Are you a chocoholic? Don’t be ashamed; there are many of us who love chocolate and need a little bit every day to stay happy and healthy! Chocolate (in moderation) can be a healthy part of your diet. But do you share chocolate with your dog? If so, you need to read this article. Chocolate is toxic to dogs and can cause death in some cases.
Dogs & Chocolate
Chocolate poisoning is pretty common in dogs, especially during the holidays, such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, and more. These holidays involve a lot of candy, much of which contains chocolate. And when chocolate is easy for a dog to get, he will go for it!
What is Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs?
Chocolate poisoning takes place when a dog eats any type of chocolate. Chocolate is made from the seeds of the cacao tree, which are ground and processed into chocolate. The problem with these seeds is that they contain theobromine and caffeine.
Theobromine and caffeine act as heart stimulants, blood pressure dilators, diuretics, and smooth muscle relaxers in humans and other animals, including dogs. Dogs metabolize these substances more slowly than we do. This means theobromine and caffeine stay in the dog’s body longer, leading to poisoning.
Eating too much chocolate can cause problems with the dog’s nervous and cardiovascular systems. In addition, the level of toxicity is related to the type of chocolate, the dog’s weight and size, and the amount of chocolate eaten. Isn’t that confusing?
The most common forms of chocolate include (in order of toxicity from the most to the least, with the amount of theobromine/mg/ounce):
- Cocoa powder (most toxic): contains 300 to 1200 mg/ounce
- Unsweetened baker’s chocolate: contains 450 mg/ounce
- Dark chocolate: contains 300 mg/ounce
- Milk chocolate: contains 60 mg/ounce
Eating 20 mg of theobromine per kg of body weight can cause GI upsets in dogs. If a dog eats more than 40 mg/kg, he may experience heart arrhythmias, and eating more than 60 mg/kg, the dog could develop muscle tremors and seizures. It’s also important to note that chocolate toxicity can cause death if a dog eats enough chocolate.
Milk chocolate has the least toxic levels of all chocolate; however, it can still be deadly if a dog eats enough of it. So, if you’re wondering about the dose of chocolate needed to make a dog sick, it works like this. We’ll use a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar that is 1.55 ounces. If a dog eats one ounce of chocolate per kg of body weight, he can become very sick. The smaller the dog, the more serious the poisoning.
On the other hand, eating a tiny piece of chocolate usually won’t be toxic to your dog. He will be just fine. But if he eats more, there’s a possibility the chocolate could be at a toxic level that could cause death.
Needless to say, it’s never safe to share chocolate with your dog. And all chocolate should be kept out of your dog’s reach.
When Does Chocolate Poisoning Occur?
Chocolate toxicity in dogs can occur any time a dog eats chocolate, including milk chocolate. For instance, you may give your dog a chocolate chip cookie made with milk chocolate chips. Or maybe you want to share some milk chocolate cake with your fur baby.
Chocolate poisoning can also occur if your dog helps himself to a milk chocolate candy bar or if he somehow gets into milk chocolate chips or milk chocolate powder.
Any time a dog eats chocolate, there’s the potential for him to become poisoned.
Symptoms of Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs
You may notice these symptoms if your dog has eaten chocolate:
- Increased urination
- Elevated or abnormal heart rate
- Collapse and death
- Excessive drooling
- Increased thirst
If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, call the vet immediately. This is an emergency. Don’t wait to see if your dog’s symptoms improve or worsen. Remember, chocolate toxicity can cause death if left untreated. And the sooner your dog is treated for chocolate poisoning, the better his chance of making a full recovery.
Symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs may not show up until 6 to 12 hours after the chocolate has been eaten.
Diagnosing Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs
At the vet’s office, they will check your dog to see if he’s showing any symptoms of chocolate toxicity. They will also perform a physical exam on your fur baby. The vet may also run blood tests, including a complete blood cell count & chemistry, urinalysis, EKG, and may radiographs.
The tests and examination will help the vet to make a diagnosis.
Treatment of Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs
The vet may start by inducing vomiting and giving your fur baby activated charcoal if your canine companion ate the milk chocolate within the last 2 hours. These treatments are intended to keep the dog’s body from absorbing the theobromine & caffeine in the milk chocolate.
In addition, your fur baby may require an IV with fluids to make it easier to administer medications. The vet will also treat any other symptoms as they arise. For instance, IV fluids can help to dilute theobromine levels in your dog’s blood and make it easier for his system to remove the toxins from his body.
Benzodiazepines (also called valium) may be given to treat seizures and muscle tremors. And if your dog is having heart symptoms, the vet may also give your fur baby anti-arrhythmic medicine to control his heart.
Your canine companion may need to remain hospitalized, depending on the severity of his symptoms.
The prognosis is best for dogs that receive prompt medical attention after ingesting milk chocolate. They have a better chance of making a complete recovery. Remember that recovery also depends on the severity of symptoms, how much chocolate was eaten, and how soon the dog receives treatment.
What’s more, chocolate poisoning can cause death at high doses.
Summing It Up
Milk chocolate is a yummy treat that most of us love (some more than others!). Our fur babies also love to eat milk chocolate. While milk chocolate has the lowest amount of toxins compared to other chocolate types, it can cause death. If a dog eats enough milk chocolate, he could become very sick or die.
So, it’s best to keep milk chocolate and other types of chocolate stored out of your dog’s reach. Prevention is always the best medicine!