Recently, my friend’s dog got into the pantry. The door had been left open when no one was home, and dogs will be dogs. Stormy did considerable damage to the weekly grocery budget, but the biggest problem was that she got into the chocolate. And, my friend didn’t know when or how much chocolate was actually ingested. Here’s why that’s important.
Most people know that chocolate is not good for dogs. Yet dogs love it.
(They’re not stupid.) Dogs will also eat the wrappers it comes in, which creates a whole new set of problems if those materials get stuck in the gut. There are two harmful ingredients in chocolate: caffeine and theobromine. Everyone knows the effects of caffeine: increased activity, higher heart rate, excitability. Theobromine enhances those effects and can cause dangerously high heart rates, central nervous system stimulation, including tremors, vomiting, diarrhea, and even death. There are four different kinds of chocolate and each has a varying amount of toxic substance. The general rule is the more bitter the chocolate, the worse it is. So unsweetened Bakers is the most toxic chocolate, then semi-sweet or dark and milk. White chocolate is almost innocuous as it contains more cocoa butter and virtually nothing from the cocoa bean. Most vets have a chocolate calculator that allows us to figure the toxic level based on the weight of the dog. The simple calculation is 9mg per pound of theobromine produces mild signs and 18mg per pound induces severe signs. For example, if an 80 pound lab ate a 3 ounce bar of milk chocolate, then she’d probably be ok as that’s just about 9 mg of theobromine. Theobromine can remain in the body for up to 4 days post ingestion. It is absorbed by the lining of the urinary bladder, so it gets resorbed back into the bloodstream, perpetuating its toxic effects.
After accidental ingestion, owners can use hydrogen peroxide to make a dog vomit. For small breeds, use 1 teaspoon, for large breeds, 1 tablespoon. Repeat after 15 minutes if it doesn’t work the first time. Then call your vet as the peroxide can cause an irritation to the stomach and he or she can give further advice.
Getting back to my friend’s dog, we didn’t know how much chocolate had been eaten. And we didn’t know the time frame. So we treated symptoms. First we had to catch the dog as she was running furiously around the house and yard! And it’s hard to make an 80 pound lab drink peroxide when she doesn’t want to. We gave her medicine to help decrease intestinal absorption of the chocolate and because her heart rate was over 200, I sedated her. We gave fluids to help flush out the urinary bladder and kept her crated and medicated through the night to monitor heart function. Fortunately, she was fine the next day. Labs are indestructible. Stormy dodged a bullet that time, but Valentine’s Day is coming up. And you know what they say about chocolate-once they get the taste of it…