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Leave the Chocolate Out of Rover’s Celebrations

Posted by Bernadette Dunham, DVM, PhD, and Carmen Stamper, DVM on 4/10/2013 to Health Care

Leave the Chocolate Out of Rover’s Celebrations

By: Bernadette Dunham, DVM, PhD, and Carmen Stamper, DVM

Holidays and chocolate seem to go together. For birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day and many other holidays — chocolate is everywhere. But, there is someplace chocolate should never be, and that’s in your dog. Chocolate is toxic to dogs and can kill them. And since a lot of the chocolate treats might be the kids’, make sure to pass along the message to them to never give chocolate to Rover.

Here’s why chocolate is so dangerous for dogs: Chocolate contains theobromine, a compound in the same family as caffeine.  In certain quantities, theobromine is toxic to dogs.  In general, the minimum toxic theobromine dose in dogs ranges from 46 to 68 milligrams/pound (mg/lb).  Half the dogs that consume 114 to 228 mg/lb or greater of theobromine will die. Lots of things can play a role in whether your dog will have a toxic reaction including the amount of chocolate your dog ate, your dog’s size, and whether your dog happens to be extra-sensitive to theobromine. One of the most important things in chocolate toxicity is the kind of chocolate your dog ate.  For instance:

§  Milk chocolate contains 44 mg of theobromine per oz.  (704 mg theobromine/lb milk chocolate)

§  Semisweet chocolate chips contain 150mg/oz. (2400 mg theobromine/lb semisweet chocolate)

§  Baking chocolate contains 390mg/oz. (6240 mg theobromine/lb baking chocolate)

So, if we do the math, Rover is eyeing the ears and tail from a leftover chocolate bunny.  How much would he have to eat to get a 46 mg/lb dose of theobromine?  Depending on the type of chocolate, he’d have to eat:

§  1 ounce per 1 pound of his body weight of milk chocolate bunny

§  1 ounce per 3 pounds of his body weight of semisweet chocolate bunny, or

§  1 ounce per 9 pounds of his body weight of baking chocolate bunny.

And, if Rover eats enough chocolate, he might show signs of chocolate toxicity:

Theobromine toxicity can cause a variety of signs ranging from mild to severe.  These signs can include vomiting, diarrhea, rapid heart rate, restlessness, hyperactivity, urinating more, muscle spasms and seizures.

If you think your dog has eaten chocolate call your veterinarian immediately! Only your veterinarian can determine the proper treatment for your pet.

Bernadette Dunham, DVM, PhD, is Director of FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine

Carmen Stamper, DVM, is on the Communication Staff of FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine

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