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Canine Chocolate Toxicosis

Many people think of chocolate as the ultimate treat, but this innocent, but fattening treat can be deadly for dogs. A lively Beagle, finding an open bag of chocolate morsels, wolfed them down as fast as he could. His owner thought little of the incident, and cleaned up the mess left by his pet. That evening the dog collapsed and died. What would cause the healthy dog to die so suddenly, a new canine virus? No, the ailment was a little known, but nonetheless deadly problem called Chocolate Toxicosis, or chocolate poisoning.

The element in the chocolate that is so deadly to dogs is a substance called Theobromide. The size of the dog and type of chocolate have a bearing on the amount of "Goodie" that will cause toxic results. Chocolate is not a treat that pet owners should dole out to their unsuspecting but loving canine friends.

Holidays are especially dangerous times, when large quantities of candy and other chocolate treats may be found in the home. Chocolate has a tempting taste that pets and owners alike can enjoy. Since our dogs are often considered members of the family, it is natural to wish to share our treats. But this is one treat that should be kept out of his or her reach.

Dr. Sullivan, a toxicologist at the University of Illinois Veterinary Medical School, says the problem of Toxicosis "can be significant, especially during the holidays when people do a lot of baking with chocolate."

The unsweetened or baking chocolate is the most dangerous as it contains the highest percentage of Theobromide per once; 400 MG per once as compared to 45 MG per ounce to milk chocolate. Usually toxic symptoms will occur when 100 MG of Theobromide are ingested per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of the animal's weight. So a 20 pound Beagle can succumb with the ingestion of just two ounces of baking chocolate.

The chart below shows the toxic amount of milk chocolate and baking chocolate for various weights of dogs. Although these show life-threatening levels, ingestion of smaller amounts can cause your pet to experience considerable discomfort.

The symptoms of Theobromide poisoning are numerous and they appear within a few hours or up to a day after the chocolate ingestion. Chocolate stays in the animal's stomach a long time. As the Theobromide is absorbed into the bloodstream, the animal can exhibit the following symptoms

1) Vomiting
2) Diarrhea
3) Diuresis (Urinary incontinence)
4) Hyperactivity
5) Rapid breathing/heartbeat
6) Muscle tremors
7) Seizures
8) Coma

There is no antidote to Theobromide poisoning. Treatment is geared toward supporting the animals basic life functions, preventing further absorption of the chocolate, hastening elimination, and treating the symptoms. If less than two hours have passed since the ingestion, the first step is to induce vomiting. This should get rid of 70% of the stomach's contents. The chocolate can melt and form a ball in the stomach, which can be difficult to remove. If the dogs has eaten an amount that can be toxic (see chart) it is not enough to just induce vomiting. The animal should be placed under the care of a veterinarian until the danger has passed. The vet will give the dog repeated doses of activated charcoal to move the poison through the system faster and with less absorption. The vital signs (heart rate and respiration) must be carefully monitored during this treatment. The best treatment is prevention of the accidental ingestion. Keep your dog out of danger by:

1) Never leave chocolate unattended within easy reach of your pet.
2) Never feed chocolate candy as a treat.
3) Never assume an animal is fine if it vomits after eating chocolate.

Chocolate Toxicosis is a killer, but it is a killer that can be prevented from killing. If you think your dog has ingested a dangerous amount of chocolate, consult a vet at once.

Dangerous Quantities of Chocolate

Dog's Weight         Amount of Milk Chocolate      Amount of Unsweetened Chocolate           Approx. MG of Theobromide

5 lbs.                              4 oz.                                         1/2 oz.                                                  200
10 lbs.                            8 oz.                                         1 oz.                                                     400
20 lbs.                            16 oz.                                       2 1/2 oz.                                               900
30 lbs.                            1 1/4 lbs.                                  3 3/4 oz.                                               1300
40 lbs.                            2 1/2 lbs.                                  4 1/2 oz.                                               1800
50 lbs.                            3 lbs.                                        5 1/2 oz.                                               2250
60 lbs.                            3 3/4 lbs.                                  6 3/4 oz.                                               2700
70 lbs.                            4 3/4 lbs.                                  8 1/2 oz.                                               3400

Should you have a concern regarding the health of your Beagle(s), you should contact your veterinarian. All information on this site is presented solely for educational and informational purposes and should not, at any time, be considered a substitute for seeking or receiving veterinary care for your Beagle(s).