Those were the frantic words that I voiced to the veterinarian-on-call at 5:23 am on Christmas morning. Her words back to me were calm, measured and professional – what type of dog? What size/weight of dog? How much chocolate? What kind of chocolate? How long ago was the chocolate consumed? What signs is the dog exhibiting? Is there any drooling, vomiting, diarrhea? What about restlessness, tremors, panting? Is she/ has she been drinking or urinating excessively?
Believe me. I do not feed chocolate to my dog. She may use those big brown eyes to try and persuade me to the contrary, but I resist. This episode was purely accidental, not one to be repeated and certainly a life-lesson for both me and her. Thanks to the quick and expert advice from the vet, she recovered. I did eventually as well (after I came to grips with how rapidly I could have lost her). Now I can talk about the story. Now I want to share just how important it is to be ever vigilant, and to emphasize that what we enjoy and eat is NOT what Princess should enjoy and eat.
Personally, I delight in eating both milk chocolate and dark chocolate. I use baking chocolate and cocoa in my cooking. So what is so bad about chocolate? Chocolate contains a factor called “theobromine”, which is very similar to the caffeine in your morning coffee. As you know, caffeine is a diuretic, it accelerates the heartbeat, expands the blood vessels and relaxes the smooth muscle in your digestive tract. The difficulty is that Princess cannot metabolize chocolate like Master can. What we regard as a “treat” is pure “poison” to Princess.
Not only is the presence of theobromine a problem, but the amount of theobromine present in chocolate depends on the type of chocolate. White chocolate is the least offensive, with .25mg theobromine/ounce of chocolate. The most dangerous is the baking chocolate with 130-450 mg theobromine/ounce. The milk chocolate in your candy bar contains between 44-58 mg theobromine/ounce. So, if you are wondering what all this means, Dr. Brutlag, DVM, spells it out nicely – “ … to show signs of poisoning, it would only take a 50 lb. dog eating one (1) ounce of baker’s chocolate, or nine (9) ounces of milk chocolate …”1. That is not very much for such dire results. Make note of these levels – a “toxic” dose is 20 mg/kg of weight, a “lethal” dose is 100 mg/kg of weight2.
So … now what? You have found the offending candy wrapper and your dog is not looking very perky. The very first thing that you should do is CALL YOUR VETERINARIAN, and advise of the situation. The sooner that the issue is addressed, the more positive the outcome may be, but the treatment will depend on the amount and the type of chocolate that Princess ingested, as well as the timeline from the moment of ingestion. As Dr. Brutlag states, the first line of defence will likely be medications to induce vomiting (my vet warned me “ … it won’t be pretty”) and then activated charcoal to block the absorption of the theobromine, and maybe IV fluids to replace those lost when she upchucks. You’re not out of the woods yet. You and the vet should monitor her for reactions for upwards of 72 hours after the incident and, depending on her ingestion and her reaction to treatment, there may be more medications necessary to protect her heart and blood pressure. I am telling you this because I don’t want you to be on your telephone in the early morning hours, sitting on the kitchen floor and looking into your dog’s eyes. The other thought that should be going through your head (if it should happen to you) is “Hang the expense. Here is my credit card number. Princess is worth it”.
I sincerely hope that this scenario never comes to pass for you. To ensure that it does not, always be extra vigilant around the house, and be sure that you don’t leave any food where Fido or Princess could reach it. According to an article on www.rover.com3, chocolate and cocoa powder are listed at #7 on a list of 29 most dangerous foods for dogs. Take a look at that list. Then have a look at www.petsci.co.uk4 for their “chocolate toxicity calculator”. Inputting a few values into the calculator will provide you with a read-out of just how dangerous the situation could be. And don’t limit your measures to inside the home. For you lawn and garden enthusiasts, have a look at the materials that you use in your yard. Cocoa shell mulch5 is NOT the material of choice for covering the flowerbeds.
Put this information on your refrigerator (one of the most central locations in everyone’s household) – Animal Poison Control Centre, ASPCA – (888) 426-4435.Hope for the best, plan for the worst, expect the unexpected. You just never know when you may have to access it.
- https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/chocolate-poisoning-in-dogs – Ahna Brutlag, DVM