Ask the Vet: Why is Chocolate Bad for Dogs?

Jan 4, 2019 by

American Staffordshire Terrier
 
How can something so good be so bad? Dogs probably love chocolate as much as their people do but unfortunately can have some serious consequences. The holidays have passed and there may still be lots of chocolate around the house. We will review why chocolate is bad for dogs and what to do if your pet gets into it.
 

Why is it toxic?

 
Chocolate comes from cacao beans which contain both caffeine and theobromine. Caffeine is also present in coffee, tea, soft drinks, etc. Humans consume these products on a daily basis and usually have no problems. The main toxic component for dogs is the theobromine in chocolate but caffeine by itself can cause problems as well. Some products to keep away include chocolate candy, chocolate baking products, cacao beans, coffee beans, coffee grounds (including used coffee grounds), tea leaves, soft drinks and energy drinks, and some over the counter human medications (i.e. some cold medications and diet pills).
 

Differences in Metabolism

 
Dogs metabolize chocolate different than humans and other mammals. The half-life of theobromine, or how long it takes to be removed by the body, is roughly twice as long in dogs than as in people. Also their bodies are not as efficient at breaking caffeine and theobromine down so the toxic dose for dogs is 10-15 times lower than in humans. These two factors make them much more toxic for dogs. It is also toxic to cats, but they don’t seem to enjoy chocolate as much as dogs or people.
 

What are the symptoms

 
Symptoms include restlessness, excitability, hyperactivity, vomiting and/or diarrhea, tremors, seizures, heart rhythm problems, and unfortunately coma or death can occur with higher doses. The occurrence of symptoms can vary between individual dogs and on what type of product is ingested. For example, baker’s chocolate and dark chocolate contain higher concentrations of caffeine and theobromine than say milk chocolate or white chocolate. Also, bigger dogs can eat more than smaller dog and be fine.
 

What to do if your pet eats chocolate

 
If you catch them eating chocolate or know they have eaten chocolate fairly recently, take them to your veterinarian and they can induce vomiting to try to reduce the amount that gets digested. They may also give activated charcoal to help block the absorption of toxins in the small intestine. If it has been several hours or time of ingestion is unknown, then bloodwork may be recommended as well. If your pet is starting to show symptoms then treatment may be needed, including hospitalized care if symptoms are severe.
 

Not sure what to do?

 
Contact us at Sunset Veterinary Clinic. We’ll make an appointment for you with one of our highly-qualified vets who can help you take care of your dog if they’ve had some chocolate. Contact Sunset Veterinary Clinic today!

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