Halloween is just around the corner and the holidays are soon to follow thereafter. As the possibility of chocolate ingestion is more likely because of its availability around your household, here is some useful information regarding the hazards of chocolate. Chocolate in its various forms contains 2 compounds that are significant in terms of the illness that chocolate ingestion causes. Both compounds are in the family of drugs known by the parent compound – caffeine. Theobromine is the principal ingredient that causes problems in companion animals. Dogs are primarily affected because of their attraction to sweet food types. Ingestion of a sufficient quantity can cause the following set of signs in order of their appearance related to time following ingestion and the amount of chocolate ingested - vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, seizures, heart rhythm abnormalities and in some cases, death. Toxic doses of theobromine occur at doses as small as 9 mg per pound of body weight (vomiting and diarrhea signs). Doses as high as 18 mg per pound will cause more severe signs of intoxication such as tremors and heart rhythm disturbances. Metabolism and elimination of theobromine from chocolate ingestion takes approximately 4 days. It is possible with small dose ingestion to induce vomiting (with administration of hydrogen peroxide – administer until vomiting occurs) and avoid the appearance of any clinical signs. Larger dose ingestion requires hospitalization, fluid therapy and administration of activated charcoal and cathartics to minimize absorption of the active compound into the body. Below is a table with different types of chocolate and amount of theobromine and caffeine listed in mg per ounce.
Theobromine (mg/oz) Caffeine (mg/oz)
white chocolate 0.25 0.85
dark chocolate (sweet) 130 20
semi-sweet choc. chips 138 22
bakers chocolate (unsweetend) 393 47
dry cocoa powder 737 70
instant cocoa powder 130 15
milk chocolate 58 6
*The information presented above was supplied in part from information available from www.veterinarypartners.com.