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Chocolate Warning

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Too much of a good thing can kill your dog...

Candy is dandy, but not for dogs. Chocolate made for human consumption can cause death in dogs. With Easter coming soon with chocolate eggs galore, it seems an appropriate time to repeat the message, repeat the message, repeat the message...

A recent survey showed that the British were amongst the top nations of chocolate eaters in the whole of Europe. Certainly we appear to be a nation of 'chocoholics.' But what if we are tempted to share our favourite sticky stuff with our beloved dogs.

Dogs are sensitive to a class of chemicals called methylxanthines. Caffeine and theobtomine are members of that family. Dogs simply cannot metabolise and excrete methylxanthines as efficiently as humans. The half life of those compounds in the human body is in the order of 2-3 hours. In the dog, it is more like 18 hours.

Repeat Cycle
In the dog the compounds are taken up by the liver and transmitted via the bile into the intestines. They are then converted back into the original methylxanthines for another circuit through the animal. This repeats itself a number of times and instead of getting rid of the substances, the dog re-poisons itself.

Lethal Dose
There are many formulations of chocolate with varying amounts of caffeine and theobromine. The lethal dose of sweet milk chocolate for a dog is 2 oz per kilogram of bodyweight. For a five kilogram dog this would be about 280 grams. A lethal dose of milk chocolate for a 25 kilogram dog would be about 1.4 kilograms.

Dark chocolate is at least ten times as lethal. A 25 kilogram dog could die from the methylxanthines in five ounces of chocolate.

Watch for these Symptoms
Symptoms include vomiting, hyperactivity, restlessness, hypersensitivity to touch (a dog will jump when touched), very rapid heartbeat and a rapid breathing rate. A loss of control of leg muscles, muscle tremor, seizures, general weakness, coma and finally death follow. So resist the temptation to share your snacks with your dog. Chocolate in any amount can be toxic. And remember that puppies cannot digest cow's milk.

This article is based on a copy sent in to Agilitynet of a feature which appeared in an unknown publication. If you know the publisher, please let us have details so that we may credit them and obtain their permission. However, we felt that the subject was important enough for us to include on Agilitynet without the usual attributions.
Photo sources: Cadbury Schweppes (top); H. Roger Viollet (left)
Thank you to Joyce Widlake of Epping Green AC for send this article to Agilitynet. She makes sure that every new club member gets a copy of it when joining.

Here are the facts and figures on chocolate...
When Kathy Yata read this article about chocolate being toxic to dogs on JackTalk (http://www.terrier.com). It really scared her. Her dog Sassy, a Lab-Beagle-Vizsla cross, adores chocolate and only gets it on the sly. Occasionally Sassy gets into semi-sweet chocolate and once into cocoa powder without any sugar added!! The worst time was when she ate two pounds of milk chocolate, vomited it all up within an hour (at the vet). She is 40 pounds and Kathy estimated that it was about a half a lethal dose. Sassy was very nervous and hyper for two days. The information reprinted here is very numerical so you can really see how dangerous the chocolate is.

Last week a reader was inquiring about chocolate being toxic to dogs. My veterinarians gathered the following information for us, and pointed out the timeliness of this topic.

Below is a chart giving the milligrams per ounce of caffeine and theobromide
in various chocolates and stimulants.

 Item Caffeine (mg/oz)  Theobromide
Milk chocolate 6 55
Dark chocolate 21 132
White chocolate .83 .25
Unsweetened cocoa 70 737
Instant cocoa 15 136
Unsweetened baking chocolate 47 393
Semi-Sweet chips 22 138

Items containing caffeine, but not theobromide (mg/oz)

Tea 6-12
Coffee 13-14
Espresso 100
Cola 5
Stimulants (ie: No Doze) 100-250
Analgesics 16-100
Appetite suppressants 15-200
Cold medicines 15-325

Here is how to calculate whether or not your dog has had a toxic dose of chocolate or caffeine:-

  1. Calculate your dog's weight in kilograms. Divide their weight in pounds by 2.2.
  2. Calculate the number of mgs of caffeine and/or theobromide your dog ingested.
  3. If the number of mgs is 100+ per kg of body weight, it is time to see a vet. Pronto. He got a lethal dose. If it is close, better safe than sorry.

Just to give you a point of reference...
A Hershey Bar (no almonds) weighs 1.45 ozs. That means one Hershey bar contains 88.45 mgs. of theobromide/caffeine. So, for a 12 pound (5.5 kg) dog like my Robin, 6.2 Hershey bars is a legal doze. BUT, if she ate just one ounce of baking chocolate, she would receive 807 mgs, well over a lethal dose.

Drs. Junk and Waits could not stress enough, 'Just avoid chocolate all together.' You never know when a dog will have an atypical reaction, or when he has eaten more than you think.

From Mandy Love...
I've just had some sad news that my friend's Springer Spaniel, Reg, was taken to doggy heaven earlier this morning at only eight years old. He was out walking with us just this Sunday and seemed fine. It just shows that we don't know how much time we have left with our precious babies.

Another friend in our group who doesn't have a dog, said that he's brought Reg a packet of chocolate buttons on the Saturday as a treat!  I explained the dangers, but they didn't seem convinced - could this have been the cause?

Anyway, please all give your dogs an extra hug and treat tonight, so they know how much you mean to them. (21/01/03)

About Kathy Yata
Kathy has a chocolate-loving Lab-Beagle-Vizsla mix called Sassy and a JRT rescue (18 months old) who has settled down enough to play agility with her a bit. She says that he is definitely interested in watching the trials she goes to. Once she trusts him not to run off, she says that will start classes with him.

Kathy lives in Southern California and trains with Nancy Soyster in Camarillo.

From Arlene Phillips
A very interesting and informative page. I was put on to it when I posted an article about Chocolate in the Obedience UK Forum. I'd like to point out that as far as I am aware, it is the dark chocolate that can be fatal, although 'human' chocolate is not good for dogs at all. (09/10/00)

Reprinted with kind permission of the Web Master of the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America.