Top 5 Questions About Chocolate Poisoning

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Top 5 Questions About Chocolate Poisoning

1. Why is chocolate bad for my dog?

Chocolate is toxic because it contains a methylxanthine called theobromine.

Theobromide mainly effects are in the heart, central nervous system and kidneys.

Theobromine is similar to caffeine and is used medically as a:

  • Diuretic
  • Heart stimulant
  • Blood vessel dilator
  • Smooth muscle relaxant

dogs and chocolate

Theobromine can be poisonous and result in severe clinical signs, especially if untreated.

Dark chocolate have the larger amount of theobromine.

Thus, baker’s chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, cocoa powder and gourmet dark chocolates are more dangerous than milk chocolate.

White chocolate has a reduced content in theobromine and will not cause chocolate poisoning in dogs.

2. How much chocolate is toxic to my dog?

Toxic doses of theobromine are accounted to be as low as 20mg/Kg of body weight. At this dose theobromine causes gastrointestinal signs like drooling, vomiting and diarrhea.

At doses superior to 40 mg/kg of body weight cardiac signs develop, including increased heart rate, high blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmia.

At doses superior to 60 mg/Kg, neurologic signs can be seen, such as tremors, twitching and seizures.

Fatalities have been seen at approximately 200 mg/kg or when complications from cardiac arrhythmias and seizures are not treated in due time.

As I refer before, the quantity of theobromine varies with the type of chocolate.

Estimate amounts of theobromine per 25 grams of chocolate in different types of chocolate are the follow:

  • White chocolate: minimal amounts of theobromine
  • Milk chocolate: 44-64 mg of theobromine
  • Semi-sweet chocolate and sweet dark chocolate: 150-160 mg of theobromine
  • Unsweetened (baking) chocolate: 390-450 mg of  theobromine
  • Dry cocoa powder: 800 mg of theobromine

3. What are the clinical signs of chocolate poisoning?

The most common clinical signs are:

  • Vomiting (may include blood)
  • Diarrhea
  • Hyperactivity
  • Increased thirst
  • Incoordination
  • Panting
  • Restlessness
  • Excessive urination
  • Increased heart rate
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
Clinical signs of chocolate toxicity can take several hours to develop, and even longer to disappear (days).

My Advice:

If your dog ate chocolate and presents any of the signs listed above you should contact your veterinarian assistant right away.

4. What should I do if my dog ate chocolate?

You should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.

You can help the vet if you can give him the follow information:

  • How much chocolate your dog has eaten
  • What type of chocolate
  • When your dog ate the chocolate
Thus your veterinarian can figure out whether your dog has eaten a toxic dose or not and what treatment your dog is likely to require.

5. What is the treatment for chocolate poisoning?

Theobromine has no antidote.  In most cases your vet will try to make your dog vomit.

They may perform a gastric lavage and give him activated charcoal per os which will neutralize any theobromine left in the gastrointestinal tract.

Other treatments will depend on the signs your dog is presenting.  Your dog may need:

  • Intravenous fluids
  • Antacids
  • Medication to control heart rate, blood pressure and seizures
With prompt intervention and treatment even in dogs that have eaten large amounts of chocolate the prognosis for a poisoned dog is usually good.

Prognosis is excellent with little ingestion and poor in those with severe signs of poisoning such as collapse and seizures.

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About the Author:

Hi! I'm Dora Mancha, DVM. I am graduated for the Veterinary Medicine Faculty of Lisbon (2009). My degree is recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). I completed my degree in Veterinary Medicine in July, 2009. Over the first years as a veterinarian my work was closely related to the animal health field. I have gained some average experience having worked in Barcelona University (UAB) Equine Hospital and by working with veterinarians in Portugal. In addition, in 2009 - 2010 I was in Madrid at the University Alfonso X el Sábio doing an internship in the equine service. I am also very interested in small animal medicine and surgery. In fact I worked in several small animals clinics in Portugal improving my knowledge about small animal behavior and health. Dogs always have been present in my life, since I was a child. At the present moment I have four dogs a Labrador, a Epagnheul Breton, a Whippet and a mixed breed dog.

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