Archives for October 30, 2009

Halloween Chocolate Treats & Pets: A Deadly Combo

Halloween and other holidays can post many risks to pets. But one of the ones that keeps coming up is when a dog raids the chocolate.

Some people think this is funny but if you have ever stayed up all night monitoring an animal that has consumed a bunch of chocolate treats wondering if you might have to rush him or her to an emergency vet iyou are only too aware that it is a serious matter.

Chocolate contains theobromine which is the stuff that is toxic to dogs in sufficient quantities. It is a xanthine compound that is in the same family of caffeine and theophylline.

What are toxic amounts?
The problem has been is that most pet owners don’t know just how much is a toxic amount for their dog.

A lot of different factors come into play–the sensitivity of the dog, health state of the dog, weight of the dog and the type of chocolate consumed.

When a neighbor arrived home to find her dogs in the stash of Halloween candy–they had already consumed enough to cause some alarm…

So, how much chocolate does a dog have to consume before there is a problem?

In general it takes 100-150 mg/kg (2.2 pounds) theobromine to cause a toxic reaction.

Need to know info on theobromine in different chocolates:

  • Milk chocolate 44 mg/ounce
  • Semisweet chocolate 150mg/ounce
  • Baker’s chocolate 390mg/ounce

Using a dose of 100 mg/kg (2.2 pounds) as the toxic dose it roughly translates to:

  • 1 ounce per 1 pound of body weight for milk chocolate,
  • 1 ounce per 3 pounds of body weight for semisweet chocolate, and
  • 1 ounce per 9 pounds of body weight for Baker’s chocolate.

As one veterinarian illustrated 2 ounces of Baker’s chocolate can cause great risk to an 15 lb. dog while 2 ounces of milk chocolate usually will only cause digestive problems.

The neighbor was fortunate that the stash of Halloween candy was mostly milk chocolate individually wrapped in small portions.

Milk chocolate usually causes diarrhea within 12 to 24 hours after ingestion. The big concern here is to prevent dehydration with fluids.

The neighbor mistakenly thinks that the dogs will “learn their lesson” from this incident.

No, they won’t associate their symptoms and resulting issues with the consumption of chocolate. The best strategy is to prevent access to the stuff to begin with!

Any toxic products should be locked away or stored high above a pet’s reach. Much like children, if they can get into it–they probably will and it is best to err on the side of caution.

If you suspect that a pet has eaten chocolate contact your vet immediately or call the national pet poison hotline at (888) 426-4435.

You want a professional to guide you to determine the proper treatment for your pet.

Warning Signs
The problem with xanthines is that they affect the nervous system, cardiovascular system and peripheral nerves AND have a diuretic effect as well.

Clinical signs can include:
Hyper excitability
Hyper irritability
Increased heart rate
Restlessness
Increased urination
Muscle tremors
Vomiting
Diarrhea

Treatment?
Unfortunately there is no specific antidote for this type of poisoning. And the half life (Time required to reduce the amount of a chemical absorbed by the body by one half.) of the toxin is 17.5 hours in dogs.

Check with your veterinarian but many vets will induce vomiting in the first 1-2 hours if the quantity is unknown.

Other vets may also give activated charcoal to inhibit absorption of the toxin.

An anticonvulsant, oxygen therapy, intravenous medications, and fluids might be needed to protect the heart and neurologic system.

Check out this videocast as a veterinarian talks about chocolate toxicity for dogs.