Even in a small amount, chocolate can seriously affect the health of our dog. In some cases, exposure to chocolate can cause death. While dark chocolate is considered healthy for human due to its rich antioxidants presence, our dogs can become seriously ill when ingesting it. Two toxic components of chocolate for dogs are theobromine and caffeine. The former is available in a particularly large amount in dark chocolate and it may cause multiple adverse clinical signs in our pets. Theobromine may directly affect kidneys, cardiovascular, respiratory, nervous and intestinal systems. It is clear that the substance could cause widespread organ disruption in dogs.
The risk of poisoning is directly related to the amount chocolate our dogs eat and the type of chocolate. Early signs of chocolate poisoning are diarrhea, vomiting, bloating and stomach upset. It is not uncommon to see our dogs urinate frequently, drink more, become restless and hyperactive. These are clear signs that theobromine has affected the nervous system of our dogs. In more serious cases, chocolate could cause tremors, increased breathing rate, seizures, hyperthermia and eventually coma.
Fatal toxic dose is about 60mg/kg, so 600mg of theobromine could cause adverse symptoms in a 20lb dog. Slight symptoms can be triggered by 20mg/kg dose, while medium to severe symptoms could be caused by 20mg/kg dose. However, it still depends on the actual amount of theobromine inside the chocolate bar. Milk chocolate contain the lowest amount of theobromine, about 250mg in 5oz of bar. Dark chocolate could contain 600mg of theobromine in a 5oz of bar and dry cocoa powder at 700mg. This would mean that a small poodle that weighs only 10lbs could be poisoned fatally by a milk chocolate bar with about 250mg of theobromine. Larger dog breeds, like Golden Retriever will become seriously ill after eating more than five bars of 5oz milk chocolate. It should be noted that cooking chocolate and dark chocolate are far more toxic for dogs due to the higher concentration of theobromine. In fact, one bar of dark chocolate could already fatally poison a large dog.
After we find out that our dog eats specific amount of chocolate, it is important to determine the actual quantity of chocolate the dog eats. Based on the type of chocolate, we should be able to determine the possible level of toxicity. If the dose of theobromine has exceeded 20mg/kg we should immediately bring the dog to the nearest vet. The veterinarian will induce vomiting to clear the digestive system of remaining chocolate.
As first aid attempt, we could induce vomiting at home by giving the dog one teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide for each 10lbs of body weight. We could repeat the treatment if the dog won’t vomit in ten minutes. However, we shouldn’t repeat this treatment more than twice. If we can’t induce vomiting and the dog begins to show signs of seizures, it is important to go to a veterinarian immediately.