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D2006-04

Dear Daisy Dog

During most “chocolate holidays” -– Valentine’s Day, Easter and Halloween –- one of my four dogs manages to snitch some chocolate, which I know is toxic.

Depending on the amount ingested, the veterinarian tells me to either monitor the dog or induce vomiting and bring the dog in for further treatment.

What dose of chocolate is toxic? My dogs range in weight from 20 to 80 pounds.

Daisy Responds

Chocolate contains two stimulants, theobromine and caffeine, which affect our bodies the way caffeine affects yours -– except more so.

Clinical signs begin within six to 12 hours of ingestion and may last up to 72 hours.

Mild signs, including restlessness, increased drinking, vomiting and diarrhea, occur at a dose of 0.15 ounces of milk chocolate per pound of dog -– in other words, three ounces of milk chocolate for your 20-pound dog, and 12 ounces for your 80-pound dog.

At twice that dose, we dogs develop more severe signs of chocolate toxicity, including hyperactivity, heart arrhythmias and loss of coordination.

At 0.45 ounces of milk chocolate per pound of body weight, we have seizures. The lethal dose is only slightly higher.

Semi-sweet and baking chocolate are even more toxic than milk chocolate, because they contain more theobromine and caffeine. Worst of all is cocoa powder.

Signs of chocolate toxicity are seen with semi-sweet chocolate at 0.06 ounces per pound of body weight, with baking chocolate at 0.02 ounces per pound, and with cocoa powder at 0.01 ounces per pound.

If one of your dogs eats chocolate this Valentine’s Day, play it safe: call your veterinarian to report the amount and type of chocolate ingested.

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