Is Chocolate Bad For Dogs? How Much Chocolate Is Too Much?
Halloween is right around the corner and that means chocolate sitting in bowls right by the front door. This can be an open invitation to your dog to gorge on a food that is definitely NOT a treat for them. We have all read and heard that chocolate is bad for dogs, but how much and what kind? Is chocolate bad for dogs is one of the most common pet poison center calls during the holiday season. Here are some of the latest facts and figures on what kind of chocolate is bad for your dog. It is all based on the type of chocolate and body weight…read on!
A few years ago a dear friend called, very distraught, her dogs had eaten expensive, all natural chocolate and were deathly ill at the vet. This chocolate was almost pure cocao and their hearts were racing and they were sick dogs. She rushed them to the vet and they stayed for several days, but all did end well and they survived this disaster just fine, thanks to her quick actions.
The Facts on Chocolate and Dogs
Why is chocolate bad for dogs? The danger lies in the caffeine – Chocolate is made from cocoa, and cocoa beans contain caffeine and a chemical compound called theobromine. Dogs absorb, or metabolize, theobromine much slower than we do. Have you ever drank way too much coffee, or an energy drink (or two) and had your heart race? Like that but for hours. What stays in us for a few minutes and makes for a bit of a buzz can be almost 24 hours and lethal for a dog. That is why their hearts race and they can actually die of heart failure!
The good news is that it usually takes a LOT of theobromine (100-150 mg/kg) to cause a toxic reaction. Plus, there are variables to consider like each dogs’ sensitivity, their size and chocolate concentration. What may kill a Chihuahua would just make a Newfoundland sick.
The Math of Chocolate & Your Dog
Here is a quick, rough comparison:
- Milk chocolate contains 44 mg of theobromine per oz.
- Semisweet chocolate contains 150mg/oz.
- Baker’s chocolate 390mg/oz.
- Pure Healthy/Specialty chocolate even more!
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.
So, for example
- A 9-pound dog could be expected to show symptoms of chocolate toxicity after eating 1 ounce of baking chocolate, 3 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, or 9 ounces of milk chocolate.
- A 27-pound dog might have such symptoms after eating 3 ounces of baking chocolate, 9 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, and 27 ounces of milk chocolate.
- A 63-pound dog might exhibit symptoms after eating 7 ounces of baking chocolate, 21 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, or 63 ounces of milk chocolate.
Here is a GREAT chart on which foods have the highest concentration of chocolate and EXACTLY how much chocolate will hurt your dog. Bookmark that chart, it could really save a dog’s life!
Clinical Signs Your Dog May Exihibit
- Hyper-excitability (frantic)
- Hyper-irritability (snapping)
- Increased heart rate
- Increased urination
- Muscle tremors
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)
There is no real 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.
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!
Once again – If you suspect your pet has ingested baking or high-end gourmet chocolate contact your Vet immediately! Tell them the exact chocolate your dog ate and they will advise as to whether a vet visit is indicated.
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 will be fine. If your Chihuahua ate a 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!
Link to Chocolate Toxicity Chart again.