Chocolate and dogs do not mix!

 Valentine’s Day is around the corner and every retail store is brimming with all kinds of chocolate-inspired candies and gifts. This is a dangerous season for pet owners because your dog is going to be extremely attracted to the chocolate aroma.  Accidental ingestion of chocolate by dogs can result in serious consequences including severe vomiting and diarrhea, seizures, and death. The severity depends on the concentration of the active ingredient theobromine. The darker the chocolate the more lethal it is. The smaller dogs are at higher risk as the minimum dose is 20mg per kilogram body weight. at that dose, the symptoms of toxicity are milder and mostly related to the gastrointestinal system. In higher doses of 40 mg per kilogram, the effects involve the heart system and in even higher doses over 60mg/kg the nervous system is involved. Imagine chocolate as having the same effect in dogs as amphetamines have in humans! Therefore, special consideration is given to the kind of chocolate ingested. Luckily, there are many sugary, milk-laden, and processed chocolate candies that only have 5-10% of real cacao. The baking chocolate, however, has the strongest concentration of theobromine.  If your pet ingests chocolate, try to contact the nearest veterinarian and bring your pet for induction of vomiting. Most pets ingest the chocolate with the wrappers, and most chocolates are dense and harder to digest. Therefore on any ingestion within 1-1.5 hours is worth to try inducing vomiting in order to remove most of the toxic material. In our practice, we use special drops that induce vomiting almost instantaneously. The funny thing is that the vomit often smells and looks like chocolate pudding.  Then we give supportive treatments with fluids and anti-vomiting medications to settle their stomachs. The vast majority of patients make a full recovery. In the case of dogs that have ingested the chocolate past that time frame, the best is to take your pet for supportive treatments and to get auscultated to see if they are experiencing any tachycardia ( fast heart rate). Medications to suppress the symptoms will be administered and a baseline chemistry blood analysis can help monitor the progression of the toxicity. Take the wrapper or information of the product so that the veterinary staff can make the calculations and adjust treatment based on the weight of your pet and the concentration of theobromine. My granddog Pluto sneakily stole a chocolate bar from our pantry. he woke us up at 3 am vomiting and acting painful. He ate a bar that was  85% pure cacao and even though he is 50 lbs, the concentration was above 20mg/kg. Thankfully, my two pugs did not partake in the mischief because they could’ve easily died. The moral of the story is never underestimate your pet’s obsession with sweets. The only time I willingly give chocolate to dogs is at the time of euthanasia. I keep a jar full of Hershey’s kisses for them to try because I want them to get away with eating the forbidden treat at least once in their lives.

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