Chocolate toxicity in dogs with Helen Woodward Animal Center

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Most people already know that chocolate is not something that dogs should eat.

Most chocolate also contains caffeine which is also toxic to dogs so the combination of caffeine and the theobromine in the chocolate can add together to create the toxic situation seen in our pets.

The type of chocolate and how much is consumed is directly correlated to how ill dogs become. White chocolate poses the smallest risk since it has a very low concentration of theobromine . Baking and high quality dark chocolates pose the greatest risk because they have the highest concentration of theobromine. Milk chocolate is somewhere in the middle. For example a 50 pound dog would experience symptoms of chocolate toxicity from 8 ounces of milk chocolate or only one ounce of baking chocolate.

Symptoms of chocolate ingestion and their severity are linked to how much theobromine and caffeine are ingested. The effects of caffeine are seen within the first hour. Theobromine is more slowly absorbed and its highest level in the blood stream is reached after about 10 hours. It also gets reabsorbed so can last days in the system.

The three main systems affected are the gastrointestinal tract, the heart and the nervous system.The most common symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, elevated heart rate, panting, increased urination, restlessness, and sometimes seizures. In dogs with preexisting heart conditions the symptoms and outcomes may be more serious.

There are many ways to treat chocolate toxicity that vary widely based on what symptoms the patient is showing as well as where the pet is in the illness progression. Dogs that present right after ingesting chocolate typically have the best chance of avoiding symptoms if they are forced to vomit up the material. Dogs that are experiencing symptoms at the time of presentation will have to be treated based on their current needs.

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