Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs – By Dr. Dan Meakin

Each holiday season, veterinarians witness an increase in accidental chocolate poisoning in dogs. The majority of pet owners do not realize the potential for intoxication that chocolate possesses.

Theobromine, caffeine and theophylline are all naturally occurring molecules that are found in several foods, plants, beverages and human and veterinary medications.

Based on the number of calls received by The National Animal Poison Control Center and the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center, one of the most commonly encountered poisonings in pet dogs is theobromine, or chocolate, poisoning.

Theobromine comes from the plant Theobroma cocoa and is present in chocolate, cocoa beans, cocoa bean hulls, cola and tea. Milk chocolate is obtained from seeds of theobroma cacao after fermentation and roasting. Milk chocolate has about 44 mg/ounce of theobromine; a 4.5 oz. milk chocolate bar has about 240 mgs. of theobromine. Unsweetened baking chocolate has even more — about 390 to 450 mgs of theobromine per ounce.

Relative theobromine content per ounce for various products is:
• Milk chocolate: 50 – 60 mgs/oz
• Semi-sweet chocolate: 160 mg/oz
• Unsweetened baking chocolate: 450 mg/oz
• Cacao meal: 300 – 900 mg/oz
• Cacao beans: 300 – 1200 mg/oz
• Hot chocolate: 13 mg/oz

The toxic dosage of theobromine in dogs is between 100 and 150 mgs/kg, or about 2 oz. of milk chocolate for every 2.2 pounds of body weight. However, serious non-fatal poisonings have been reported in dogs after eating much smaller amounts.

Deaths due to theobromine have been documented in horses who ate cocoa bean hulls used in bedding and in other livestock fed cocoa waste products. No chocolate poisonings have been reported in cats, which is probably a reflection of their eating habits.

The first signs of chocolate poisoning are vomiting and diarrhea, increased urination and nausea. These can progress to cardiac arrhythmias and seizures
Treatment includes:
• Emesis (vomiting)
• repeated doses of activated charcoal
• controlling seizing with diazepam
• monitoring/controlling arrhythmias with mertoprolol.
• catheterize the bladder since theobromine can be re-absorbed in the bladder
• Supportive care until complete recovery
Dogs definitely have a sweet tooth, and the problem with giving a dog milk chocolate as a treat is that it develops a liking for chocolate. Dog-proof for home to keep your dog safe. Milk chocolate should never be given to your pet and it should be kept well out of reach. Unsweetened baking chocolate should be kept in closed containers in upper, latched cupboards.

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