Through the holiday season there is more candy than usual in most homes. Much of this candy is chocolate and can pose a health risk for dogs.
Chocolate contains theobromine, which is a toxic compound for animals. Animals are much more sensitive to this compound than humans are. Milk chocolate contains about 44 milligrams per ounce and dark chocolate, such as dark baking chocolate, contains 450 milligrams per ounce.
For a medium-sized dog of 25 pounds, it may take up to 20 ounces of milk chocolate to cause the animal problems, but it takes just a couple of ounces of dark chocolate to put the animal in jeopardy. For pets, chocolate consumption is dose dependent. The smaller the animal, the less chocolate it can consume for it to be lethal, and the larger the pet, the more chocolate it would take to constitute a lethal amount.
Some signs pet owners should be aware of in the event their pet manages to consume a large amount of chocolate include vomiting and diarrhea.
If you suspect your dog has gotten into a plate of brownies or other chocolate candy that contains a significant amount of chocolate, you should contact your veterinarian. The veterinarian can give your pet medication that will help protect its gastrointestinal tract to help decrease absorption of the chocolate. The veterinarian may also give the pet other medications to prevent it from getting sick.
Pets can consume enough chocolate to kill them, which creates an emergency situation. You shouldn't wait until the next morning for the veterinarian's office hours. The quicker you can get the chocolate out of the pet's system, the better chance it has for survival.
Pet owners should not be concerned if a dog or cat eats a single chocolate chip that has fallen on the floor. They need to be concerned about bigger amounts of chocolate.
One more recent problem with theobromine poisoning has been associated with cocoa mulch sold for mulching garden and flowerbeds. The sweet smell has prompted some dogs to ingest enough of the mulch to be lethal.
Pet owners who live quite a distance from their veterinarian may want to call the poison control hotline for animals at 1-800-548-2324. This hotline can help pet owners not only with chocolate toxicity, but also everything from toxic plants to pesticides.
Roger Williams is an agriculture educator for the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service in Cherokee County.