Chocolate is one of the most toxic foods for dogs. Sometimes, it can even be fatal. Find out just how much chocolate can kill a dog here!
The amount of chocolate that can kill a dog depends on the type of chocolate and the dog’s weight. Dogs that consume 0.12 oz of chocolate for every 2.2 lbs that they weigh should be treated immediately. If left untreated, it chocolate poisoning can greatly harm your dog and even be fatal.
As you read further, you’ll find out what makes chocolate toxic to dogs. You’ll also learn how much chocolate can be toxic for dogs and the different symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs. Finally, you’ll learn about how chocolate poisoning is treated and how you can prevent any instances of chocolate poisoning at home.
What Makes Chocolate Toxic to Dogs?
Although it is safe for humans, chocolate ingestion can result in significant illness or be potentially lethal to your beloved pets. Toxicity depends a lot on what type of chocolate and how much chocolate was ingested, relative to the size of the dog.
Chocolate is synthesized from the roasted seeds of cocoa plants (Theobroma cacao) and contains chemicals known as methylxanthines. Methylxanthines are a class of drugs that can cause diuresis (frequent urination), stimulation of the heart muscle, dilation of blood vessels, and muscle relaxation.
Two of the most common methylxanthines found in chocolates are caffeine and theobromine. Theobromine is the more dominant and powerful toxin that causes an array of harmful effects to “man’s best friend”.
Unfortunately, dogs cannot absorb, metabolize and excrete theobromine as quickly as humans. Theobromine is partially metabolized in 18 to 24 hours in dogs, making them quite susceptible to its harmful adverse reactions, even in small doses.
How Much Chocolate Can Be Toxic to Dogs?
The amount of toxic theobromine depends on the type of chocolate. The rule of thumb is that the darker and bitter the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains, and therefore more dangerous if ingested.
In perspective, one can look at this in terms of risk:
- Low risk: White chocolate contains only about 0.0009 oz of theobromine per ounce of chocolate.
- Moderate risk: Milk chocolate contains only about 0.0018 oz of theobromine per ounce of chocolate.
- High risk: Chocolates in baked and cooked products are highly concentrated and contain as much as 0.011 to 0.017 oz of theobromine per ounce of chocolate.
Smaller breeds are at the highest risk among all dogs. Since they have smaller statures, they only need to consume a small amount of chocolate the experience serious symptoms off chocolate poisoning. They tend to also have slower metabolism rates than larger dogs, increasing the risk of chocolate poisoning.
Medium-sized dogs are at a lower risk compared to small-sized dogs. Although they can withstand larger amounts of chocolate, if they consume more than the at-risk amount, they will still experience symptoms.
Large breeds have the advantage of exhibiting insignificant signs of chocolate poisoning unless they have ingested at least a whole lot, equivalent to the lethal dose of theobromine reported in dogs.
To put things simply, the amount of risk and chances of your dog experience chocolate poisoning can vary. For example, small dogs that consume an ounce of milk chocolate will face a higher risk compared to medium or large-sized dogs that consume the same amount.
Signs and Symptoms of Early Chocolate Poisoning
For many dogs who accidentally ingest milk chocolate with a theobromine content could as low as 0.12 oz per 2.2 lbs of their body weight, agitation, hyperactivity and, some gastrointestinal signs (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea) can be observed.
At doses over 0.24 oz per 2.2 lbs of body weight, could be a great cause for concern as the dog’s hyperactivity now includes a racing heart rate, high blood pressure, or even heart arrhythmias.
At even higher doses above 0.30 oz per 2.2 lbs of body weight, neurologic signs can be seen, including tremors, twitching, and even seizures. Fatalities have been seen at around 0.60 oz per 2.2 lbs of body weight, especially for old dogs, or when complications occur.
This is the time to remember that theobromine’s long half-life in dogs can cause a delay in the pet showing any signs of intoxication, taking any time within several hours or a couple of days.
