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Have you ever been in a situation when your dog gets into some chocolate and eats it all? As an owner, you may have already heard about how chocolate can be dangerous to dogs. But the question is, how much can the dog “safely” eat?
Chocolate is comprised of two main ingredients: caffeine (small amounts) and theobromine (large amounts). Theobromine is quite destructive to your dog’s health when too much of it is eaten. And it’s not just dogs – many other animals also have trouble digesting this component. Since it is not easily digested, theobromine builds up and can become toxic.
There is a ray of hope. Different types of chocolate differ in theobromine content, so owners should find out what type of chocolate the dog ate. The least amount of theobromine is in white chocolate, while unsweetened chocolate (used for baking) is the most poisonous of all, even more than milk chocolate, semi-sweet and dark chocolates.
Whether or not your dog has eaten enough to be poisoned, or just get miserably sick depends mostly on the weight of the dog and how much and what type of chocolate was ingested. The following amounts are considered serious poisoning levels:
- Milk Chocolate: 1 ounce per pound of weight
- Dark Chocolate: 1/3 ounce per pound
- Baking Chocolate: 1/10 ounce per pound
If your dog eats other goodies like cookies and cakes, the amounts ingested won’t be known, so it is best to keep them out of reach as much as possible. If the following symptoms occur in your pet, you should call your local vet and follow his or her advice. These symptoms can occur within 4-24 hours of eating chocolate:
- Muscle problems (lack of coordination)
- Excessive thirst
- Respiratory Failure
- Swollen abdomen
- Restless to hyperactivity
- Increased heart rate
- Heart failure
- Increased urination
- Cardiac Arrythmias
- Coma and even Death, which can occur within a few hours
Another hazard to be aware of, especially if you or a neighbor are gardeners, is the cocoa mulch sometimes used in landscaping. The mulch is basically just ground cocoa bean shells. However, the mulch can cause dog poisoning because it also contains theobromine. A dog in Minnesota (a Labrador) was reported to have died of eating mulch. Some manufacturers are aware of this and are working on getting the theobromine out of the cocoa mulches.
Treatment is usually done by inducing vomiting, but only for recent ingestion. Hydrogen peroxide or ipecac syrup can be administered orally. But if the chocolate was eaten several hours before you noticed, then the vet and animal hospital are probably the only resort.
The hardest part is to keep your dogs away from chocolates, as they smell very good and are apparently very tasty to them. Educate your family members about the dangers of chocolate to your dog (especially educate children, who may feed them chocolate as part of their playing). Never leave chocolate in easy to reach places where your dog can get them.
Unfortunately, not all dogs with chocolate poisoning can be saved, so this is definitely a case of prevention being the easiest and best treatment.