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What's Scary about Halloween

Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs


Beware of those bags of chocolate and candy left at nose level, as our furry friends have as much of a sweet tooth as we do.

Cocoa can be toxic to dogs, even in small doses. This is because of its active ingredient, called theobromine. The degree of toxicity is directly proportional with the concentration of cocoa in chocolate. The darker and the more bitter the chocolate, the more dangerous it is to our pets. Cooking or baking chocolate and high quality dark chocolate are the most concentrated in cocoa, therefore the most toxic, followed by milk chocolate only contains about 44-58 mg/ounce. White chocolate barely poses any threat of chocolate poisoning, with only 0.25 mg of theobromine per ounce of chocolate. That said, dogs can still get sick from all the fat and sugar, resulting in pancreatitis. Clinical signs depend on the amount and the type of chocolate ingested. With moderate doses, the most commonly witnessed clinical signs are vomiting and diarrhea, increased thirst, panting and excessive urination. With higher doses we see restlessness, a racing heart rate, tremors, and occasionally seizures.

Seldom, with large amounts of high quality dark or baking chocolate, sudden death from cardiac arrest may occur, especially in dogs with preexisting heart disease. It can take hours for the symptoms to occur, and a lot longer for the toxin to be eliminated from the system.

Time is of essence for treatment of chocolate poisoning. Upon ingestion, call your friends at Westgate Pet Clinic immediately. They will want to know what kind, and how much chocolate your pet ate. They will decide if the dose is toxic and if your pet needs to be seen. The first step in treatment is to induce vomiting. Hopefully the ingestion was recent, and all/or most of the chocolate can be removed from the stomach. Activated charcoal may be administered every four to six hours for the first twenty-four hours to reduce the continued resorption and recirculation of theobromine.

It is very common to provide supportive treatments such as intravenous fluid therapy to help dilute the toxin and promote its excretion. All affected dogs should be closely monitored for any signs of agitation, vomiting, diarrhea, nervousness, irregular heart rhythm, and high blood pressure.

As prevention is the best cure, just keep tasty temptations out of reach, and Halloween will be enjoyed by all.


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