How much chocolate is toxic to dogs?
The chocalate toxic calculator is a guide only. If you are concerned your dog has eaten chocolate of any form, please contact your vet as soon as possible.
Unaware of its toxicity, most dog parents consider chocolate as a delicious dog treat. As peculiar as it may sound, recent researches show that even dog parents that are aware of the chocolate’s toxic effects tend to frequently give their dogs small amounts of chocolate.
Dogs can potentially be exposed to a variety of chocolate and cocoa products like cookies, cakes, candies, brownies, chocolate chips, cocoa powder and cocoa bean mulches.
It should be noted that most chocolate exposure accidents in dogs occur around holidays like Valentine’s day, Easter, Halloween and Christmas. This is simply because during holidays, chocolate is more prevalent in households.
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How chocolate affects dogs
The sweet and amazingly tasty chocolate is derived from ground, roasted seeds of the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao). Chocolate contains a group of substances known as methylxanthines. The methylxanthines group includes several active substances, among which, the most important are caffeine and theobromine. Caffeine and theobromine are similar in both structure and effects. Although, chocolate contains 3 to 10 times more theobromine than caffeine, both substances contribute to the clinical picture.
Once introduced in the organism, the theobromine and caffeine act like potent:
- Diuretics (promote elimination of fluids from the body)
- Heart stimulants (stimulate stronger and faster heart contractions)
- Blood vessel dilators (enlarge the blood vessels’ diameter, thus decreasing the overall blood pressure)
- Smooth muscle relaxants.
Why is chocolate toxic to Dogs and other Pets
The theobromine’s effects are same for both humans and dogs. However, humans are capable of breaking down the theobromine quickly. On the flip side, dogs tend to metabolize the theobromine slowly, thus accenting its potentially toxic effects.
It should be noted, that theobromine poisoning causes severe clinical signs and if left untreated it can lead to various medical complications that more often than not, end fatally.
My Dog ate Choclate – How much chocolate can a dog eat
Different types of chocolate contain different amounts of methylxanthines. Therefore, not all types of chocolate are equally toxic for dogs. For example:
- Milk chocolate – is toxic if ingested in amounts of 40 grams per kilogram of body weight.
- Semi-sweet chocolate – is toxic if ingested in amounts of 17.0 grams per kilogram of body weight.
- Dark chocolate – is toxic if ingested in amounts of 15.0 grams per kilogram of body weight.
In a nutshell, the darker and more bitter the chocolate, the greater toxicity it holds for dogs. This is due to the fact that dark and bitter chocolates contain more theobromine.
The toxic dose of theobromine is as low as 20 mg/kg. At this point affected dogs show agitation, hyperactivity and digestive disturbances (drooling, vomiting and diarrhea). The cardiac signs (racing heart rate, arrhythmia, high blood pressure) begin to manifest when the ingested dose of theobromine is larger than 40 mg/kg. At doses higher than 60 mg/kg neurologic signs (twitching, tremors, seizures) develop. Doses around 200mg/kg are fatal.
It should be noted that if ingested in the right amount, any chocolate can be toxic for any dog, regardless its body weight.
Can Dogs eat White Chocolate
Compared to Milk chocolate or Dark chocolate, white chocolate is not that toxic, because amount of Theobromine (componen, that is toxic to dogs and other pets) is low in white chocolate. Therefore you might not see any symptomps in your dog after eating white chocolate. We DO NOT RECOMMEND sharing any sweet with your dog, as they are high in fat. Dont you think dogs would be happier to have a juicy raw bone or other dog treats.
Symptoms of chocolate intoxication
The clinical signs of poisoning depend on several factors such as:
- the amount of ingested chocolate
- the type of ingested chocolate
- the dog’s weight
- the dog’s overall health status before the chocolate ingestion.
Dogs suffering from chocolate poisoning will show either all or most of the below stated clinical signs:
- Excessive drooling
- Diarrhea (with chocolate-like smell)
- Hyperthermia (increased body temperature)
- Increased thirst
- Pollakiuria (frequent urination)
- Tachypnea (rapid breathing)
- Tachycardia (increased heart rate)
- Hypotension (low blood pressure)
- Increased reflex responses
- Muscle rigidity
- Neurological signs – twitches, tremors or seizures.
In cases of advanced intoxication, the dog may show signs like:
- Cardiac failure
You may see signs within 30 minutes, this would depend on how much chocolate your dog ate and what type of chocolate. However because of the theobromine’s long half-life, the clinical signs of chocolate poisoning may not become apparent immediately after the ingestion. In some case it may take up to 6-12 hours for the clinical picture to develop. What is more, due to the long half-life, once the clinical signs become apparent they can last for several days. In severe cases, they may persist for up to 72 hours. The fact that the theobromine may be re-absorbed from the bladder makes the clinical picture even more prolonged and the prognosis even more complicated.
