Chocolate Ingestion In Dogs
With Halloween just around the corner, we face another holiday filled with chocolate. Chocolate ingestion is a topic that we have frequent questions about – hopefully this helps answer some of them. When an animal ingests chocolate, the fat and sugar in the chocolate can cause an upset stomach, but what we worry most about is another compound called theobromine. Clinical signs we can see in animals after ingestion of theobromine are:
- Abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia)
- Death in severe cases
How much chocolate will make my dog sick?
In general, the darker the chocolate, the greater the amount of theobromine. *For a 5o pound dog, a toxic dose of theobromine would be 2.2 grams of pure chocolate. Since there are many forms of chocolate available:
- Milk chocolate has 44 mg/oz so the toxic dose for a 50 lb. dog would be 50 ounces of milk chocolate
- Semisweet chocolate has 150 mg/oz so the toxic dose for a 50 lb. dog would be 15 ounces of semisweet chocolate
- Baking chocolate has 390 mg/oz so the toxic dose for a 50 lb. dog would be 5 ounces of baking chocolate
As you can see, there is a wide variation in the actual theobromine concentration in different types of chocolate. Milk chocolate has relatively low levels of theobromine so we don’t worry so much about dogs getting milk chocolate in small amounts. But keep in mind that smaller dogs will get to the toxic dose much sooner than larger dogs, just because of their smaller size.
When faced with a case of chocolate ingestion, our first job is to try and figure out how much chocolate the dog has ingested. If it is enough that we are worried or if the dog is showing clinical signs, we begin treatment and supportive care which may consist of:
- Inducing vomiting, if chocolate ingestion has been recent
- Warm gastric lavage
- Administration of activated charcoal Control CNS excitement (tremor/seizure)
- Support cardiovascular system (administration of intravenous fluids)
- Control abnormal heart beats (arrhythmias)
- Support respiration
It can take 4 days for the effects of chocolate to work its way out of a dogs system. Depending on the severity of the case, supportive care and hospitalization is needed until the effects are no longer present.
Although it can be a challenge, the best plan is to keep all chocolate out of reach from your pets. The refrigerator is a good place to store chocolate, as pets cannot gain entry.
If your dog has ingested an unknown or significant amount of chocolate, prompt veterinary care helps with the best possible outcome. Have a happy and SAFE holiday!