Can my dog die from eating chocolate?
Although, dog chocolate poisoning is very dangerous for your dog, it can be less harmful if you learn a few things about it. It is important to know that Ingestion of chocolate can cause seizures, vomiting, diarrhea and in some cases death. Dogs tend to like swieet things, but chocolate is never a good choice to satisfy a dog’s sweat tooth. Try to choose a healthy alternative as a treat for your dog and keep chocolate well out of reach.
Why chocolate is not healthy for dogs?
Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine. Dogs do not tolerate either of these substances very well. Caffeine contains the stimulant methylated xanthine which stimulates the nervous system and causes vomiting, rapid or irregular heartbeat and restlessness. Theobromine can cause gastrointestinal disturbances, heart palpitations, abnormal blood pressure, tremors, seizures, and even death. Even though chocolate contains caffeine the amount is relatively low compared to the amount of theobromine. So, the effects of the theobromine in the chocolate are much more severe than the effects of the caffeine. It is interesting to note that the etymology of the word theobromine comes from the Greek words meaning “food of the gods,” so it is no wonder that dogs find chocolate so irresistible.
Why isn’t chocolate dangerous for humans?
Humans can break down the theobromine and expel it at a much faster rate than a dog. It takes up to 7-8 hours to break down and be expelled in humans. It takes much longer for a dog; losing just half of its toxicity in around 17 to 18 hours. Theobromine is widely used as a muscle relaxer and artery dilator for humans.
The hidden dangers of chocolate for dogs!
There are several hidden dangers with items that contain chocolate or cocoa derivatives. It is possible that your dog can get in to some chocolate without you even knowing about it. If you notice that your dog is showing signs of excessive thirst, an overabundance of energy, pacing, shaking, panting, diarrhea or seizures you may have a case of chocolate poisoning. These can be signs of chocolate poisoning and should be taken seriously. If you suspect that your dog has eaten chocolate you should call a veterinarian immediately.
There are many ways for your pets to come into contact with unsafe toxins without your knowledge. A new trend in landscaping is to use cocoa shells for mulch around plants and shrubs. Dogs are drawn to the nice chocolate flavor and the hardness of the shell makes a nice crunchy thing to chew on. People have used this for their landscaping without realizing that the shells are poisonous for their dogs. If you own dogs this is not a good choice for your landscaping and could be a deadly choice. A healthier option would be pine bark, wood shavings or rock.
Food items such as chocolate chip cookies, brownies, chocolate cake, chocolate donuts or ice cream can have enough chocolate in them to cause your dog issues, especially small dogs. Other substances that contain smaller concentrations of theobromine are kola nuts, coffee, tea and cocoa powder.
What your Vet needs to know.
He vet will need to know some information right away. You should know how much your dog weights, approximately how much chocolate he/she has eaten, what kind and how long it has been since the chocolate was ingested. Usually the prognosis is better for your pet if the treatment is started as soon as possible after the chocolate is ingested.
It is also important to note that the kind of chocolate that your dog has eaten can play a huge roll in how sick they may get from the theobromine. Different kinds of chocolate contain different amounts of the toxin. A good rule of thumb is the lighter color the better. Dark chocolates contain a much higher percentage of toxin than white or milk chocolate.
Some important information on types of chocolate and the amount of theobromine they contain per oz..
White chocolate = negligible amount.
Milk chocolate = 44-64 mg.
Semi-sweet chocolate (like in semi-sweet chocolate chips) = about 150-160 mgs.
Sweet dark chocolate = 150-160 mgs.
Unsweetened chocolate (such as baking chocolate) = 390-450 mgs.
Cocoa Bean Mulch = 255 mgs.
What this all comes down to is that the darker the chocolate the more theobromine it contains.
Be prepared for an emergency before it happens.
It might be a good idea to search for vets in your city. Some vets do not have an emergency service. Their office may be too small to provide this service. They are open specific hours and that is the only time that you can reach them. It is a good idea to know before an emergency occurs who you can call on to get help. Make a list of numbers in case of an emergency.
If the Unthinkable does happen
Even when you are prepared and have taken all the precautions that you can sometimes accidents will happen anyway. If your dog does get into chocolate you should remove any chocolate that your dog has not yet eaten. Make sure you keep the package to determine what kind of chocolate your dog has eaten. Determine approximately how much chocolate your dog has ingested. Check your list and call one of the Emergency vets or a poison control center immediately. Be aware of symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and/or stress.
The toxicity of Theobromine is dependent on the dose they have received meaning that it depends on the weight of your dog, how much he has eaten and how much theobromine is in the chocolate that your dog ate. Also, there isn’t an exact remedy for theobromine poisoning. The treatment is supportive, and may include IV fluids to help flush the theobromine out of the body. This also helps prevent dehydration caused by increased urination, vomiting and diarrhea. Medications, such as Emetics, that induce vomiting may also be given. Emetics are only effective within the first 4 hours of ingestion and can be continued from 6 to 8 hours after ingestion. If it has been longer than 4 hours or if your dog continues to show signs of toxicity your veterinarian my use activated charcoal for treatment.For patients that are having seizures or muscle tremors anti-seizure medications may be used. Irregular heartbeats or irregular heart rhythms may be treated with cardiac medication.
It really doesn’t take a large amount of chocolate to provide a lethal dose to your dog. For instance, a dog weighing about 16 pounds can eat 16 ounces of milk chocolate or two ounces of baker’s chocolate for a lethal dose. A bag of milk chocolate chips is 11.5 ounces, so for a dog that us under 16 pounds this could be a lethal dose. That is with milk chocolate that contains only about 44-64 mg per oz. Baker’s chocolate which contains 390-450 mgs would be far more serious. It is usually sold in 4 oz. and 8 oz. packages.
Things You Should Not do if You Discover your Dog has Eaten Chocolate.
If you know your dog has eaten chocolate do not wait for warning signs. Seek out a vet immediately. Since one of the treatments the vet will use is to induce vomiting you should not give your dog food or water. Instead of feeding them it is better to get them to vomit. Giving them food or water could cause the theobromine to enter the blood stream faster. It is important for the dog to throw up as much of the chocolate as possible to reduce the amount that will get into his/her system. Activated charcoal will help absorb any theobromine left in the stomach after vomiting and pumping the stomach. Don’t assume that your dog is fine; often symptoms don’t show up for hours. If you wait until your dog shows symptoms the prognosis could be much worse.