While a plate of chocolate brownies or a candy bar may be your favorite indulgence, it could be death for your pooch. Cocoa, an ingredient in chocolate, contains the compound theobromine. Theobromine is toxic to dogs. Your dog does not know this; If something tastes good and he can reach it, he is likely to eat it. While a small amount may only cause stomach upset, larger amounts can be fatal.
Types of Chocolate
When it comes to theobromine toxicity in dogs, the type of chocolate ingested plays a large role in determining whether toxicity will occur. Different types of chocolate contain different amounts of cocoa, thus different levels of theobromine. White chocolate does not contain cocoa and is not toxic to dogs. Milk chocolate contains moderate levels. Dark chocolate is worse; but the greatest risk for toxicity occurs when your dog consumes semi-sweet chocolate, baker’s chocolate or cocoa powder. As a general rule, the darker and more bitter the chocolate, the greater the risk of toxicity.
Besides the type of chocolate consumed, other risk factors play roles in how sick your dog may become. Your dog’s weight determines the amount of theobromine that causes toxicity. A large-breed dog can consume more chocolate than a small-breed dog. Age is another factor. Young puppies and senior dogs are at higher risk of becoming sick. Dogs with underlying medical conditions or weakened immune systems are more likely to get sick with smaller amounts of cocoa. If you suspect your dog ingested chocolate, call your veterinarian immediately. He will help determine if the amount consumed is likely to be toxic to your specific dog.
A dog who took a bite of your candy bar or shared a few licks of chocolate ice cream with a toddler is likely to experience only mild symptoms if any. Mild symptoms of chocolate poisoning include vomiting and diarrhea. As the chocolate passes through the system, these symptoms will pass. However, these symptoms are also present with lethal doses of chocolate, so knowing how much your dog ate is essential. If the dose was a lethal amount, it is essential that he receive treatment as soon as possible to avoid death.
Cardiotoxicity and Neurotoxicity
If your dog consumes a lethal amount of cocoa, cardiotoxicity and neurotoxicity are likely. Your dog may experience rapid heart rate and heart arrhythmias. Depending on the level of toxicity, this can result in cardiac arrest. Neurological symptoms include tremors, agitation, seizures, coma and death.
When it comes to high levels of consumption, immediate treatment is essential to avoid death. The veterinarian can induce vomiting within the first two hours after consumption to help reduce the amount of theobromine in your dog’s system. Activated charcoal is administered to bind with remaining theobromine.
Deborah Lundin is a professional writer with more than 20 years of experience in the medical field and as a small business owner. She studied medical science and sociology at Northern Illinois University. Her passions and interests include fitness, health, healthy eating, children and pets.