Chocolate toxicity is a hazardous and potentially life-threatening condition in dogs. Although recognised by most for its harmful nature in animals, pet owners often find themselves confused and full of concern, worrying about the damaging effects from the “type” of chocolate or amount of consumption. While learning the answers to these questions is significant and useful information, it is best to fully understand why it’s crucial to prohibit the ingestion of chocolate. By doing so, the necessary precautions can be taken to make sure that pets are protected.
The Cause and Effect
Chocolate contains the ingredient Theobromine, a stimulant that causes reactions similar to those of caffeine. VCA Hospitals states that Theobromine acts as a “diuretic, heart stimulant, blood vessel dilator, and a smooth muscle relaxant,” and as a result can be used in medicine with success when properly administered. When consumed via chocolate by animals, however, the effects are intensified and Theobromine acts as a toxin. If not immediately treated, the results can often be detrimental.
Once ingested, chocolate toxicity may demonstrate signs of drooling, excessive thirst, gastrointestinal upset (vomiting and diarrhoea), or it may lead to more serious reactions such as seizures, increased heart rate, blood pressure and arrhythmia (improper heart beat). As a rule of thumb, each symptom needs to be evaluated and addressed by a veterinarian, regardless of the severity, to avoid further complications… including death.
The Important Details
Several factors influence the level of danger in chocolate toxicity. The size of the dog, the type of chocolate and amount ingested all help to predict the negative reaction and the best course of treatment.
Small dogs face a greater risk than large dogs, while the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous (e.g. dark chocolate). The amount the dog eats also impacts the threat.
For example, a 4.5kg dog needs to eat 85g of milk chocolate (2 chocolate bars) to endure moderate to severe reactions. A 32kg dog, however, would need to eat 590g. On the other hand, the same 4.5kg dog consuming dark chocolate will face detriment from only 11g, while the 30kg dog needs just 80g before facing life-threatening symptoms. White chocolate fortunately remains lower on the level of toxicity, yet it can still prompt vomiting, diarrhoea and even pancreatitis. Therefore it should also be avoided. The Veterinary Support Personnel Network and The Pet Poison Helpline both provide excellent guides that distinguish the mild to severe threats for dogs of various weights.
The Necessary Steps After Consumption
If treated promptly, the success rate of medical intervention for chocolate toxicity is high. To improve the outcome of treatment, upon recognition of the dog’s chocolate intake it is important to determine the type (e.g. milk, dark, baking, cocoa beans, etc.) and the amount ingested. Immediately call a vet to receive guidance on your next step. Observing gastrointestinal upset, inducing vomiting, or an immediate emergency visit may be in order. Unfortunately, postponing medical treatment can result in a poor prognosis.
The Elimination of Risk
Prevention is the key to eliminating any risk of chocolate toxicity. Prohibiting access to the chocolate is the only way to escape exposure and temptation. Make sure all chocolate is out of reach while baking or snacking, as well as hidden behind closed doors when not in use.
It is best to bear in mind that in regard to chocolate treats, tempting fate is unnecessary and possibly dangerous. Therefore, it remains wise to adhere to the rule of complete avoidance, even eliminating minuscule amounts, to prevent chocolate toxicity. If, however, one should learn that a dog has eaten chocolate, it is important to remain calm and in control and follow the advice of the vet. You can dial Vetfone, it is expensive but what is your dog worth? And also a portion goes to the RSPCA:
- Call 01728 727 673 to pay a fixed fee of £12.50.
This is fixed regardless of when the call is made and its duration. The RSPCA will receive £1 for each call made to this number.
- Or call 09065 00 55 00 to pay £1.53 per minute.
An average call is about £6-10, and the RSPCA will receive a proportion.
By doing so, the pet will have a much better chance at recuperation and a prompt recovery.
VCA Hospitals, Chocolate Poisoning for Dogs. Retrieved from http://www.vcahospitals.com/main/pet-health-information/article/animal-health/chocolate-poisoning-for-dogs/537
Pet Poison Hotline, Is Chocolate Poisonous to Dogs? (2015) Retrieved from http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/2011/07/is-chocolate-poisonous-to-dogs/
Stephanie Coryell, The Veterinary Support Personnel Network, Chocolate Toxicity Table. (2015) Retrieved from http://www.vspn.org/library/misc/vspn_m01325.htm