Chocolate is one of the most common forms of toxicity that we deal with in dogs. The answer to whether or not ingestion of chocolate will be fatal is not exactly straightforward. The reason for this is that different types of chocolate contain different amounts of the toxic substance, methylxanthines.
The more pure the chocolate, the more methylxanthines it contains. Baking chocolate contains the highest levels of methylxanthines and can be potentially lethal in relatively small quantities. Roughly one ounce of baking chocolate could be lethal to a ten pound dog. In contrast, a ten pound dog would have to eat 7.5 ounces of milk chocolate to equal the same amount of methylxanthines ingested.
So what should you do if your dog eats chocolate? The first thing you need to do is quickly gather some information together regarding the ingestion. Write down what time your dog ingested the chocolate, what kind or brand of chocolate was it, and how much they ingested. The “how much” can sometimes be difficult. Always assume worst case scenario. Try to locate the packaging the chocolate came in to determine how many ounces or grams were accessible to your dog. When you have this information, give your veterinarian a call. They will be able to calculate the potential levels of toxin ingestion and let you know what to do from there.
If you cannot locate the information in a timely manner (15-20 minutes) call your veterinarian and seek his or her advice. Sometimes, it is very hard to say how much of actual chocolate was eaten. Dogs have been known to eat entire chocolate cakes. If it is a homemade or local bakery cake, you can look back at the recipe or call the bakery to find out how much actual chocolate the cake contained.
Signs of chocolate toxicity include vomiting and diarrhea soon after ingestion, restlessness and hyperactivity, and potentially, seizures and death. If your dog has ingested any amount of chocolate, do not wait to see if he or she develops symptoms. Call your veterinarian with the above information as soon as possible. The sooner you talk to your veterinarian, the sooner your dog can receive potentially life-saving treatment.
About the Drs.
Drs. Jeff and Stacy Ward own Wilmington Animal Healthcare Veterinary Hospital in Wilmington, NC. They are both 1999 graduates of NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine. Both doctors pursued further training beyond veterinary school in the form of a rigorous 13-month internship in small animal medicine and surgery at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. Visit their website at www.wilmingtonanimalhealthcare.com.