Heather Beeson of Morena Pet Hospital
April 26, 2012
Category: Uncategorized
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Although chocolate has become a delicacy that is enjoyed around the world and in mass quantities during holiday seasons, it can cause a significant amount of harm to your canine companion.  While dogs tend to be most commonly affected largely due to their eating habits, chocolate can indeed be toxic to cats, as well as other pets. Here are some frequently asked questions we have received about chocolate toxicity in pets:

Why can’t pets eat chocolate?

-Chocolate contains theobromine, which is a xanthine compound.  This is in the same family as caffeine and theophylline—and is toxic to pets in large doses!  Xanthines are known to affect both the nervous and circulatory systems.  Some common symptoms include increased heart rate, hyperactivity, panting, increased urination, muscle tremors, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, and in extreme cases, death.

How much chocolate is considered to be a toxic amount for a dog?

-Susceptibility to chocolate toxicosis tends to vary according to a pet’s sensitivity and pre-existing health issues; the amount ingested and type of chocolate are also important indicators of the severity of toxicity.  For instance, milk chocolate has very little theobromine as opposed to baking chocolate which is much more concentrated.

According to Petmd.com, the following guidelines have been determined:

  1. Milk Chocolate – Mild signs of toxicity can occur when 0.7 ounces per pound of body weight is ingested; severe toxicity occurs when two ounces per pound of body weight is ingested (or as little as one pound of milk chocolate for a 20-pound dog).
  2. Semi-Sweet Dark Chocolate – Mild signs of toxicity can occur when 0.3 ounce per pound of body weight is ingested; severe toxicity occurs when one ounce per pound of body weight is ingested (or as little as six ounces of semi-sweet chocolate for a 20-pound dog).
  3. Baking Chocolate – This type of chocolate has the highest concentration of caffeine and theobromine. Therefore, as little as two small one-ounce squares of baking chocolate can be toxic to a 20-pound dog (or 0.3 ounce per pound of body weight).

What should I do if my dog has ingested chocolate at a toxic dose?

-If your pet has ingested the chocolate within the first hour, your pet will usually need to be induced to vomit.  Ideally you should call your regular veterinarian before administering any medications, such as hydrogen peroxide, to induce vomiting.  If possible, first seek immediate veterinary attention.  Further treatment for chocolate toxicity may include some of the following treatment regimens:

  • Induction of vomiting
  • Administration of activated charcoal to inhibit absorption of the toxin
  • Oxygen therapy
  • IV medications to control cardiovascular symptoms
  • IV fluids

For additional information, you may contact the National Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.  This is a 24-hour service provided by the ASPCA with doctors available around the clock.  There is a consultation fee for this phone call.  It is vital to include all ingredients your pet has ingested.

Take Home Message:  Let’s keep our furry companions safe by keeping them away from all forms of chocolate!  There are many safe and healthy treats available for pets that are just as tasty and satisfying.

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