Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs

We’ve all heard it, “Don’t give your dog chocolate it will kill him”. We’ll how true is it you’re probably wondering. Do I have to rush him to an emergency vet if he ate one of my M&M’s?

The truth is chocolate contains theobromine that is toxic to dogs in sufficient quantities. This is a xanthine compound in the same family of caffeine, and theophylline.

Toxic Levels

The good news is that it takes, on average, a fairly large amount of theobromine 100-150 mg/kg to cause a toxic reaction. Although there are variables to consider like the individual sensitivity, animal size and chocolate concentration.

On average,
Milk chocolate contains 44 mg of theobromine per oz.
Semisweet chocolate contains 150mg/oz.
Baker’s chocolate 390mg/oz.

Using a dose of 100 mg/kg as the toxic dose it comes out roughly as:
1 ounce per 1 pound of body weight for Milk chocolate
1 ounce per 3 pounds of body weight for Semisweet chocolate
1 ounce per 9 pounds of body weight for Baker’s chocolate.

So, for example, 2 oz. of Baker’s chocolate can cause great risk to an 15 lb. dog. Yet, 2 oz. of Milk chocolate usually will only cause digestive problems.

Clinical Signs

Xanthines affect the nervous system, cardiovascular system and peripheral nerves. It has a diuretic effect as well. Clinical signs:

Hyper excitability
Hyper irritability
Increased heart rate
Restlessness
Increased urination
Muscle tremors
Vomiting
Diarrhea

Treatment

There is no specific antidote for this poisoning. And the half life of the toxin is 17.5 hours in dogs. Induce vomiting in the first 1-2 hours if the quantity is unknown. Administering activated charcoal may inhibit absorption of the toxin. An anticonvulsant might be indicated if neurological signs are present and needs to be controlled. Oxygen therapy, intravenous medications, and fluids might be needed to protect the heart.

Milk chocolate will often cause diarrhea 12-24 hours after ingestion. This should be treated symptomatically (fluids, etc..) to prevent dehydration.

If you suspect your pet has ingested chocolate contact your Vet immediately! They can help you determine the the proper treatment for your pet.

Pet healthcare, East West Animal Hospital in Lutz Florida