First aid for chocolate poisoning in dogs
If your dog ate chocolate, the first thing you need to do is determine what type of chocolate and in which amount. Call your vet ASAP. Depending on the type and amount of ingested chocolate, the vet will either recommend you to monitor the dog or to induce vomiting and rush to vet’s office.
If you need to induce vomiting you can either use washing soda crystals or 3% hydrogen peroxide. To give a crystal, lift the upper jaw with one hand, squeezing the lip on the teeth. With the other hand, drop the crystal directly in the throat. Then hold the mouth shut, and gently stroke the neck. When the dog licks its lips it has swallowed the soda and will vomit a few minutes afterwards. If using hydrogen peroxide, make sure it is diluted down to 3%. How much hydrogen peroxide you need depends on the weight of your dog.
When inducing vomiting you need to be extra careful.
- Only try to induce vomiting if the dog is alert.
- Do not induce vomiting if the dog shows signs of neurological problems, such as tremors and seizures. If a dog in this condition vomits, some of the vomit may enter its windpipe, causing aspiration pneumonia.
- Salt poisoning may occur if you use salt for vomit induction. Therefore, in spite of certain recommendations, salt should be avoided for such purposes.
You must talk to your vet ASAP, and follow vet’s instruction
At the vet’s office
The diagnosis should be based on either the history of exposure retrieved by talking with the owner (if he actually saw the dog eating chocolate) and presenting clinical signs or if the owner is not aware of what happened, than on the results retrieved by examining the dog, as well as the presenting clinical signs.
The physical examination includes some additional tests like blood analysis (full blood cell count and blood biochemistry profile) and a urinalysis. To detect heart abnormalities and arrhythmias the vet is likely to perform an EKG.
Sadly, when it comes to chocolate poisoning there is no specific antidote. The treatment’s main goal is to stabilize the patient by neutralizing the symptoms and eliminating the primary toxin (theobromine).
The treatment includes:
- Decontamination through:
- vomiting induction (if not already performed by the owner) – this is useful only within 1 hour of the chocolate ingestion and before any clinical signs have developed. Several agents can be used to induce vomiting – apomrphine and xylazine (at the vet’s office) and washing soda crystals and 3% hydrogen peroxide (at home).
- Gastric lavage – suitable for already sedated patients (usually due to extreme seizing)
- Toxin absorption by using activated charcoal (1-4g/kg, PO) – in already symptomatic dogs, the activate charcoal can be used every 8 hours.
- Symptomatic therapy – depends on present signs and may include medications that:
- control the heart rate
- atropine (0.01-0.02 mg/kg) for bradyarrhythmias (decreased heart rate)
- metoprolol (0.2-0.4 mg/kg, slow IV) or propranolol (0.02-0.06 mg/kg, slow IV) for tachyarrhythmias (increased heart rate).
- control potential tremors and seizures
- methocarbamol (50-220 mg/kg, slow IV) and diazepam (0.5-2 mg/kg, slow IV) for mild tremors and seizures
- barbiturates for severe seizures.
- Supportive therapy – Regardless of the presenting signs, the supportive therapy should include:
- Administration of intravenous fluids – the goal is to dilute the theobromine’s levels in the bloodstream and promote its excretion
- Placment of a urinary catheter – to prevent theobromine re-absorption through the bladder wall
- Correction of the acid-base and electrolyte abnormalities
- Thermoregulation maintenance.
- control the heart rate
Dogs that show severe signs of chocolate poisoning need to be hospitalised for few days or at least until stabilised.
A dog suffering from chocolate poisoning needs close monitoring until all symptoms reside. The recovery period depends on the severity of the poisoning (how much chocolate, which type if chocolate and the dog’s weight and overall health). Luckily, if treated early and properly, the prognosis for chocolate poisoning in dogs is usually good. Unfortunately, for complicated cases, the prognosis is guarded to poor.
On the bright side, in recovered dogs, there are no long-term ill effects from chocolate poisoning.
When it comes to protecting our beloved canine babies, it is better to be safe than sorry. All chocolate products should be kept out of your dog’s reach. Since dogs are naturally curious and have a powerful sense of smell, hiding the chocolate products is simply not enough.
If your dog loves how chocolate tastes, you can indulge it by using dog treats that contain the chocolate substitute – carob. Carob both looks and tastes like chocolate.