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Posted on 03-19-2015

February 2, 2013

It’s February and love is in the air!  With Valentine’s Day upon us, most people are stocked up on Hershey’s Kisses for their loved ones.  Unfortunately, we receive an increased volume of emergency calls during these festive times.  We have the perfect recipe for disaster: mounds of chocolate laying around while Lucky and Peanut are snooping around the house looking for something yummy to snack on.  It is important for you, as a pet owner, to be aware of the risks and symptoms of chocolate consumption. 

The symptoms of chocolate toxicity vary depending on the amount and type of chocolate consumed and on the size of the pet (smaller dogs require less chocolate to reach toxic levels).  Methylxanthines are substances found in chocolate and include caffeine and theobromine, both of which may cause harm to your pet.  The amount of methylxanthines found in chocolate depends on the type of chocolate.

Signs usually appear within 6-12 hours of chocolate ingestion.  Increased thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, bloating, panting, increased blood pressure, and restlessness may occur when a moderate amount of chocolate has been consumed.  When a larger quantity of chocolate has been consumed, tremors, seizures, and death due to cardiac arrhythmias or respiratory failure may occur.  Dogs are also at an increased risk of pancreatitis, which will be discussed in our next post, due to the high fat content found in chocolate.  Symptoms may be seen 24-72 hours after ingestion.

If your pet consumes chocolate, call our office and we can help you determine if you need to bring your pet in.  You may also call the ASPCA’s 24-hour poison control center at 1-888-426-4435 (if you haven’t already, save our number and the poison control number in your phone NOW!). Have an approximate weight of your pet, weight of chocolate consumed, and type of chocolate eaten ready to expedite the process.

If you feel calm and confident enough to do this at home, you can also calculate how many milligrams of methylxanthines your pet has consumed.  Feel free to print out this section and post it on your fridge for easy access!

Lucky, a 75 pound American bulldog, just ate a box of Whitman’s Sampler chocolates.  The box says there are 16 oz of milk chocolate in the box.

There are 58 mg/oz of the toxic ingredient in milk chocolate (according to the photo posted a few paragraphs above) and Lucky ate 16 oz.

58 mg/oz X 16 oz = 928 mg of toxin divided by 75 pounds (pet’s weight) = 12.37.

The “magic number” is 20; if we calculate a number that is near or above 20, we need to take our pet to the emergency vet ASAP.  Lucky will probably be okay, because we only calculated a 12.37.  We can expect some vomiting, diarrhea, discomfort, and possibly other symptoms.

Peanut, a 25 pound Jack Russell Terrier, decided to join Lucky in the chocolate-eating festivities.  Peanut ate 8 oz of dark chocolate.  Will she be okay?

130 mg/oz X 3 oz = 520 mg of toxin divided by 25 pounds = 20.8.  Peanut needs to get to the veterinarian ASAP!

Remember, every dog is different and each may react differently to chocolate consumption.  At levels below 20, your pet may experience vomiting and diarrhea, which may be enough to require veterinary care.  You are better off being cautious and bringing in your pet if chocolate has been consumed.

Chocolate is not the only kitchen-danger for your pet.  A few other foods that can be toxic to pets include:

-Grapes and raisins




-Xylitol (a sugar alcohol used as an artificial sweetener found in sugar-free gum and other products)

-Macadamia nuts

As you celebrate Valentine’s Day, we hope that you keep your pets in mind and keep the chocolate out of their reach.  Enjoy!

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