Chocolate Poisoning

March 29th 2018

We hear warnings all the time about how bad too much chocolate can be for our health. It’s bad for your teeth. It has too many calories. How does that saying go? Straight from the lips to the hips?! Oh but it sure tastes good. And in moderation, it’s not a problem. We are now hearing about the benefits of chocolate consumed in moderation, especially dark chocolate which is packed with antioxidants. However, what may be a nice treat for us humans can be bad for your pets! We’re not talking bad teeth and unwanted pounds. It can be lethal!

I recently saw a case of chocolate toxicosis (poisoning), so I will take this opportunity to shed light on the dangers of this substance when pets ingest it. Halloween is just around the corner which means chocolate will be everywhere! It’s a time of the year we vets see spikes in chocolate poisoning, the effects of which can be traumatic for both the pets and their human companions.

Chocolate is toxic because of a substance called theobromine. While safe for humans this is awful for pets. The more chocolate liquor (the liquid that results from grinding the hulled cacao beans) there is in a product, the more theobromine there is. Baking chocolate is the worst for pets as it contains approximately 390mg/ounce of theobromine. Semisweet chocolate is next with about 150mg/ounce, followed by milk chocolate which contains around 44mg/ounce. To give an idea of what this means, you only need 9 mg per pound of dog for mild toxicity signs to occur and up to 18 mg per pound of dog for severe signs. So for a 20 pound dog, less than half an ounce of baking chocolate could be visibly toxic!

Signs of toxicity from theobromine include: vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, tremors, seizures, increased heart rate, racing heart rhythm which can progress to abnormal rhythms and death in severe cases.

If your pet has consumed any amount of chocolate, seek veterinary attention immediately as your pet will be given medication to make them vomit. The medication must be given within in an hour (preferably less) from the time of ingestion. Another medication will be given to prevent absorption of anything left in the gastrointestinal tract. In severe cases pets will require hospitalization and monitoring. It can take nearly four days for the effects of chocolate to work its way out of the system.

I have included the ASPCA website for you to visit and learn more about poisonous plants, frequently asked questions to poison control, top ten pet toxins and people foods to avoid feeding your pet. In the search window type in poisons and the link will send you to a page with listings of poisons and toxins.

In the meantime, please keep any chocolate products out of reach from your pets!

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