Your pooch just found your favorite moisturizer, and helped themselves to the jar. You know that chocolate is poisonous to dogs, so you are naturally worried. Cocoa powder is highly toxic, but what about cocoa butter? Will they get sick? What should you do?
What happens if a dog eats cocoa butter?
Cocoa butter is an excellent natural moisturizer. It’s even used in cooking. Many dogs will happily lick the cocoa butter off your skin, or even sneak into your favorite jar of cocoa butter lotion. The good news is, unlike chocolate, cocoa butter isn’t toxic to your pooch.
What is Cocoa Butter?
Cocoa butter is made from cocoa beans, just as chocolate is. However, there’s a very important difference. Cocoa butter is made from the fats of the bean. It contains only miniscule amounts of theobromine, which is what makes chocolate toxic to your dog.
Cocoa butter has a wide range of uses. It’s the main ingredient in white chocolate. It’s used in many chocolate candies as well. It’s used in some baking recipes as well.
In the U.S., it’s better known as a skin care product. You’ll find it in lotions, creams, and lip balms. The high vitamin E content and fatty acids found in cocoa butter provide health benefits, these benefits apply to topical application and consumption.
Theobromine is the chemical that’s responsible for our love of chocolate. In humans, theobromine is a stimulant. It dilates blood vessels, which increases blood flow. It also releases feel good chemicals in the brain.
The problem with theobromine for dogs is that they can’t metabolize it properly. Instead of giving them a feel good feeling, it can make them very sick. In high doses, it can even be deadly.
Symptoms of theobromine poisoning can occur at 20mg/kg. Serious symptoms can occur at 40-50mg/kg, with a fatal dose being greater than 60mg/kg.
This means that the fatal dose for a 10 pound dog would be 270mg of theobromine. A 20 pound dog would need to eat 540 mg.
Cocoa Butter and Theobromine
There’s some misinformation about the content of theobromine in cocoa butter, with some sources claiming that cocoa butter is toxic to dogs.
A study published by the National Library of Medicine sets the record straight. Cocoa powder, which has the highest concentration of theobromine, has 26000 mg/kg. Cocoa butter only contains 140 mg/kg.
Looking at the toxicity dosages mentioned above, it would take a very high amount of cocoa butter to be toxic to a dog. It would take about 2 kg, or 4 pounds, to be fatal to a small dog. It’s extremely unlikely your dog would consume anywhere near a toxic dose of cocoa butter.
What Happens When a Dog Eats Cocoa Butter?
This really depends on how much cocoa butter your dog eats. If they consume a small amount, they are unlikely to experience any symptoms at all.
If they consume a lot of cocoa butter, you and your pooch may be in for a rough ride. The high fat content can cause stomach upset. The most common symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea. The symptoms should go away within 24-48 hours.
Can You Use Cocoa Butter Lotion on Dogs?
Cocoa butter lotion or cream is generally safe for dogs. In fact, Palmers even makes a special formulation just for dogs. If your dog tends to lick the cocoa butter, it’s best to stick with 100% pure cocoa butter. This will prevent your dog from eating cocoa butter with additives that aren’t good for them.
Are Other Oils and Butters Safe?
There are many oils and butters available today, in addition to cocoa butter. These include Shea butter, coconut oil or butter, and palm oil. Shea butter and coconut oil are safe for dogs in small amounts. Just like cocoa butter, high amounts can result in stomach upset.
Palm oil itself is not harmful to dogs. However, it can be blended or contaminated with substances that are harmful.
What happens if a dog eats cocoa powder?
It’s not recommended to let your dog chow down on cocoa butter, because of the high fat content. However, a few licks of your lotion or cocoa butter in baked goods won’t harm them.
Cocoa powder is another story. It is toxic to dogs. It has the highest theobromine content. It takes a significant amount of cocoa powder to be fatal, but symptoms can occur with a small amount of cocoa powder.
Symptoms of Chocolate Poisoning
Symptoms of chocolate poisoning can occur within 2 hours after your dog consumes it. It can take 24 hours to 3 days for the theobromine to completely leave their body, and symptoms to subside.
Mild symptoms of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate, and hyperactivity.
Serious signs of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, and a racing heartbeat. Increased thirst and urination also occur.
