Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs
*If your pet has eaten chocolate and is showing signs of anxiety, agitation or vomiting, consult a veterinarian immediately.*
- Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, which have effects on the central nervous system and heart. Humans break down these substances much more efficiently than dogs.
- The darker the chocolate, the higher amounts of caffeine and theobromine, and the more dangerous to dogs.
- The amount and type of chocolate consumed and the body weight of the dog influence the risk and the outcome.
- The best way to prevent your dog from ingesting chocolate is to keep it out of reach.
What is chocolate poisoning?
Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, which can have effects on the central nervous system, heart, and kidneys. Humans can break down and excrete these substances much more efficiently than dogs can, which is why chocolate is not toxic to humans but can potentially make dogs very sick.
The amounts of caffeine and theobromine in chocolate vary depending on the overall percentage of cocoa solids in the chocolate, as well as the growing conditions, sources, and varieties of the cocoa beans used. As a result, different types of chocolate contain different amounts of caffeine and theobromine. Generally, the darker the chocolate, the higher the risk of illness to dogs. Baker’s chocolate, cocoa powder, and dark chocolate contain the highest amounts of these substances, whereas the amounts in white chocolate are negligible, so it is not considered toxic to pets.
The effects of chocolate consumption in dogs depend on how much chocolate was ingested and the size (body weight) of the dog. Dogs are at risk of clinical signs from consuming more than 0.5 ounces of milk chocolate per pound of body weight. Smaller amounts of dark or semi-sweet chocolate - 0.13 ounces per pound of body weight - can lead to illness in dogs. When a dog ingests baker’s chocolate it is considered to be a veterinary emergency.
What are the clinical signs of chocolate poisoning in dogs?
Clinical signs of chocolate poisoning in dogs can begin 2-24 hours after ingestion. These can include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, fast breathing, increased heart rate, seizures, hyperactivity, and inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). In severe cases, these can progress to heart failure, coma, and death.
How is chocolate poisoning in dogs treated?
Treatment for chocolate poisoning in dogs may include induced vomiting, activated charcoal, intravenous fluids, heart medications, anti-convulsants, and antacids, depending on the clinical signs.
What is the prognosis for chocolate poisoning in dogs?
The prognosis is good for dogs that have ingested small amounts of chocolate and show mild clinical signs. The prognosis is often poor for cases with severe signs such as collapse and seizures.
How can chocolate poisoning in dogs be prevented?
The best way to prevent chocolate poisoning in dogs is to keep chocolate and foods containing chocolate out of your dog's reach.
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