There’s no shortage of things a pet parent gets anxious about, and the things they eat is certainly one of them. For dogs, there isn’t a whole lot that we eat which you can’t share, within reason. But, like raisons, grapes, onions, macadamia nuts and alcohol, to name a few, chocolate is a big no no for dogs.
And, with Halloween around the corner, instead of panicking, be prepared, just in case your pup gets into some of the sweet stuff.
Why Is Chocolate Toxic to Dogs?
Chocolate comes from the roasted seeds of the Theobroma cacao plant, and the main toxic components to dogs are the methylxanthine alkaloids known as theobromine and caffeine. While humans can easily digest and excrete methylxanthines (it takes about 2-3 hours for the active ingredients in methylxanthines to reduce by half in humans, also called the half life), absorption in dogs is much slower. The methylxanthines metabolize in the liver, but then are recirculation via the bile ducts before final excretion in the urine. The half life of theobromine in dogs is about 18 hours (up to six times longer than in humans). The result of this recirculation of the increases the drug’s exposure in the dog’s body, creating a big problem.
Theobromine primarily affects the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, and respiratory system, as well as having a diuretic effect.
Most symptoms will begin to appear within two hours of ingestion, but, as theobromine is metabolized slowly, it can take as long as 24 hours for them to appear and up to three days for recovery.
And, not a whole lot is needed to induce a reaction.
- Only 20 mgs of theobromine for every 2.2 lbs of body weight will do it.
- At 40 – 50 mgs of theobromine for every 2.2 lbs of body weight, there will be a severe reaction.
- And, 3.5 g of chocolate eaten for every 2.2 lbs will make emergency treatment necessary.
What are the Signs of Chocolate Poisoning?
It depends on the amount eaten.
Early signs of poisoning include:
- Distended abdomen
More advanced signs of poisoning include:
- Increased heart rate (if not caught, can cause arrhythmia)
- Excitement, hyperactivity, nervousness (can include trembling)
- Excessive panting
- Increased thirst and urination
- Muscle spasms
If your dog is showing ANY of the signs of more advanced poisoning, rush them to the emergency room.
Not All Chocolate Is Created Equal
Us chocoholics know this, but that’s not what I’m talking about. While all chocolate is toxic to our dogs, the darker the chocolate, the more theobromine it has and the more dangerous it is. So, milk chocolate isn’t as dangerous as dark chocolate and the worst of them all is baking chocolate.
Cocoa powder and plain chocolate contain the highest concentrations (20 mg/g and 15 mg/g), milk chocolate has much less (2 mg/g), and white chocolate has the lowest concentration (0.1 mg/g).
Here’s a chart showing how much theobromine is in different types of chocolate and, based on your dog’s body weight, how much they would have to ingest to be toxic to them. Remember, symptoms begin to appear after just 20 mg of theobromine is ingested.
My Dog Has Eaten Chocolate! What Do I Do?
Depending on how much they’ve eaten and what symptoms, if any, they are exhibiting thus far, here is what you can do to either completely stave off a reaction or lessen the reaction as much as possible.
Within the first 30 minutes of ingesting:
- Give a 50/50 mixture of filtered water and food grade 3% hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting. Use 1 teaspoon per 10 lbs of body weight. Put into a syringe and get it down your dog’s throat. Adding some honey to sweeten may help. Then, walk your dog around to get his body moving and absorbing the mixture and vomiting will probably begin in about 15 minutes. You can repeat one more dose after 15 minutes, if vomiting doesn’t begin. If that doesn’t do it, try this but plan to get him or her to the vet immediately.
- Activated charcoal is something you should always have handy in the home. It is a great toxin absorber, will carry toxins out of the body and can also induce vomiting. You can overdose your dog on activated charcoal, so ask your vet in advance what the dose should be for their body weight. Here is a good guide: To a cup of water, add five heaping teaspoons of activated charcoal. Dosage: 1 teaspoon for dogs under 25 pounds and 2 teaspoons for dogs over 25 pounds.
Homeopathy & Poisoning
If you have a homeopathic kit at home, you can use it. This is a short list of remedies to use on the way to the vet:
Generally, Nux Vomica is thought of as the classic poison remedy, so I would choose that first unless your dog is clearly exhibiting signs that point to the other remedy, Arsenicum Album, that I’ll tell you about.
Symptoms of Nux Vomica are:
- wants to be left alone
- digestive disturbances
- could be convulsions,
- shallow, oppressed breathing
- nausea (incessant lip licking, swallowing)
- vomiting with much retching
- very little diarrhea, but tries very hard to make it
- symptoms seem worse from touch and worse from movement
Like with homeopathy in general, your dog may not be exhibiting ALL of these symptoms. But, if you have a sense that some of these match what your pet is experiencing, Nux may be a great choice on the way to the vet.
How To Administer:
- Try the potency 30C,
- tap 4 pellets into the cap (don’t touch the pellets as this will deactivate them)
- toss into her mouth. Since the medicine is on the outside of the pellets, they only have to come into contact with her gums or tongue to get into her system.
- give a dose every 5-10 minutes for 4 doses, on the way to the vet
Symptoms of Arsenicum Album:
If your dog is:
- if there is great fear with a cold sweat, perhaps
- if there’s coldness of body parts
- simultaneous vomiting and diarrhea
Also, administer in 30C potency, four pellets in the mouth, at 5-10 minute intervals for 4 doses, on the way to the vet.
When NOT to Induce Vomiting
There are circumstances when inducing vomiting is a bad idea. They are:
- If more than 2 hours have passed since your dog has eaten chocolate
- If your dog is showing signs of advanced poisoning; get him to the emergency vet fast.
Keep the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Hotline Handy
On your fridge, perhaps so it’s easy to find.
A Final Note
So, be mindful this Halloween to keep all chocolate candy, all baking chocolate away from your animals and for those with children, explain to them the dangers to their dogs, so they, too, can have an active part in keeping their best friends safe.
Have a safe and wonderful Halloween!
To their health –
Jody 🌺 🐾