How Much Chocolate Is REALLY Too Much for Our Dogs?
By now, we all know that chocolate is not healthy for dogs and can even be deadly. But when should you rush to the emergency veterinarian? Is there any level of chocolate that is not an emergency? While this info does not take the place of your veterinarian's advice, it is shared to help you make quicker decisions.
Halloween is right around the corner and that means chocolate may be sitting in bowls right by the front door. That is an open invitation to our dogs to gorge on a food that is definitely NOT a treat for them. It is probably not a good idea for most humans to have bowls of candy everywhere, but for our dogs it can be literally deadly.
The Facts On Chocolate & Dogs
"My dog ate some chocolate, what do I do?" is one of the most common pet poison center calls
Bottom line...the degree of toxicity for your dog is based on the type of chocolate and body weight.
First, why is chocolate bad for dogs? The danger lies in the caffeine/theobromine. Chocolate is made from cocoa, and cocoa beans contain a lot of caffeine in a chemical compound called theobromine. The problem is ogs absorb, or metabolize, theobromine much slower than humans do.
Have you ever drunk way too much coffee, or an energy drink (or two) and your heart raced? The same dose of caffeine that affects us for a 30 minutes or so and gives us an uncomfortable buzz can be held in our dog's system for almost 24 hours and be potentially lethal. The concentrated theobromine makes their hearts race for hours and can cause death.
Variables to consider are your dog's size and the type and amount of chocolate eaten.
Below we have Tili, our Leonberger/Great Pyrenees cross who is almost 165 pounds and Larkan (11 pounds) and Cinnabar (13 pounds), our smooth Brussels Griffon dogs. The difference is in amount of chocolate consumed for toxic levels in Larkan or Cinnabar and Tili is dramatic.
Think of it this way, our toy and small dogs are comparable to an infant and large to giant breed dogs an adult human. What would make an infant very sick may not affect an adult.
The Math of Chocolate & Your Dog
Here is a quick, rough comparison of chocolates:
Milk chocolate - 44 mg of theobromine per oz.
Semisweet chocolate - 150mg of theobromine per oz./oz.
Baker’s chocolate - 390mg of theobromine per oz.
Pure Healthy/Specialty chocolate even more!
Toxic Dosage By Body Weight & Chocolate Type
Using a dose of 100 mg/kg as the toxic dose it comes out roughly as:
1 ounce per 9 pound of body weight for Milk chocolate
1 ounce per 3 pounds of body weight for Semisweet chocolate
1 ounce per 1 pounds of body weight for Baking (or high-end gourmet) chocolate.
A 10-15 pound dog (like Larkan or Cinnabar) could show symptoms of severe chocolate toxicity after eating as little as ONE OUNCE of ANY chocolate (except milk chocolate), due to their small size
Our advise is to use the chocolate toxicity calculators to find out how much of the types of chocolate you have in your home are toxic for all of the dogs in your household. Print or write this info out and keep somewhere accessible to everyone in the household.
Clinical Signs of Chocolate Toxicity Your Dog May Exhibit
Increased heart rate
If you suspect your dog ate chocolate or find evidence they actually did follow these steps.
Determine the type of chocolate eaten (baking, milk, gourmet, semisweet)
Determine the amount of chocolate eaten
Haves rough idea of dog’s weight
Call vet if there is any question about toxicity levels
Follow vet’s directions (for example: induce vomiting, wait & see, immediate trip to vet)
If in doubt head to the vet with your dog and continue calling as you go (I know we aren't supposed to drive and talk on the phone, but this is an emergency)
There is no cure or antidote for chocolate poisoning. Once again, CALL THE VET and ask if you should induce vomiting immediately. This can be done with syrup of ipepac or a hydrogen peroxide/water mixture. Only do this if you are comfortable doing so, under your vet’s direction. Again, this may be in fo you need to have calculated in case of an emergency.
If in doubt – Do not hesitate to GO TO THE VET! They can administer activated charcoal, which may stop or slow down absorption of the toxin. An anticonvulsant might be needed, your vet will be able to determine that. Oxygen therapy, intravenous medications, and fluids might be needed to protect the heart. YES, this is a big deal!
The answer to is chocolate bad for dogs? is a resounding YES, just know your chocolates to know what to do. If your Lab ate one Hershey’s Kiss, they should be fine. If your Chihuahua ate a small bag of Hershey’s Kisses, call the vet.
And best advice of all – never, ever leave chocolate out where your dog can get to it. All the more reason to eat that chocolate now. It is for the good of your dog’s health!