Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs

Most people know that chocolate is poisonous to dogs and try to keep it out of reach.  However, dogs being dogs, sometimes they find it.  This can lead to them becoming ill or even dying, depending on the type and amount of chocolate they eat.

Chocolate is processed from the cocoa plant (Theobroma cacao).  It contains the substances caffeine and theobromine which are toxic to dogs.  Together, they can overwhelm the dog’s system and make him very ill or even kill him.

The symptoms of chocolate poisoning are vomiting, diarrhea, increased body temperature, increased reflex responses, muscle rigidity, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, low blood pressure, seizures, cardiac failure, weakness, and coma.  These can be followed by death.

If your dog gets hold of chocolate and eats it, make sure you note which type of chocolate the dog has eaten.  There are three types of chocolate to differentiate between:  milk chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, and baking chocolate.  Milk chocolate is the least poisonous while baking chocolate is the most poisonous.  It takes as little as two small one-ounce squares of baking chocolate to kill a 20 pound dog (0.1 ounce per pound of body weight).  It would take a pound of milk chocolate to have the same effect (0.7 ounce per pound of body weight).  It takes six ounces of semi-sweet chocolate to be toxic to a 20 pound dog (0.3 ounces per pound of body weight).  As you can see, puppies are at more risk of being poisoned because they are smaller and are more likely to eat things they are not supposed to.

If you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate, take him to the veterinarian immediately.  The veterinarian will run blood tests to determine the amount of theobromine in the blood, the dog’s general health, and how his organs are functioning.  They will also run an uranalysis and may run an ECG to see if the dog’s heart is affected.

Call the veterinarian before you leave your house and see if he recommends any immediate measures to deal with the ingestion of the chocolate.  It is common practice to make the dog vomit up the chocolate as soon as possible so that they do not digest any more of it than they already have.  The veterinarian can tell you how to safely do this, if it is necessary for you to take such action.

The veterinarian will probably also put your dog on an IV to hydrate him and dilute the chocolate in his system, and will give him medicine to control any seizures he may have.  The dog will have to be fed a bland diet the next few days to avoid any further problems.

Chocolate toxicity is cumulative.  In other words, a dog may eat chocolate one time and not get sick but die the next time.  Never give a dog chocolate as there is no antidote to theobromine poisoning.  All the veterinarian can do is treat the symptoms.