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.
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.
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.
Xanthines affect the nervous system, cardiovascular system and peripheral nerves. It has a diuretic effect as well. Clinical signs:
Increased heart rate
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.
Foods To Avoid with your dog.
Q. Which foods could be dangerous for my dog?
A. Some foods which are edible for humans, and even other species of animals, can pose hazards for dogs because of their different metabolism. Some may cause only mild digestive upsets, whereas, others can cause severe illness, and even death. The following common food items should not be fed (intentionally or unintentionally) to dogs. This list is, of course, incomplete because we can not possibly list everything your dog should not eat.
Items to avoid Reasons to avoid
Alcoholic beverages Can cause intoxication, coma, and death.
Baby food Can contain onion powder, which can be toxic to dogs. (Please see onion below.) Can also result in nutritional deficiencies, if fed in large amounts.
Bones from fish, poultry, or other meat sources Can cause obstruction or laceration of the digestive system.
Cat food Generally too high in protein and fats.
Chocolate, coffee, tea, and other caffeine Contain caffeine, theobromine, or theophylline, which can be toxic and affect the heart and nervous systems.
Citrus oil extracts Can cause vomiting.
Fat trimmings Can cause pancreatitis.
Grapes and raisins Contain an unknown toxin, which can damage the kidneys.
Hops Unknown compound causes panting, increased heart rate, elevated temperature, seizures, and death.
Human vitamin supplements containing iron Can damage the lining of the digestive system and be toxic to the other organs including the liver and kidneys.
Large amounts of liver Can cause Vitamin A toxicity, which affects muscles and bones.
Macadamia nuts Contain an unknown toxin, which can affect the digestive and nervous systems and muscle.
Marijuana Can depress the nervous system, cause vomiting, and changes in the heart rate.
Milk and other dairy products Some adult dogs and cats do not have sufficient amounts of the enzyme lactase, which breaks down the lactose in milk. This can result in diarrhea. Lactose-free milk products are available for pets.
Moldy or spoiled food, garbage Can contain multiple toxins causing vomiting and diarrhea and can also affect other organs.
Mushrooms Can contain toxins, which may affect multiple systems in the body, cause shock, and result in death.
Onions and garlic (raw, cooked, or powder) Contain sulfoxides and disulfides, which can damage red blood cells and cause anemia. Cats are more susceptible than dogs. Garlic is less toxic than onions.
Persimmons Seeds can cause intestinal obstruction and enteritis.
Pits from peaches and plums Can cause obstruction of the digestive tract.
Potato, rhubarb, and tomato leaves; potato and tomato stems Contain oxalates, which can affect the digestive, nervous, and urinary systems. This is more of a problem in livestock.
Raw eggs Contain an enzyme called avidin, which decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin). This can lead to skin and hair coat problems. Raw eggs may also contain Salmonella.
Raw fish Can result in a thiamine (a B vitamin) deficiency leading to loss of appetite, seizures, and in severe cases, death. More common if raw fish is fed regularly.
Salt If eaten in large quantities it may lead to electrolyte imbalances.
String Can become trapped in the digestive system; called a "string foreign body."
Sugary foods Can lead to obesity, dental problems, and possibly diabetes mellitus.
Table scraps (in large amounts) Table scraps are not nutritionally balanced. They should never be more than 10% of the diet. Fat should be trimmed from meat; bones should not be fed.
Tobacco Contains nicotine, which affects the digestive and nervous systems. Can result in rapid heart beat, collapse, coma, and death.
Yeast dough Can expand and produce gas in the digestive system, causing pain and possible rupture of the stomach or intestines.
Why Chocolate is Poison to dog's
Notes on Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs
by Bonnie Dalzell, MA
The following information is taken from: Kirk and Bistner's Handbook of Veterinary Procedures and Emergency Treatment (6th edition) (a very useful book):
Chocolate - active ingredient = theobromine:
The half life in the dog is 17.5 hours
The Toxic dose in the dog is 100-150 mg/kg.
A kilogram (kg) = 2.2 lbs.
A milligram(mg) = 1/1000 of a gram
So for a 50 ln dog a toxic dose would be roughly 2.2 grams (2200 mg) of pure chocolate.
However the concentration of theobromine varies with the formulation of the chocolate so:
Milk chocolate has 44mg/oz (154mg/100gm): toxic dose for 50 lb dog - 50 oz of milk chocolate.
