What to Do When a Dog Eats Chocolate
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When a dog eats chocolate it requires immediate attention. Dog chocolate poisoning symptoms appear in 1 to 4 hours. A chocolate dog poisonous emergency is caused by the canine toxin theobromine. Theobromine is a stimulant that is similar to caffeine. It is harmless to people, but can cause your dog to become very sick including problems with heart rhythm (arrhythmia), problems with the central nervous system, muscle tremors, seizures and coma. Other symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, excessive urination and hyperactivity within hours or eating the chocolate.
The amount needed to cause toxicity is 100-200mg/kg with 250-500mg/kg being the amount where half of dogs could die. As rule of thumb, 4 oz. of milk chocolate has 240mg of theobromine. A 10 lb. dog would need to eat 2 to 3 milk chocolate bars to reach 240mg. Semi-sweet chocolate has 43% less theobromine. Baking chocolate has +73% more and can cause toxicity with only 1 oz (it has 450mg an oz, significantly above minimum toxic levels).
Treatment is needed immediately. It includes fluids, vomiting (if less than 2 hours after ingesting the chocolate), charcoal and possible medications that are normally prescribed for a racing heart and seizures. Call your veterinarian immediately.
All Chocolate Is A Potential Source of Dog Poisoning. See The Table Below For Dangerous Levels of Each Type.
Call your veterinarian and describe the type of chocolate he or she might of ate (dark, unsweetened, milk chocolate, semi-sweet), the amount and the time. Also, give your veterinarian or emergency veterinary center the weight of your dog. Describe any symptoms that you are seeing.
If it has been within two hours since your dog ate the chocolate, your veterinarian will give your dog a medication to induce vomiting. After 2 hours it will have passed through the stomach and into the small intestine where it will all be absorbed by the body. At that point, inducing vomiting will not rid your dog of the toxin followed by repeated doses of activated charcoal to absorb any toxins.
If your dog eats chocolate and shows signs of toxicity, he may need to be hospitalized for a time so that he can be observed and supportive therapy given for any symptoms he has. For instance, if he is having seizures, anti-convulsive medication will be given. The length of the hospitalization will depend on how much chocolate he ate, what symptoms he is showing, and the severity of the symptoms. Usually he will be kept until the theobromine has left his system. Theobromine has a half life of 7 ½ hours. That means that in 7 ½ hours from the time your dog eats chocolate, half the theobromine will have left his system. In another 7 ½ hours, half of that will be gone, and so on. Symptoms can last up to 72 hours.
Your veterinarian will use charcoal to absorb the toxin and possibly induce vomiting. Intravenous fluids may be administered to help clear the toxins from the bloodstream. Any symptoms will also be treated. The key is to undergo treatment before the toxins enter the blood.
Chocolate is one of the top 10 causes of dog poisoning due to the ingredient theobromine. The average milk chocolate bar is 2-3 oz. At this level is would take 2 to 3 milk chocolate candy bars to produce toxicity in a 10 lb dog. Baking chocolate on the other hand can be toxic with a single once in a 10 lb. dog. Semi-sweet chocolate has approximately 60% the level of theobromine as milk chocolate. Hot chocolate has 12 mg/oz, way under the 100-200/mg/kg needed to cause symptoms.