If the poisoning is severe, the dog can experience muscle tremors, seizures. Death from chocolate poisoning typically happens from heart failure. The heart cannot cope with the stimulation from high amounts of theobromine.
When it comes to milk chocolate, it’s not as dangerous as most people think. It would take one ounce of milk chocolate per pound to be lethal to a dog. A standard Hershey bar is 1.5 ounces.
This means it would take 6 Hershey bars to be fatal for a 10 pound dog. Just like cocoa butter, it’s highly unlikely your dog would eat enough to make them ill.
Of course, symptoms can occur at lower doses, and giving any type of chocolate to your dog, other than white chocolate, isn’t recommended.
Cocoa powder, on the other hand, can be fatal. One kilogram of cocoa powder contains 2600mg of theobromine. Even a spoonful of cocoa powder can be toxic to your dog.
A 10 pound dog could die from consuming 1/4 of a kilogram of cocoa powder, or half a pound. This amounts to 15 tablespoons. However, smaller amounts can cause some serious symptoms. If your pooch eats any amount of cocoa powder, contact your vet.
You should also remember that some dogs may be more sensitive to theobromine than others. It’s better to be cautious, and avoid exposing your dog to cocoa powder in any form.
The head veterinarian at Colorado State Animal Hospital states that they see 3 to 4 cases of chocolate poisoning in dogs around holidays like Easter and Valentines Day. However, in his 16 years as a vet, he’s only had one chocolate fatality. He stated that he thought the pooch had an underlying condition that made it more susceptible to the effects of chocolate.
What to do if my dog eats cocoa butter?
If your dog ate cocoa butter, there are some things you can do. Since theobromine isn’t a concern, they shouldn’t require veterinary treatment. However, upset stomach is common if they’ve ingested a large amount of cocoa butter. This can typically be managed at home.
Monitor Your Dog
Anytime your pooch eats something they shouldn’t, you’ll need to monitor them for symptoms. Some stomach upset can be expected. However, keep an eye out for severe symptoms. You’ll need to monitor them for at least 24 hours to be safe.
Even though cocoa butter isn’t toxic, a large amount isn’t good for your dog. If they ate a lot of cocoa butter, consider inducing vomiting. Give them 1 teaspoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide per every 10 pounds of body weight, up to 4 tablespoons.
Take them for a walk to help move the peroxide around in their stomach. They should begin vomiting within 10-15 minutes. If vomiting doesn’t occur, you can repeat the dosage once.
Treating Stomach Upset at Home
There are a few ways to calm your pooch’s stomach at home. Famotide is an antacid that’s safe for dogs. Give .5 mg per every pound of body weight. A 10 pound dog would take 5 mg, or half a 10 mg tablet. Repeat the dosage every 12 hours until symptoms subside.
You can also give Pepto. Give them 1 teaspoon per every 10 pounds of body weight, up to 4 teaspoons. Repeat every 6 to 8 hours as needed.
A bland diet can also help. Feed them 2 parts rice to 1 part boiled chicken. For one cup of food, you’ll give them 2/3 a cup of rice and 1/3 a cup chicken. Instead of two larger meals, it’s best to split it into 3 or 4 smaller meals.
When to Worry
You can expect stomach upset if your pooch eats a large amount of cocoa butter. However, they should not experience severe vomiting, bloody diarrhea, or fever. If these symptoms occur, you’ll need to call your vet.
If your pooch has muscle tremors, seizures, or lethargy, this requires immediate veterinary care. This shouldn’t occur due to cocoa butter. However, it’s possible that your pooch could have a reaction to something in the cocoa butter, particularly if it’s a lotion or hand cream.
Pet Poison Hotline
Anytime you are concerned about something your pet has eaten, you can contact the pet poison helpline. The pet poison helpline is available 24 hours a day. They have a large database of potentially toxic substances.
They also have formulas to determine the risk to your dog. They will consider their weight, age, and how much fo the substance they ate.
If your pooch needs to visit the vet, the pet poison helpline can help them develop a treatment plan.
The helpline does require a fee, but it’s less costly and more convenient than a vet visit, or waiting to see what happens. You can reach the pet poison helpline at (855) 764-7661.