Sometimes we eat chocolate plain. Sometimes we eat it baked into cakes, mixed into ice cream, etc. The first problem with these sweets is the fat. A sudden high fat meal (such as the above bag of Kisses) can create a lethal metabolic disease in pets called pancreatitis. Vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain are just the beginning of this disaster. Remember, in the case of pancreatitis, it is the fat that causes the problem more than the chocolate itself.
The fat and sugar in the chocolate can create an unpleasant but temporary upset stomach. This is what happens in most chocolate ingestion cases. This was certainly the case in our patient today. The amount of chocolate that he ate was not enough to cause serious neurologic signs
Chocolate can be, however, directly toxic because of the theobromine. The more chocolate liquor there is in a product, the more theobromine is present. This makes baking chocolate the worst for pets, followed by semisweet and dark chocolate, followed by milk chocolate, followed by chocolate flavored cakes or cookies. Theobromine causes:
- Racing heart rhythm progressing to abnormal rhythms
- Death in severe cases
Toxic doses of theobromine are 9 mg per pound of dog for mild signs, up to 18 mg per pound of dog for severe signs. Milk chocolate contains 44 mg / ounce of theobromine while semisweet chocolate contains 150 mg per ounce, and baking chocolate contains 390 mg per ounce.
Weight of Pet
(I appologize for the screwed up graphics, but my technical ability is less than medical talents)
As you can see, smaller dogs are at a greater risk of toxicity because of their size. It is much more likely that a small dog will get their paws on a few ounces of chocolate than a big dog will find a pound of the stuff lying around.
GI upset can occur at much lower doses.
It takes nearly 4 days for the effects of chocolate to work its way out of a dog’s system. If the chocolate was only just eaten, it is possible to induce vomiting; otherwise, hospitalization and support are needed until the chocolate has worked its way out of the system.
So, while you are curled up on the couch drinking your hot cocoa this winter, make sure to keep the candy out of your pet's reach.
Have a safe and happy holiday season