Basil's Baby" watercolor © Drew Strouble

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Dogs and Chocolate

By: The Pet Times

Most dog owners are aware that chocolate should not be given topets. We hide our chocolate treats in high cupboards and sealedcontainers because we know that it can be harmful if ingested byour animals. But, what if a candy bar gets left within the dog’sreach, and you come home to find an empty wrapper? What if yourdog eats a bit of chocolate that has fallen on the floor whileyou are baking? We know that chocolate is harmful, but we needto know the amounts to worry about, the signs to look for, andwhat to do for treatment in the case that our dogs and chocolatefind each other.
The chemical compound that makes chocolate toxic to pets (yes,dogs and cats, even horses), is theobromine. Theobromine, foundin products of the cocoa tree, is a xanthine compound belongingto the same family as caffeine and theophylline (an ingredientfound in tea). Pets metabolize this chemical very slowly, and itaffects their heart, central nervous system, and kidneys.Typically, although the level can vary depending on individualsensitivity, it takes one hundred to one hundred-fiftymilligrams of theobromine per kilogram of a dog’s body weight(that’s 2.2 pounds) to cause a toxic reaction. Now, theobrominelevels vary in different types of chocolate, because somechocolates have a higher cocoa content than others. Milkchocolate has approximately forty-four milligrams of thoebromineper ounce, semi-sweet chocolate has one hundred fifty milligramsper ounce, and baker’s chocolate has three hundred ninetymilligrams per ounce. While the conversion can be tricky,especially when you are panicking because your pup just ate yourdaughter’s candy bar, here is a guide to follow. Roughly, atoxic dose would be: one ounce of chocolate per one pound of dogbody weight for milk chocolate, one ounce of chocolate per threepounds of dog body weight for semi-sweet chocolate, and oneounce per nine pounds of dog body weight for baker’s chocolate.For example, two one-ounce squares of baker’s chocolate wouldcause great risk in a fifteen pound dog. However, two one-ouncemilk chocolate pieces would only cause mild digestive upset. Itwould take two or three milk chocolate candy bars to poison afifteen pound dog.
Early signs of theobromine poisoning in your dog may includevomiting and diarrhea, restlessness, and increased urination. Ifyour dog is exhibiting these symptoms, contact your veterinarianimmediately. If left untreated, theobromine can cause increasedheart rate, muscle tremors, seizures, coma, and even death. Youmay even want to start treatment before the symptoms presentthemselves in the case that you know your dog has ingested aharmful amount of chocolate, because early treatment is best.Dogs and chocolate can be a very scary combination, so doeverything you can to make sure that the two are kept apart.
There is no `antidote’ for chocolate poisoning in dogs. Thebest means of treatment includes induced vomiting, and theadministration of activated charcoal. To induce vomiting, usethree percent hydrogen peroxide, and administer one or twoteaspoons by mouth every fifteen minutes until vomiting begins.You can also use Ipecac; administer two or three teaspoons onetime only. Activated charcoal, which is usually given by thevet, is a powder of processed charcoal that binds to many typesof poisons, keeping them from being absorbed into thebloodstream of the dog. There is usually a good outcome if thedog can be treated within three to five hours of ingestion, butthe effects of the chocolate can last upwards of twelve hours,meaning that your pet may need to be hospitalized.
Knowing the signs of chocolate poisoning, as well as the toxicdosage amounts of each type of chocolate for your dog, can bevery helpful in determining whether or not your dog needsmedical treatment for the ingestion of chocolate. Though smallamounts of chocolate may be safe for your dog to consume, it isbest to avoid giving chocolate to your animal altogether. Dogsand chocolate, two of life’s greatest gifts, are to be carefullykept separate.

About The Author:
David Beart is the owner of , a site that covers pets, familyissues, cooking and relationships.

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