Dogs and Chocolate
Will Chocolate Really Poison Your Dog?
The answer is a qualified yes. The level of toxicity depends on the weight and age of the dog, the kind of chocolate and the quantity of the chocolate ingested. Just in case, don’t ever give your dog chocolate. Why take the chance?
The bad guys in chocolate are theobromine and caffeine, and in sufficient quantities can harm, even kill, your dog. Theobromine is a form of caffeine. It affects the nervous system, the kidneys and the heart. Some symptoms to look for if you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate are:
Increased heart rate
The dog will display the first of these symptoms within the first few hours of ingestion. The latter symptoms show up as the dog continues to metabolize the chocolate.
Kinds of Chocolate
There are five kinds of chocolate:
These go from least toxic to most toxic.
White chocolate has the least amount of theobromine, and so the dog may be all right. It takes .3 ounces of cocoa, one of the least toxic chocolates, to harm a dog. For milk chocolate it works out to 1 ounce per pound of dog; for semi-sweet it’s 1 ounce per 3 pounds. Baker’s chocolate, the most toxic, takes 1 ounce per 9 pounds.
Baker’s chocolate is often used to make brownies, and many recipes list two 1-ounce squares for one small batch of brownies. If a dog gets hold of a batch of brownies, cooling on the stove perhaps, he’s in big trouble. As we know, the dog won’t stop eating them until they’re gone.
If you even think the dog has eaten chocolate, call the vet. If you know what kind of chocolate, tell the vet. There is no antidote for chocolate poisoning, but there are things you can do and the vet certainly will do.
The first thing is to make the dog vomit even if you have to stick your fingers down his throat. This will get the undigested food out of his stomach. It’s a good thing chocolate digests slowly. It takes up nearly a full day for the chocolate to reach its highest level of toxicity. If something isn’t done within that time, your dog can suffer damage to the kidneys, the central nervous system and the heart.
If the dog has diarrhea, keep him on plenty of water. To keep his temperature stabilized, try the Mylar blanket in the first-aid kit. When you get to the vet’s, he or she will probably give the dog activated charcoal, which, to put it simply, gets the chocolate to adhere to the charcoal and pass harmlessly. Also, the dog may need an anticonvulsant, oxygen, IV medications and more fluids.
Every household has chocolate of some kind, and you must take care that chocolate doesn’t find its way into the dog’s stomach. When vigilance wasn’t enough, call the vet and tell him or her exactly what kind of chocolate the dog ate, so the vet can advise what the next course of action is. Your dog’s life depends on it.