Chocolate Toxicity The Number One Holiday Hazard

chocolate toxicityMost people are aware that chocolate is toxic to dogs and cats.  During the Christmas and Easter holidays, Guthrie Pet Hospital sees an influx of calls and cases involving chocolate ingestion.  Learn what you need to know about chocolate toxicity in pets.

Theobromine is the toxic ingredient in chocolate.  The amount of theobromine varies depending on the type of chocolate.  For example:

 

  • Baking/Dark chocolate contains 130-450mg of theobromine/ounce of chocolate
  • Milk chocolate contains 40-60mg of theobromine/ounce of chocolate
  • White chocolate contains 0.25mg of theobromine/ounce of chocolate

As you can see from the example above, the darker and bitter chocolates are more toxic — the severity of symptoms increases as the amount of theobromine ingested increases.

Chocolate toxicity is dose dependent:

Mild symptoms:  20mg/kg (equivalent to a 10-pound dog eating 90mg of theobromide or 1 ½ oz of milk chocolate)

  • Agitation
  • Hyperactivity
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Moderate symptoms:  40mg/kg (equivalent to a 10-pound dog eating 181mg of theobromide or 3 oz of milk chocolate)

  • All the above symptoms
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Abnormal heartbeat

Severe symptoms:  60mg/kg (equivalent to a 10-pound dog eating 272mg of theobromide or 4 ½ oz of milk chocolate)

  • All the above symptoms
  • Muscle tremors
  • Twitching
  • Seizures

Chocolate toxicity is rarely fatal and requires the ingestion of 200mg/kg which is equivalent to a 10-pound dog eating 909mg of theobromide or 15 oz of milk chocolate.  Chocolate toxicity can take several hours before symptoms appear and symptoms can sometimes last for several days.

Treatment for chocolate toxicity:

Treatment varies with the amount and type of chocolate ingested.  For moderate and severe chocolate toxicity it’s best to induce vomiting to get as much of the chocolate out of the pet’s stomach.  You can induce vomiting by giving hydrogen peroxide, or your veterinarian has medication which can cause your pet to vomit. Activated charcoal can help block absorption of theobromine still left in the stomach.  Moderate to severe cases of chocolate toxicity require intravenous fluids and medication to control heart rate and prevent seizures.  Most of the cases that we see at Guthrie Pet Hospital are mild and usually only require medication to help control vomiting and diarrhea.  I recommend holding your pet off food for 24 hours and then feeding a bland diet for a few days to help with vomiting and diarrhea.

Use this handy chocolate calculator to determine if your pet has ingested a toxic dose of chocolate and then contact your local veterinarian.

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