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Things You Should Never Feed Your Dog

Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs

As we approach Halloween and other holidays, candy and other treats will be around most of our houses. If your pets are like mine, pretty much anything left out of a cupboard is fair game. This can be particualrly dangerous when the game that gets caught is chocolate.

This incredible tastey treat for us is often loved by pets. I even have a cat that will steal my chocolate if I leave it around. The problem is that it contains a stimulant similar to caffeine called theobromine. In high enough doses this chemical can cause severe effects including death.

Toxic doses are listed as varying, but I figure better to be safe and go with the lowest listed toxic dose to base my decisions on. This is published at 100 mg theobromine per kilogram of body weight. (For those of us not raised with the metric system that is about 45 mg/lb of body weight.}

Now different types of chocolate have different doses of theobromine per ounce of chocolate. Here are the usual amounts:

milk chocolate=45mg/oz= toxicity at 1 oz eaten/pound body weight.

semi-sweet chocolate=150mg-260mg /oz=toxicity at 1 oz eaten/3-6 pounds body weight.

baker's chocolate=450mg/oz=toxicity at 1 oz eaten/10 pounds body weight

cocoa beans-450-1500mg/oz=toxicity at one ounce eaten/10-33 lbs body weight

Of course it is best to not let your dog get into the candy bin at all, but if it happens and the above doses are even closely approached, get help from your veterinarian immediately.

In lower doses chocolate will probably cause some digestive upset such as diarrhea and maybe even vomiting. This could even occur a day or so later. As toxic doses are approached more severe signs will occur. These can be excitement, restlessness, irritability, increased heart rate, inreased urination, tremors, leading to seizures, coma and even death.

Do NOT wait to see if your pet will be okay. After two hours of eating the chocolate all of it has passed out of the stomach into the intestines for complete absorption into the body. Call your veterinarian for recommendations. Most will recommend you bring the pet in so vomiting can be made to happen and supportive care can be given as well as monitoting of the pet for signs of toxicity and symptomatic treatment if needed.

I used to do emergency veterinary work and there is nothing sadder than seeing a patient too late to help something that could have been treated effectively if done so in time.

Your dog may have to be hospitalized for awhile if symptomatic. Times in the hospital vary depending on the dosage ingested and signs. It takes about 7 1/2 hours for half of the theobromine to be removed from the body and another 7 1/2 hours for half of what is left to be removed and so on.

Please note that cats are much more sensitive to all toxins and these toxic doses are only valid for dogs. If your cat is like mine and eats any chocolate consult your veterinarian.

Here's hoping for a safe Halloween where the only scares are kids in costums showing up at the door or trips through the haunted house put together by the local charity group.

Happy Hallows Eve.

Dr. Jan

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