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Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs

Chocolate toxicity is one of the most common toxicities that we see in dogs, especially during the holiday season.  Baking chocolate is the most toxic type of chocolate, followed by dark chocolate and then milk chocolate.  White chocolate’s toxicity is negligible.   Rule of thumb is, the more bitter the chocolate, the more toxic.

Our dear canine friends can get themselves into a heap of trouble when they start counter surfing, sneak   into the pantry or figure out that there are chocolates sitting inside a glass bowl, in the middle of the coffee table.  Many times it does not even matter that these irresistible human treats are covered with aluminum foil or paper.  Since dog’s dominant sense is smell, they can detect chocolate through a wrapper and even a plastic bag. And when they do, they will very eagerly, and promptly, swallow them, wrappers and all.

 One very popular item that is a repeat offender in veterinary clinics is the counting down days until Christmas chocolate boxes.  Children love these boxes and usually leave them on top of tables or counters.  Once “Bailey” is left alone to his own devices, you can bet your bottom dollar that if he can get to it, he will have his way with it.  And because “Bailey” doesn’t have any thumbs, he will surely swallow the box along with the chocolate.  Not only is now toxicity a legitimate concern, but also the possibility of “Bailey”   blocking his gastrointestinal tract with the cardboard box.

Do not despair.  I myself am a chocolate lover and we always have chocolate in our house in some sort of shape or form.  We just make sure that it is properly stored, away from the reach of the canine family member.  Children can be very helpful in this department as long as they are aware of the possible complications that may come from “Bailey” getting into the chocolate.

And even after you have been thorough and careful in your every move, and “Bailey” still reaches the brownies that were left on the counter unsupervised, it’s ok.  Keep in mind that many pets that ingest chocolate, even in toxic amounts, when taken to the veterinarian in a timely fashion, will most likely make a full recovery.  The key words here being  “as soon as you know that “Bailey” has ingested chocolate”.  Do not wait for symptoms of chocolate toxicity to kick in.  Symptoms of chocolate toxicity can be anything from hyperactivity, tremors, increased heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, increased thirst and increased urination.  Detoxifying patients that have had a chocolate ingestion may include inducing the patient to vomit, administering activated charcoal, and intravenous fluids.  Patients that develop tremors may need sedatives.  Severe cases of chocolate toxicity can result in death.

If you ever find yourself having to bring “Bailey” in because he ingested chocolate, please make sure that you can find out the type of chocolate that he got into and how much of it he may have consumed.  Your veterinarian will be able to calculate if your doggie has consumed a toxic dose.  The more chocolate a dog consumes, the higher the chances for toxicity.  So our smaller, furry friends don’t need a whole lot of chocolate to get chocolate toxicity.

So celebrate the holidays, but keep in mind that it is wise to prevent and keep those chocolate delicacies away from our canine friends.  As for our feline friends, chocolate is toxic to them as well, but thank goodness, they don’t have a sweet tooth.