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Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs

Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs

While chocolate is a favorite treat for many people, it is poisonous for dogs. Today, our Long Island vets discuss chocolate poisoning in dogs, its symptoms and treatment options. 

Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs

Especially as puppies, dogs are known for causing mischief exploring the world with their noses and mouths, and eating things they're not supposed to. Because dogs have an excellent sense of smell and are natural hunters, they're apt to find our secret hiding spots for chocolate fairly easily. 

This means that while chocolate is a favorite treat for millions of families, it poses a dangerous risk where dogs are involved. Chocolate is toxic because it contains the chemical theobromine, along with caffeine. Both of these chemicals are used medically to dilate blood vessels, relax muscles and to promote diuresis (increased production of urine). 

While dogs rarely die from ingesting chocolate, they cannot metabolize the two chemicals as well as people can, making this a veterinary emergency. Our pups are also more sensitive to the effects of theobromine and caffeine. 

How much chocolate is poisonous to dogs?

Depending on the type of chocolate, the amount of toxic theobromine will vary. Dark, bitter chocolate is more dangerous for dogs. Gourmet dark chocolate and baking chocolate are highly concentrated and have 130-150 mg of theobromine per ounce, while common milk chocolate only contains about 44-58 mg per ounce. 

White chocolate rarely poses any threat of chocolate poisoning, with only 0.25 mg of theobromine per ounce of chocolate. Even if the amount ingested is not a toxicity concern, the fat and sugar in chocolate can still make your dog sick, potentially leading to pancreatitis in severe cases or in dogs with more sensitive stomachs. 

As an example, a 50-pound, medium-sized dog would only need to scarf nine ounces of milk chocolate or one ounce of baker's chocolate for signs of poisoning to appear. For many dogs, ingesting a small amount of milk chocolate is not harmful. 

What are signs of chocolate poisoning in dogs?

Clinical signs of chocolate poisoning can take several hours to develop and last for days, which means theobromine remains in the bloodstream for longer. They depend on the type and amount of chocolate your dog has ingested. For many dogs, the most common clinical signs of poisoning include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Panting or restlessness 
  • Racing heart rate
  • Excessive urination
  • Increased thirst

In severe cases, symptoms may include seizures, muscle tremors and heart failure. Some dogs develop complications such as aspiration pneumonia due to vomiting, which can worsen prognosis for cases of chocolate poisoning. 

Emergency Treatment for Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs at Atlantic Coast New York Veterinary Specialists

If you are at all concerned that your dog may have consumed chocolate or another toxic substance, we recommend bringing your pet to our Long Island emergency vets. We are here for you and your pet 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. 

The sooner a veterinarian can administer treatment, the better your dog's prognosis will be. Like symptoms, treatment will depend on the type and amount of chocolate consumed. If treating early, your vet may choose to decontaminate by inducing vomiting and administering activated charcoal to prevent your dog from absorbing theobromine into their body. 

Activated charcoal treatment may be repeated to decrease the amount of theobromine being continually resorbed and recirculated. 

Supportive treatments may include intravenous fluid therapy for stabilization and theobromine excretion. Your vet will likely want to closely monitor your dog for any signs of vomiting, diarrhea, agitation, nervousness, high blood pressure or irregular heart rhythm. They may also prescribe medication to treat restlessness or other symptoms. Because theobromine can be re-absorbed from the bladder, frequent walks to encourage urination may be necessary. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you suspect your dog may have ingested chocolate or another toxic substance, contact our veterinary team at Long Island immediately. We can thoroughly examine your dog and discuss suitable treatment options.

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