The rumors you've heard about chocolate are true. Chocolate might be your favorite treat, but it has deadly consequences for dogs of all sizes and breeds. Chocolate is highly toxic to dogs and can be potentially fatal. Unfortunately, dogs have a way of sniffing out chocolate treats, which means we need to be alert for signs of chocolate toxicity so that we know what to do if our dogs eat chocolate.
Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs
Chocolate contains stimulants called methylxanthines, specifically theobromine and caffeine. These chemicals can wreak havoc on your dog's metabolic processes, resulting in chocolate toxicity. The level of methylxanthines varies from chocolate product to chocolate product, but there is no safe amount of chocolate for dogs, as individual sensitivities to methylxanthines can vary from dog to dog. This is why some dogs can eat chocolate and experience no harmful side effects, while others suffer consequences from eating very small amounts.
How Much Chocolate Is Toxic to Dogs?
Not all chocolate is created equal. Dry cocoa powder contains the highest amount of methylxanthines (28.5 mg/g), followed by unsweetened baker's chocolate (16 mg/g), semisweet and sweet dark chocolate (5.4-5.7mg/g), and milk chocolate (2.3mg/g). Knowing how much and what kind of chocolate your dog ate can help you and your vet determine if you have an emergency situation.
In general, mild symptoms of chocolate toxicity occur when a dog consumes 20 mg of methylxanthines per kilogram of body weight. Cardiac symptoms of chocolate toxicity occur around 40 to 50 mg/kg, and seizures occur at dosages greater than 60 mg/kg.
In simpler terms, that means a potentially lethal dose of chocolate is approximately one ounce of milk chocolate per pound of body weight. Since an average Hershey's Milk Chocolate bar is 1.55 ounces, consuming even one chocolate bar can have serious consequences, especially for small dogs. Eating a crumb of chocolate cake or a very small piece of a chocolate bar, on the other hand, probably won't kill your dog, especially if it is a larger breed, but chocolate should never be fed as a treat.
Symptoms of Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs
If you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate, you should call your vet immediately and watch your dog closely for the following symptoms of chocolate toxicity:
- abnormal heart rhythms
- increased heart rate
- increased thirst
- elevated blood pressure
- elevated body temperature
Preventing Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs
Most of us don't like sharing our chocolate bars, brownies, and other chocolate products with humans or dogs. Unfortunately, chocolate toxicity usually happens by accident, especially around holidays like Halloween. This means we have to be very careful about keeping chocolate out of the reach of our dogs, and it is important to instruct children not to share their candy treats with their pets.
Dogs cannot eat chocolate, but there are plenty of other human foods that make excellent treats. Keep a list of the human foods dogs can and can't eat handy in your home to help you and your family make informed decisions about your dog's diet.