Semisweet chocolate has 150 mg/oz (528mg/100gm): toxic dose for 50 lb dog - 15 oz of semisweet chocolate
Baking chocolate 390mg/oz (1365 mg/100gm): toxic dose for 50 lb dog - 5 oz of baking chocolate
Thus a dog eating one oz of baking chocolate would have to eat almost 3 oz of semisweet or 10 oz of milk chocolate to get the same dose of theobromine.
The theobromine in candies consisting of chocolate that is coated over some other substance - as in filled candies and chocolate coated dried fruits, etc will be more dilute than that in pure chocolate bars and solid chocolate candies.
Obviously the chocolate in milk chocolate is quite dilute and this is why many dogs can eat a piece here and there and seem not to show toxic effects, how many dogs would get ahold of 50 oz at a time? This is not true of the more concentrated forms however. Dr Sue Bank's experience was that she had two dogs, a 95 pound one and a 60 pound one. Thye got ahold of 2 one pound bags of Nestle's semi-sweet chocolate pieces (a bag each). The 95 pound dog survived but the 60 pound dog ingested a toxic dose.
The problem with feeding a dog milk chocolate as a treat is that it develops a liking for chocolate and since dogs do not seem to be as sensitive to bitter tastes as humans - it may then eat the more concentrated, and thus quite toxic, baker's chocolate if it gets a chance or it will consume a toxic amount of milk or semi-sweet chocolate if it can get into a improperly stored supply.
Treatment which is best administered by someone with medical training follows the same strategy as treatment for caffine overdose:
Support cardiovascular function, control arrhythmias, control electrolytes and acid-base balance.
Control CNS excitation.
Administration of an activated charcoal slurry is a major component of the treatment and needs to be administered by a veterinarian - it is not a home treatment.
This article is dedicated to the memory of my friend Sue Bank's Borzoi, Windhound's Jai Java.
In November of 1998 I received the following correspondence which I am reproducing with the permission of its author.
Our dog's name is Napa. She is just under 3 months old. She is a neutered female of unknown breed (we suspect she has some lab, pointer, and/or terrier). She weighs about 18 pounds. She is black with spots of white that look like she dipped her face and paws in white paint. Napa is really cute and very smart. She is also quite mischievous.
Napa ingested about 6 oz (half a package) of Nestle's semisweet chocolate chips. We discovered this at 11pm. While my wife called the animal emergency hospital, I searched the Internet for "dog ate chocolate." The first site I clicked on was an article on NetPet Magazine. The information in this article confirmed our suspicion that 6 oz of semisweet chocolate could be a toxic dose for a dog Napa's size. Minutes later the vet confirmed this and I confirmed our suspicion that 6 oz of semisweet chocolate could be a toxic dose for a dog Napa's size. Minutes later the vet confirmed this and I rushed Napa to the hospital. They induced vomiting and administered activated charcoal. At about 12:30 am she was released. The vet asked me to monitor Napa continuously for the next 12 hours or so. Her heart rate was high (250) and she was acting pretty wired. Her body temp remained normal and over the next few hours the heart rate slowed a little. Had her heart rate increased or her body temp risen I would have returned her to the hospital for IV fluids. Luckily, that wasn't necessary. She reminded me of a person who had too much coffee for the next 36 hours. Finally she calmed down and slept for an extended period of time. Now (4 days later) she is back to normal and already trying to explore more cabinets for goodies to eat!
I believe that the information in the article on Netpet Magazine helped save Napa's life. By realizing the severity of the situation, my wife and I were able to act quickly to get Napa professional help.
Sincere thanks from Napa's human family, Jackie (3rd grade), Cyndi, and Rich. Her animal siblings Mickey (6 yr. old Black Lab) and Merlot (rambunctious 6 month old male tabby kitten) are glad to have Napa back to normal.
We at NetPet Magazine are so happy that our article was of use to Napa and the Sadowsky family.
I am especially pleased that the article helped to prompt the Sadowsky's to seek veterinary assistance as choc toxicity is not something to be treated at home.
It should be noted that high doses of chocolate are also toxic to humans. Thus small children also need to be protected from access to large quantities of concentrated forms such as baking chocolate. For details you must check with your pediatrician or local poison control center.