Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Toxicology Tuesday, June 19

[Editor's note: Sorry for no post on Monday and the delay in posting Toxicology Tuesday. Blogger had me locked out for 24 hours while they reviewed me to see if I was Spam-blogging. Spam? No way - I'm fillet mignon!]

This week’s subject is near and dear to my heart.
What do you think about this one:

Toxic or Not

Answer: Toxic in sufficient quantity.

One M&M isn’t going to kill your 100 lb. Rottweiler, but an ounce of dark (semi-sweet) chocolate will make your 20 lb. Beagle sick. The active ingredient in chocolate, theobromine, is in the same chemical class as caffeine, and the initial signs of chocolate toxicosis are rapid heart rate, restlessness and jittery behavior, and hyperactivity. Advanced cases exhibit irregular heart beats and seizures, and could potentially cause death in extreme cases.

The amount of theobromine increases with the increasing cacao concentration, so white chocolate, which contains practically no theobromine, is the least toxic, milk chocolate next, dark chocolates are more toxic than milk chocolate and unsweetened baking chocolate is the worst in terms of toxic potential.

In a 20 lb. dog, toxic levels are:

Milk chocolate: Symptoms 4 oz., Life-threatening 12 oz.

Semi-sweet chocolate: Symptoms 1 oz., Life-threatening 3 oz.

Baker’s chocolate: Symptoms 0.5 oz., Life-threatening 1.5 oz.

Interestingly enough, this seems to be primarily a dog problem. Not to say that theobromine isn’t toxic to cats, but dogs are the real chocoholics of the pet world; most cats show little interest in chocolate.

For a 10 lb. cat:

Milk chocolate: Symptoms 2 oz., Life-threatening 6 oz.

Semi-sweet chocolate: Symptoms 0.5 oz., Life-threatening 1.5 oz.

Baker’s chocolate: Symptoms 0.25 oz., Life-threatening 0.75 oz.

Additional problems with chocolate in any quantity is that the sugar content causes animals to drink a lot of water and urinate a lot. The fat content can be a problem, too, causing mild to moderate pancreatitis, an inflammatory disease of the pancreas. Dogs with a predisposition to pancreatitis (overweight, female, older, high blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides) are at greater risk for potentially serious complication.


littleorangeguy said...

Toxic in large (I think) quantities to dogs. Just ask a dearly departed family beagle-basset who had the shakes for quite some time after one unfortunate episode with a 2 lb block of baking chocolate. Not sure how she survived it, but she did.

Not sure about cats. Maybe they're too smart for the behavious described above?

NatureWoman said...

Toxic to dogs.
I've never heard it being toxic to cats.
Mmmm, not toxic to me, however! Bring it on!

nina said...

I've heard they're toxic to dogs--and dogs love chocolate--therein the problem lies.
Is it as bad for cats? When i was a kid, our cat ate my chocolate Easter bunny--and lived many more Easters.

Lynne said...

Dark chocolate is worse too right?

Mary said...

My late American Cocker ate a bowl of chocolate ice cream (with loads of Hershey's syrup on top) and threw up her guts for two hours.

I say in large quantities, chocolate is toxic to animals. (Cats, too?)

I appreciate your posts :o)

KGMom said...

Chocolate--bad for dogs.
For cats?
What I need to know is--how bad. I am always arguing with my husband who wants to give our dog "just a little bite" of chocolate. I keep saying NO. So, settle this fight!

Susan Gets Native said...


Chocolate is toxic to both cats and dogs...it depends on the source of the chocolate as to what a fatal dose would be.
The chemical in chocolate that causes all the fuss: theobromine.
Baking chocolate is the worse.

Liza Lee Miller said...

Totally toxic (although not to me!!!). Intensity of chocolate and size of the dog are key considerations but even a big dog can react badly to small bits of chocolate if they are allergic.

As for me, NOT having chocolate makes me toxic . . .

KatDoc said...

Wow, you guys are ahead of the curve! Not only did you all get the right answer, but you also know a lot of the details.

Yes, the amount of chocolate is important in determining toxicity, also the type of chocolate is significant. Something like chocolate ice cream (Mary's Cocker) is not such a big deal (although the Hershey's syrup didn't help), but baking chocolate is potentially deadly -I can't believe Sara'a dog survived her experience.

I'm surprised that Nina's cat ate an Easter bunny - that's not a typical cat behavior (although with cats, I expect atypical behaviors.)

KGMom: Probably "just a bite" of chocolate wouldn't hurt your dog, but in my opinion, chocolate in dogs is like any other addiction - once you start you want more and more. My fear about giving ANY amount of chocolate to a dog is that once they learn to like it, they are more likely to steal all the candy out of the dish, so I would keep telling him NO chocolate for dogs, period.

As for Miss Smarty Susan who even knew theobromine, we may have to ban her from answering Toxicology Tuesday questions -she is too good. :)

Obviously, I will need to come up with a diabolical post for next week.


Mary said...

Oh, don't let Susan fool you - I'll bet she Googled before she commented :o)

littleorangeguy said...

I can't quite believe it either, but survive she did --it must not have been the ENTIRE 2 lbs-- and several years later went on to a small collection of rum-soaked mini-Christmas cakes. (After which event she was locked out of the kitchen as much as possible and a bungee cord was wrapped around the fridge just in case -- yes, she opened fridges, and once devoured a jar of cheese whiz.) It's awful, isn't it? Poor lovely Em. She survived for many years after these nefarious deeds. I'm laughing as I think of her: the only dog in the world who thrived from garbage gut.

Susan Gets Native said...

I did NOT, Mary.
I'm just smart. And a know-it-all.
Why do all of you like me, anyway?

Seriously: I watch Animal Planet's Emergency Vets, I read, I have a photographic memory when it comes to reading, I pay attention to our vet when she talks, and I used to work in a lab.
So there.

Mary said...

I'm so glad I got your feathers ruffled, Susan Smarty Pants! You know I love ya!