It’s important to seek immediate medical attention, particularly if the dog is suspected to be in a moderate or high-risk category.
Remember that your dog’s total weight is an important variable in chocolate poisoning. Bigger dogs will experience less severe symptoms compared to smaller dogs even if they consume the same amount of chocolate.
Most dogs who had a quick recovery or survived from a severe bout of poisoning were mainly due to the speed at which owners and caregivers brought the dog to their veterinarian for professional help. Believe it or not, some dogs who have taken chocolates in low doses are lucky enough to simply vomit it on their own, despite their owner’s concerns.
Treatment and Management for Chocolate Toxicity
Once you’ve observed your dog and identified what kind of chocolate your dog ate, you should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to determine the severity of the poisoning. You should also take some initial steps while your dog is within the observation period. Your vet will normally recommend up to 24 hours of observation, depending on their chocolate poisoning protocols.
Remember, there is no antidote for chocolate poisoning.
Naturally, for severe poisoning wherein your dog experiences tremors, seizures and twitches, the earlier the dog is taken to the nearest dog hospital, the better. On top of that, you can perform early treatment measures and save yourself expensive costs on a trip to the vet.
You can remove the chocolate from your dog’s system by inducing vomiting. You can do this by giving your dog 1-3 tablespoons of 3% hydrogen peroxide.
You can also give your dog activated charcoal to block the absorption and digestion of the chocolate’s harmful chemicals. You should give your dog about a 1 to 3 drops of activated charcoal per 2.2 lbs of your dog’s body weight. Your veterinarian’s goal will be to stabilize all bodily functions of the dog and promote theobromine excretion.
All supportive treatment will be given as intravenous fluid therapy, to help a weakened immune system and low energy levels.
Until all theobromine is excreted from the body, your dog should be closely monitored for any signs of agitation, vomiting, diarrhea, nervousness, irregular heart rhythm, and high blood pressure. If cardiac signs like elevated heart rate or arrhythmia manifest, the appropriate drug therapy will be administered by the vet.
Chocolate Proofing Your Home
After such an unpleasant experience, you would think you never want to go through that again! Here are some quick tips that can help you and your dog lead a more worry-free life, without chocolate poisoning.
Make it a habit to eat your chocolates far, far away from your dog. Declare some spaces at home as chocolate-free zones to prevent accidents of ingestion from happening in the first place.
Dispose of wrappings properly. Make sure that your dog has no access to any chocolate wrappers. If your dog manages to get one, it might ingest the leftover chocolate on the wrapper.
Try the Leave-It approach. One trick that works for some owners is to train their pets that certain “bad” foods are “too hot” and should be left alone. This assumes that your dog has had some experience biting into hot food, only to spit it out when the hot food stung the mouth.
Check the labels on treats with “artificial chocolate flavorings”; while they may contain an insignificant amount of theobromine, the sugar content that makes up for the lack of chocolate goodness are all just empty calories that may contribute to obesity or other metabolic diseases.
Educate others about not feeding your dog, without your consent. Make sure that your dog never gets treats from anyone without you knowing.
Worrying about a small amount of chocolate breeding illness or even death is not my favorite pastime. It only took one incident for me to learn the lesson about carelessly laying chocolate products around. My vet advised me to observe and monitor my dog within 24 hours. That meant stressing over hours, losing sleep and, overthinking in many ways.
Luckily for me and my dog, the chocolate content in a morsel of a cookie was way too low to have any untoward effect. Still, that was the longest 24 hours in my life! I would never intentionally try to give my dog even a chocolate substitute.
Lately, my dog has been hanging around a lot when I prepare ingredients for the day’s cooking. I discovered he loves raw carrots and butternut squash. With this regimen, I save a lot on treats and make sure my dog is getting not only delicious but also nutritious snacking.
Hey there! I’m Matt and I’m a content writer from the Philippines. I’ve raised over 10 dogs and 5 cats. I love taking care of my rescue dog Kewpie and my two rescue cats, Misty and Rosy.