Dogs and chocolate are not a good combination, but sometimes our pets can be especially naughty and eat the aromatic, sweet tasting but definitely dangerous treat. We asked our vet Dr. Anna Coffin about the dangers of chocolate.
Q: I have heard that chocolate is dangerous to dogs. What happens if my dog eats? What are the signs that they have ingested it, in case I don’t see it happen? What should I do if they have eaten chocolate?
Dr. Anna: That’s a great question and you are absolutely correct in that chocolate can be dangerous to your dog. Fortunately, chocolate poisoning is rarely fatal and symptoms depend upon the type of chocolate and the amount of chocolate your dog eats.
Theobromide is the toxic ingredient in chocolate. This chemical is similar to caffeine and is used for medical treatment as a diuretic, heart stimulant, blood vessel dilator and a smooth muscle relaxant. The amount of theobromide varies depending upon the type of chocolate. For instance, baking chocolates can contain 130-450mg of theobrmide/ounce, milk chocolates contain 44-58mg/ounce and white chocolate has 0.252mg/ounce. So as you can see, a small amount of bakers chocolate is much more dangers than a lot of white chocolate.
The most common symptom that I see in my practice with chocolate toxicity is vomiting, diarrhea, agitation and hyperactivity. These are symptoms seen with low doses of theobromide. With moderate toxicity, you will see increased heart rate, high blood pressure and heart arrhythmias. In severe toxicity, you can see tremors, seizures, twitching and rarely death.
If you know that your pet has recently (within 60-90 minutes) ingested chocolate it’s best to induce vomiting with hydrogen peroxide. I recommend giving 1 teaspoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide/ 10 pounds of body weight. This dose can be given up to three times and it can take 20 minutes to work effectively. If your pet ate the chocolate more than 2 hours ago it is most likely already been digested and absorbed so inducing vomiting will most likely not help. In these cases I recommend monitoring for the signs listed above. If you dog develops mild symptoms (vomiting and diarrhea) hold them off of food and water for 24 hours and then feed a bland diet for a few days. If your pet is exhibiting any other symptoms I would recommend contacting a veterinarian for immediate treatment.
About Dr. Anna Coffin
Dr. Anna is owner and veterinarian of Guthrie Pet Hospital. As a teenager, Dr. Anna found her beloved pet dead on the side of the road left to die without any help. That was the moment she decided to become a vet and vowed to help other people and their pets. She graduated from Oklahoma State University with her DVM in 1994.