Easter Holiday Danger: Chocolate!!

by Dr. Peter Hill 26. April 2014 07:48

Dr. Peter Hill

America loves chocolate, and in all forms like candy, cakes, ice cream and cookies. Over the Easter Holiday these items are plentiful and often unattended posing a particular threat of toxicity to our pets. Though it is fun to share our favorite treat with our pet it may create disaster.

Chocolate comes from the fruit of the cocoa tree. More specifically the seeds of the fruit. The seeds are very bitter and are packed with theobromine and caffeine which are used to make chocolate. The seeds are roasted, ground, pressed (which removes the oil of the seed, the “cocoa butter” that is used in sunscreens, white chocolate, and cosmetics, among other things), and tempered to create the exact consistency. Chocolate liquor is the liquid that results from grinding the hulled cacao beans which contains the most concentrate of  potentially toxic substance. So the most concentrated is unsweetened chocolate at 60% liquor then semisweet at 35% and milk chocolate at 10%.

Chocolate is directly toxic because of the theobromine. The more chocolate liquor there is in a product, the more theobromine is present. This makes baking chocolate the worst for pets, then semisweet and dark chocolate, followed by milk chocolate, then by chocolate flavored cakes or cookies. Theobromine causes vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, seizures and cardiac arrhythmia and sometimes death.

Toxic doses of theobromine are 9 mg per pound of dog for mild signs, up to 18 mg per pound of dog for severe signs. Milk chocolate contains 44 mg / ounce of theobromine while semisweet chocolate contains 150 mg per ounce, and baking chocolate contains 390 mg per ounce.

It takes nearly 4 days for the effects of chocolate to work its way out of a dog’s system. If the chocolate was only just eaten, it is possible to induce vomiting; otherwise, hospitalization and support are needed until the chocolate has worked its way out of the system.

So keep a watchful eye on those Easter baskets. If available dogs will eat massive quantities causing a variety of problems.

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