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Dog Chocolate Danger

Dog Chocolate Danger

You may have heard that chocolate can be fatal to dogs–but did you know that different chocolate products carry different risks? Chocolate contains an ingredient called theobromine (a compound similar to caffeine), but some kinds contain more theobromine than others.

Never allow your dog to eat chocolate., because all chocolate can make your dog sick, if he eats enough. Because cats are far more finicky about what they eat, theyíre typically much less likely to get into trouble by scarfing up a stash of chocolate. Many donít care for the taste of sweet foods at all. However, cats that do eat chocolate can become as sick as a dog would, and may require emergency care.

Unsweetened baking chocolate is the most dangerous of all chocolates, since it contains almost 10 times the amount of theobromine and caffeine as milk chocolate. Just one ounce (1 square) of unsweetened baking chocolate can kill a 10-pound dog (figure about ľ ounce for every 2.2 pounds as a fatal dose). Bakerís chocolate contains 390 milligrams of theobromine per ounce. Semisweet chocolate is the next most serious threat, containing 150 milligrams of theobromine per ounce. One ounce of this type of chocolate can kill a 3-pound dog. Milk chocolate contains 44 milligrams of theobromine per ounce.

Other products that contain theobromine, caffeine, or related compounds include cocoa beans, coffee, cola and tea, so youíll need to keep your pet away from these as well.

Prevention!
To prevent a poisoning incident, keep chocolate and other products containing theobromine or caffeine out of your petís reach. Just remember: Dogs love sweets. Many are capable of jumping up onto a counter or table and grabbing cookies, cakes, or other chocolate temptations.

Instruct children and visitors never to feed your dog chocolate as a treat. Many people who are unaware of the danger feed their dogs candy bars or cookies without causing obvious illness, but this is only because the dose of theobromine and caffeine in small amounts of milk chocolate is relatively low, especially for larger dogs.

Symptoms of Poisoning
Chocolate poisoning can cause vomiting, diarhhea, nervousness, restlessness, excitement, tremors, seizures, and even coma in dogs. Theobromine triggers the release of epinephrine (adrenaline), which makes a dogís heart race. This can progress to serious cardiac arrhythmias. Theobromine and caffeine affect your petís gastrointestinal system, central nervous system, and cardiovascular system. There is a diuretic effect as well. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, increased heart rate, decreased blood pressure, restlessness, increased urination, muscle tremors, excitability, irritability, and seizures.

What About White Chocolate?
Although ďwhite chocolateĒ may look and taste like the real thing, itís not really chocolate at all. Itís made from cocoa butter, and contains neither caffeine nor theobromine. White chocolate has no cocoa solids from the chocolate liquor, and is therefore not harmful to pets.

What to Do
Time is of the essence in these cases; seek emergency care immediately if yor dog has eaten chocolate! Call your vet (or one of the animal poison control centers) immediately. Following instructions, you may be able to induce vomiting by administering hydrogen peroxide (youíll be told the correct dosage)–which greatly increases the odds of survival.

There is no specific antidote for this poisoning, so vets usually recommend inducing vomiting to get rid of the chocolate. It takes about 17.5 hours for half of the toxin in chocolate to work its way through a dogís system, so you should induce vomiting in the first one or to hours after ingestion if you donít know how much chocolate your dog ate.

How to Induce Vomiting
In some poisoning cases, your vet or the Animal Poison Control Center will direct you to induce vomiting immediately. To make a dog vomit at home, you can force the pet to drink 3 percent household hydrogen peroxide (ask for the correct dosage, based on your petís weight; donít guess). Keep a bottle on hand in case of emergencies. But always call a poison control center or your vet before using it.

If you have activated charcoal at home, you may give your dog a dose to inhibit absorption of the toxin; the poison center will give you the correct dosage. In severe cases, your dog will need to be treated at the vetís office. Milk chocolate will often cause diarrhea 12 to 24 hours after ingestion. This should be treated symptomatically wih fluids to prevent dehydration.

At the Vet’s Office
Your vet may administer an anticonvulsant if neurological signs need to be controlled, along with oxygen therapy, intravenous medications, and fluids to protect the heart.

Read more: Pets, Safety, , ,

Adapted from Deadly Daffodils, Toxic Caterpillars by Christopher P. Holstege, M.D. and Carol Turkington (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2006)

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

11 comments

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12:16PM PDT on Oct 15, 2008

Thank-you. I wish there was a way to promote this to front page news ~ especially at Halloween and other holidays filled with candy and chocolate treats, kids and visitors in the home that may not know the reality of dangers.

3:53PM PDT on Oct 9, 2008

Years ago my Husky got into cocoa and almost died. It isn't a myth! That is when I found out chocolate is toxic for dogs.

6:13PM PDT on Oct 4, 2008

I've heard the chocolate warnings too but when I asked my vet, he said it was a myth. So my dog got chocolate 2 - 3 or more times a week for 12 years with no problems. And I ain't talking a little pinch here & there. We're talking 2 Reeses Cups or half a 3 Musketeers bar. But then, she was eating N.Y. Strip, lobster, or Natural Balance for a steady diet. And she German Shepherd) maintained an average weight of 80 - 85 pounds

1:26PM PDT on Sep 18, 2008

I'd say it can't be good for humans either!

9:54PM PDT on Sep 14, 2008

Strange, but true. Aluminum foil. :(
I had a dog that ingested it because it had meat of some sort on it. My neighbor threw it over the fence instead of in the garbage. Surgery was a failure even though we thought we caught it in time.
Some ordinary household plants can be extremely dangerous to cats and dogs. I keep mine up high or in hangers. Cats will eat almost anything green that they can find.
Grapes cause renal failure.
Tylenol... Why that ever became an Issue is beyond my way of thinking. It is always good to remember that even though your pets are like kids to you, they are not Human.
The Physiological differences are endless!

THX For the Article.
Respectfully and sincerely,
Electra Cy

7:40PM PDT on Sep 14, 2008

I guess I was lucky - my roommates dog once ate a plate full of christmas fudge and didn't get sick.

4:05PM PDT on Sep 14, 2008

I beg to differ. My mother fed 3 Hersheys Kisses and 3oz. of Coca Cola to her pekinese mix every day, sometimes 2 or 3 times a day, and it lived to be 14 years old. If fed in excess, I'm sure it is dangerous to dogs and cats. In excess it is also dangerous to people.

3:59PM PDT on Sep 14, 2008

I work for a veterinary clinic. Raisins/Grapes can cause kidney failure in some dogs. Also, regarding the chocolate, people don't realize that dogs can smell it even through cellophane wrapping, so please never leave even a sealed box within a dog's reach (this comes up alot around the holidays!) Here is the contact info for ASPCA Animal Poison control (human poison control usually does not have correct info for animal physiology). There is a charge for the Animal Poison control because it is not a gov't funded service like the human one.
"Animal Poison Control Center -As the premier animal poison control center in North America, the APCC is your best resource for any animal poison-related emergency, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you think that your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, make the call that can make all the difference:
(888) 426-4435. A $60 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card."
Also, check out ASPCA.org for more info on toxic household substances & plants.

1:35PM PDT on Sep 14, 2008

yea, rasins and grapes are bad bc they ferment in the dogs stomach

9:05AM PDT on Sep 14, 2008

I don't remember the source of info or why they are bad but I remember reading that raisins are very bad for dogs too.

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