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October 23, 2012 at 8:00 AMComments: 2 Faves: 0

Dogs and The Dangers of Chocolate

By Victoria Swanson More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Paws & Awws Blog Series

It is that time of year again! Halloween is finally here, along with an abundance of sweet treats - more so than any other time of year. This is a magical time of year for us humans, but this could be a very dangerous time of year for your furry friend.

Chocolate is one of the major sources of canine poisoning. So before your trick-or-treaters return from their ghoulish exploits and spread their candy all over the floor to barter with their friends, take these precautions to safeguard Fido from getting into something that could potentially be lethal.

Why is chocolate dangerous?

Chocolate is made from cocoa beans, which contain caffeine and another related chemical called theobromine. Unlike humans, dogs are unable to metabolize theobromine quickly. Whereas a human's body takes less than an hour to break down this chemical, it can take a dog's body several hours. 

Your cat isn't off the hook either. Theobromine is toxic to cats as well, but unlike their "frenemy," cats rarely eat chocolate. Unfortunately, dogs are happy to eat just about anything.

A little goes a long way, in a bad way

Courtesy of the Merck Veterinary Manual, here is a breakdown of the dangers of different chocolates using a 22 pound dog as the model.

  • Dark Chocolate (Most lethal): 115 mg per 2.2 lbs of body weight
  • Baker's Chocolate: 2.25 oz.
  • Milk Chocolate: 20 oz.
  • White Chocolate: Contains very small traces of theobromine

This is just a guideline. Each dog could respond differently to varying amounts and types of chocolate they ingest.

HELP!  My Dog Ate Chocolate!

First, you will need to call your vet immediately. They will need to know three things:

  • The weight of your dog
  • The type of chocolate that was eaten
  • The amount of chocolate eaten

If your dog ate an abundant amount of baker's or dark chocolate, they could experience vomiting, diarrhea, and in some case, seizures.

Second, vomiting helps get the theobromine out of the system. If your dog is not throwing up, your vet might recommend giving syrup of ipecac, which induces vomiting. A 1:1 solution of water and hydrogen peroxide used to be administered, but it has been discovered that this method could cause esophageal ulcers and is therefore no longer recommended.

Finally, if you see signs of hyperactivity, seizures, or agitation in your dog, seek immediate veterinarian care without hesitation. Poisoning usually occurs within 24 hours of eating the chocolate.

Protect Your Dog

Keep the candy bowl out of sight and reach from you dog. Even if it is on a counter top, if your dog is left unattended and is able to reach the counter, he might want to "treat" himself while you are away.

Also, make sure that your children eat their candy at the table. This will help prevent your pooch from stealing any candy that might be dropped or discarded while your kids are eating their special treats throughout the home.

So the kids want to barter with their friends? Great idea! That is one of the best parts of this holiday! But, wait! Please be sure that your dog is out of the room until all the bartering has been completed and the floor is spotless.

Izzyism #31 - My Dachshund Tale of How I Survived Eating Over 20 Pieces of Chocolate

Mom knows I am a food hound, so I have no idea why she would assume that leaving a bowl of miniature chocolates on the end table by the couch was a smart idea. I'm only about a foot long and I barely weigh 8 lbs, so she must have thought that I couldn't jump up and knock it down, but that couch was perfectly positioned to help me reach that yummy treat bowl!

I planned it perfectly. I waited for Mom to leave the house to go get the kids from school, leaving me exactly 30 minutes to fulfill my dream!

As soon as I heard the door lock, I immediately started on my plan of attack. I jumped up onto the couch, climbed onto the end table, and used my nose to knock the bowl off the table. Too easy! Next, I jumped back down and began indulging in the chocolaty smorgasbord of sweetness. Then I realized there was one final obstacle in my way: Each yummy treat was individually wrapped! I didn't let that stop me though. I used my teeth and my front paws to not-so-gently unwrap each piece. Within seconds, I was savoring the chocolate within!

My buddy, Romeo, steadfastly refused to join in on the scrumptious treats, instead judging me from across the room as he shook his head in disappointment and warned me about how much trouble I'm going to be in when Mom gets home. Whatever! I don't care; this chocolate is calling my name, IZZZZYYYY!!!

So, what happened? Well, when they got home, the kids were laughing at the mess I made in the living room - a ton of wrappers, but not a morsel to be found. Mom was not impressed. Romeo just sat on his bed licking his paws and looking at me with contempt. Oh, the shame! Mom was nearly hysterical. She began yelling about the dangers of chocolate as she reached for the phone to call the vet. (NOT THE VET!!!)

The good news is that everything I ate was milk chocolate, and mom said my stomach must be made of "steel," not sure what that means?  With a bulging tummy and a little gut-ache, I actually wasn't feeling that bad, all things considered. The vet told Mom to watch over me for the next few hours for any signs of vomiting, diarrhea, or hyperactivity. To which Mom responded that I'm always hyper!

I pulled through like a champ without having to endure a visit to my nemesis, the VET!, but now, every time Mom leaves, I no longer have the "run of the house." Instead, I am locked up in the library, which isn't all that bad. I have a perfect view of the yard, so I can guard the house from all those squirrels, and Mom leaves the TV on for me. She must still love me after all!

A note from my Mom:  Izzy was very lucky! We think that even though she's a dog, she must have nine lives - well, eight after the fiasco she detailed above. I did call the vet immediately after arriving home and seeing what Izzy got into. We carefully monitored her over the next few hours with guidance from our vet. Any slight change in her health would have warranted a visit to the vet, but Izzy came through with absolutely no effects other than a belly ache and some bloating.  And, yes - I still LOVE her!

References:

PetMD - Multi Chocolate Toxicity

Pets WebMD - Dogs and Chocolate Get the Facts

More from Health Coach Victoria Swanson Others Are Reading

2 Comments

  • I have a story about chocolate and my dog. Years ago, we had a black lab that found my sons hidden Halloween candy - we were shocked when we got home from school/work to find that Milly ate the entire bag of candy, wrappers and all.

    It was a ton of candy, I thought for sure this was going to be the last time we would see this dog and by the next morning she would be dead. Surprise it didn't seem to bother Milly at all - she didn't even throw-up. She was very fortunate!

  • Very glad to hear that Milly pulled through like Izzy. I think it is more related to dark chocolate then milk chocolate. However, we should still be cautious with chocolate and pets.

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