Dangers For Your Dog: Chocolate Poisoning

As pet owners, we all know the dangers of feeding our four-legged companions too much human food. There are many things that humans can eat that animals, particularly dogs and cats, can’t process. You’ve probably heard that chocolate poisoning is a very real threat to your pets but do you know why? Here we’ll take a look at what makes chocolate dangerous for your dog and the symptoms you should be on the look out for if you suspect your dog might have eaten chocolate.

Chocolate Could Poison Your Dog Fast

Chocolate is made from the roasted seeds of the Theobroma cacao or cocoa tree.

The seeds have certain properties that can be toxic for dogs and cats, including caffeine and theobromine, which are naturally occurring stimulants.

Both theobromine and caffeine stimulate the central nervous system and heart muscle.

They also relax smooth muscles, especially the bronchial muscles and increase production of urine by the kidneys.

Dogs are more often the victims of chocolate poisoning than cats, because dogs like sweet-tasting things and they are indiscriminate eaters to begin with. Studies have shown that dogs are especially sensitive to theobromine compared to other domestic animals.

This is because dogs metabolize the substance very slowly, which means it stays in their bloodstream for an unusually long time.

This may also be true of cats, but because kitties don’t commonly overdose on chocolate, there isn’t a lot of research on feline chocolate toxicosis.

How Much Chocolate Is Too Much?

Even small amounts of chocolate can cause adverse reactions in pets.

Baker’s chocolate and dark chocolate are the most common culprits, but other sources include chewable flavored multivitamins, baked goods, chocolate-covered espresso beans, and cocoa bean mulch.

Though not commonly seen, the worst of the worst is dry cocoa powder, which contains the highest amount of theobromine per ounce – 800 milligrams per ounce versus Baker’s chocolate at 450 milligrams per ounce.

Symptoms of Chocolate Toxicosis

Clinical signs of chocolate poisoning may not appear for several hours after ingestion. However, the onset of symptoms usually occurs within 4 to 5 hours and continues for 12 to 36 hours.

The signs of chocolate poisoning usually progress rapidly. Death from respiratory and/or cardiac failure can occur up to several days after the chocolate was consumed.

This is why it’s very important to seek medical help if you even think that your dog has eaten chocolate. The effects of it can last for days, and even if you think you’re in the clear your pet might still be at risk.

A dose of 250 to 500 milligrams of theobromine per kilogram of bodyweight is considered a potentially lethal dose for dogs; the lethal dose in cats starts at about 200 milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight.

Symptoms can include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Increased reflex responses
  • Rigid muscles
  • Rapid breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • A drop in blood pressure
  • And seizures

In very serious cases, there can be weakness, coma, cardiac failure, and death.

Diagnosing Chocolate Toxicity

Your veterinarian will want to perform a physical exam and order a chemical blood profile, an electrolyte panel, and a urinalysis – all of which can help determine if there is a chocolate or caffeine overdose.

Your pet’s blood can also be tested for theobromine concentrations, and an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) should be performed to check for heart rhythm abnormalities.

If you suspect your pet has ingested chocolate, you should get him to a veterinarian immediately. En route, try to keep him calm and quiet to prevent symptoms from escalating too quickly.

It’s very important to get your dog to the vet as soon as you possibly can, once you suspect she’s ingested chocolate. You might be tempted to wait it out and see if more symptoms arise, but the best way to avoid complications and keep your pet healthy is to seek medical attention immediately. 

Chocolate Could Poison Your Dog Fast

Have you ever been concerned that your dog had chocolate poisoning? If so, did you seek immediate medical attention?

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