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March 2003 Newsletter
Volume III Issue 3-03
Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs
Theobromine is a chemical that is chocolate. This chemical is a methylxanthine
and is toxic to dogs especially smaller dogs due to their body size that can
cause either illness or in some cases death. As little as 4 ounces of baking
chocolate or 1 pound can be fatal if ingested by a dog weighing 10 pounds
or less. The half life of Theobromine (the time it takes for humans to totally
metabolize) is 2-3 hours. The half life for dogs for Theobromine is 17.5 hours.
Dogs do not excrete methylxanthines efficiently. When dogs ingest products
methylxanthines, the methylxanthines are absorbed by the intestines and go
to liver. The liver will remove some of this and then will exit the liver
as the blood will carry this
to the right side of the heart. After the blood is pumped to this side it
returns to the left side for circulating to the entire body. A portion of
this is removed by the liver and will re-enter through the blood stream. It
is then moves to the small intestine and is reabsorbed by the intestine and
the cycle starts all over again. So each time this happens, this results in
a removal of only a very small quantity of this toxic methylxanthine compounds.
The quantity of Theobromine in chocolate varies according to formulation.
chocolate typically contains only 44 mg of Theobromine per ounce. Semi-sweet
chocolate contains 150 mg of Theobromine per ounce. Baking chocolate contains
an extremely high quantity of Theobromine , 390 per ounce. Only 3 ounces of
baking chocolate can kill a 20 pound dog.
Dogs that ingest Theobromine from ingested chocolate products absorb this
clinically 2-4 hours after ingestion and will show symptoms of restlessness,
panting, diarrhea and increased heart rate. Over time, the body temperature
rises, arrhythmias of muscles become rigid and finally seizures and often
Treatment involves decreasing the further absorption of theobromine from
chocolate products and is very beneficial if the dog is seen within 2 hours
of having ingested.
The breakdown for Theobromine and Chocolate in mg/oz:
Cocoa Bean Landscaping mulch: 300-1200
Cocoa Beans: 400-1500
Cocoa Powder: 400-550
Unsweetened Chocolate: 450
Semi-sweet Baking Powder (chips): 135-260
Milk Chocolate: 60
Hot Chocolate Beverage: 12
White Chocolate: 1
Treatment care that will be provided by your veterinarian includes administration
of intravenous needed for abnormalities and seizures and maintenance of normal
Prognosis for dogs with chocolate toxicity is good if the animal is treated
by a veterinarian after having eaten a toxic dose of chocolate. Prognosis
is guarded if heart abnormalities, tremors, muscles rigidity or seizure if
Dog owners should be very aware of "Cocoa Bean Mulch" that is used
in gardens. This is a byproduct of the cocoa beans shells and has a much higher
concentration of Theobromine and caffeine. Due to the smell of chocolate that
this mulch produces, dogs and puppies are attracted to this mulch which looks
like hulls. With these two combinations of chemicals and with being concentrated,
this speeds up the absorption if ingested and readily speeds up symptoms that
can be lethal without the pet owners awareness due to producing symptoms of
other onset diseases and illness. Pet owners should take their dogs to their
veterinarians if ingestion is suspected and seek medical treatment immediately.
The ASPCA Poison Control Center has recently listed Cocoa Bean Mulch as toxic
hazard to dogs.
always your Veterinarian is the best source of information and
treatment for questions or problems that may exist.
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