You’ve probably heard that chocolate is toxic to dogs, but just how dangerous is it?
Despite your best efforts to keep chocolatey treats away from your dog, we recognize that accidents happen. It is especially common for dogs to find their way into chocolate during holidays like Halloween, Christmas, or Easter. So, what is it about chocolate that is so toxic to dogs? And, if your dog has gotten into chocolate or chocolatey treats – when should you consider it an emergency?
What makes chocolate toxic to dogs?
Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, and it’s this chemical, along with caffeine, that pose the greatest threats to your dog’s health.
The amount of theobromine found in chocolate depends on the type of chocolate itself. As a general rule of thumb, the darker (and more bitter) the chocolate, the higher the theobromine content.
Baking chocolate and dark chocolate can contain anywhere from 130 mg to 450 mg of theobromine per ounce. In contrast, milk chocolate contains between 44 mg and 58 mg of theobromine per ounce, and white chocolate contains only 0.25 mg of theobromine per ounce.
This means that a 50 pound dog only needs to consume 1 ounce of baker’s chocolate, or 9 ounces of milk chocolate to be at risk for chocolate toxicity. Ingesting small amounts of white chocolate may not be harmful at all (however, the sugars and fats in these chocolates can pose health risks of their own).
When to get help
Chocolate toxicity has been reported in consumption as low at 20 mg/kg. Mild chocolate toxicity in dogs can include common symptoms such as: agitation, hyperactivity and gastrointestinal signs (such as drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea – all which may smell like chocolate).
Chocolate toxicity at doses over 40 mg/kg can cause cardiovascular complications. Chocolate toxicity at these doses can cause symptoms such as: elevated heart rates, high blood pressure, or heart arrhythmias.
Chocolate toxicity at does of 60 mg/kg and higher, pose threats to your dog’s neurological systems. High levels of chocolate toxicity will cause neurologic symptoms such as: tremors, twitching, and even seizures.
Fatalities from chocolate consumption have been seen at around 200 mg/kg (approximately 100 mg/lb), or when complications occur from the other symptoms listed above.
We typically determine the severity of chocolate toxicity in dogs using calculations relating to the weight of your dog, the type of chocolate consumed, and how much chocolate has been ingested.
To add to the discussion, it is important to note that clinical signs of chocolate poisoning can take several hours to develop, and can last for days, due to the long half-life of theobromine.
My dog ate chocolate – is this an emergency?
If you suspect your dog ate chocolate, call us right away at 519-972-9000. If possible, try to get a hold of the wrapper or packaging that belongs to the chocolate ingested – this will help us determine which type of chocolate was consumed, and how much theobromine was ingested.
If your dog has consumed toxic levels of chocolate, immediate veterinary care is a necessity. Time is of the essence when it comes to toxicities – the faster we remove the theobromine from your dog’s body and stabilize any symptoms, the better.
For more information about chocolate toxicity in dogs, check out our Pet Health Resource.
The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) is another great resource for pet owners. Like Walker Road Animal Hospital, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is also open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you think your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call 888-426-4435.