Can I give my dog chocolate? No, most Chocolate contains theobromine (a toxic chemical) and caffeine which is also toxic to dogs. Dependent on the size of your dog and the amount of chocolate consumed there may be an adverse effect on your dog’s health. Although rarely fatal, most vets will advise against giving chocolate to your dog. In large amounts Chocolate or Cocoa can kill your dog. If you know or suspect that your dog has consumed chocolate, you need to monitor for signs of toxicity and consult a vet if you see any major ill effects.
Why is Chocolate Toxic to Dogs?
Chocolate contains methylxanthines, a class of toxic chemicals, specifically theobromine, and caffeine. Toxicity levels fluctuate depending on the type of chocolate your dog has eaten. The human body can easily process these products, but the dog’s body cannot process methylxanthines in the same way. Consequently, the dog experiences an increased sensitivity to the toxic effects of these chemicals.
Although symptoms of poisoning typically happen between four and 24 hours after ingestion, assessment and treatment may be required sooner.
Handy tip: Before calling the vet, it’s advisable to be prepared with the following information to guide him on the most appropriate course of action.
When determining the level of intoxication, the most significant considerations are:
- The Type of chocolate ingested
- The Quantity of chocolate ingested (in ounces)
- The Size and or weight of the dog in relation to the amount eaten
- Approximate time of ingestion (when was the chocolate consumed)
How do you work out How Much Chocolate is Dangerous?
Knowing how much chocolate your dog has eaten can help you determine if you have an emergency that needs the vet’s attention. In general, mild signs of chocolate-related toxicity occur when a dog has eaten about 20 mg of methylxanthines per kilogram of body weight.
Calculation for Chocolate Poisoning
The average 1.55 oz (43g) Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar contains 64mg of Theobromine (methylxanthines), about the same size as a Kit Kat wafer bar.
If your dog weighs 10kg (typical westie or terrier size) they will have to eat just over three 1.55 oz (43g) bars of chocolate to get 200mg of methylxanthines. This would be considered enough chocolate to warrant calling the vet.
Symptoms of cardiac discomfort because of chocolate toxicity begin showing when your dog has consumed about 40-50 mg/kg (6no 1.55oz bars) for a 10kg dog.
Seizures are likely to happen at dosages exceeding 60 mg/kg, (9no 1.55oz bars) for a 10kg dog.
Dog fatalities have been known to occur around the 200 mg/kg level (About 30 No. 1.55oz bars) (about 100 mg/lb.).
With large amounts of theobromine in the body, the dog is likely to suffer muscle tremors, an irregular heartbeat, seizures, internal bleeding, or a fatal heart attack. Severe hyperactivity such as running or spinning around manically usually marks the onset of theobromine poisoning.
It’s not easy to tell precisely the amount of chocolate your dog has ingested because the amount of theobromine and caffeine can obviously vary in the massive variety of differing chocolate products. However, it’s better to err on the side of caution and seek professional advice when you are not sure.
As we noted earlier, a large dog can withstand more chocolate than a smaller dog. A small amount of chocolate may only give your big dog a mild stomach upset with some diarrhea and possible vomiting. However, if your small dog has eaten a box of dark chocolates, don’t wait, call or go to the vet clinic immediately.
Dark or Plain Chocolate tends to have far higher concentrations of theobromine than Milk Chocolate, possibly 2 to 3 times as much in methylxanthine concentration.
Which Types of Chocolate are More Toxic to my Dog?
All types of chocolate are toxic to dogs, but the type ingested matters a lot. This is because the concentration of theobromine and caffeine can vary enormously. Different types of chocolate come with varying amounts of theobromine and, therefore, different levels of toxicity.
Cooking chocolate, dark chocolate, and cocoa powder contain the highest levels of theobromine, while white chocolate and milk chocolate have the lowest. When dealing with any quantity of bitter chocolate or dark chocolate, caution is paramount.
It’s not just that chocolate milk bar that is dangerous for your dog. Dry cocoa powder may contain up to 26mg of theobromine per gram, making it highly toxic. For example, if your dog weighs 10kg, even as little as a couple of grams of the cocoa powder you use for cooking or your night time drink could lead to seizures.
In general, bitter, darker chocolate should be considered as the most dangerous.Such types of chocolate contain more theobromine per ounce when pitted against milk brands. A 44-pound dog can be poisoned by less than a single ounce of dark chocolate.
Symptoms of Chocolate Poisoning
Signs of chocolate poisoning usually start manifesting within 6 to 12 hours after ingestion. Typical signs include:
- Increased urination
- Abnormal or elevated heart rate
- Collapse (and death)
Clinical manifestations of chocolate poisoning depend on the type and amount of chocolate ingested. In most cases, typical clinical signs are diarrhoea and vomiting, increased thirst, restlessness or agitation, excessive urination, and a faster racing heart rate.
In severe cases, your dog may experience muscle tremors, seizures, and finally, heart failure. If your older dog eats an unusually large amount of dark, high-quality chocolate, he may suffer sudden death from cardiac arrest. The situation can be particularly bad if your dog has any preexisting heart condition.
Signs of chocolate poisoning can take several hours to develop, and could last for days largely because theobromine has long half-life. Your dog can even reabsorb theobromine from the bladder. If you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate, frequent walks may encourage more urination.
Half-Life. Meaning: The duration of the action of a drug is known as its half-life. This is the period of time required for the concentration or amount of drug in the body to be reduced by one-half.
What to do if you’re Dog has eaten Chocolate
When your dog has eaten chocolate, your dog will typically vomit on his own. After vomiting, don’t give him any food and water should only be given sparingly, and if vomiting continues then cease giving water altogether. If you suspect that your dog has ingested chocolate, don’t wait for the warning signs; seek medical attention immediately by calling the veterinarian.
The only possible thing you could give your dog to eat is charcoal biscuits, the charcoal can soak up toxins avoiding the toxins entering the bloodstream but you should only do this if you have consulted your vet.
Based on the amount of chocolate consumed, the type of chocolate consumed and your dog’s size, the vet may recommend that you monitor the dog for some of the clinical signs we listed above and get back to him if the condition worsens.
In other cases, you may be asked to bring the dog into the clinic straight away. If the chocolate was eaten less than two hours ago, induced vomiting might be initiated at the vet’s, accompanied by several activated charcoal doses. The charcoal works to move the toxins out of the dog’s body without being absorbed into his bloodstream.
For more severe cases of chocolate poisoning, the vet may provide supplemental treatment, including IV fluids or medications. If your dog is suffering from seizures, he may need to be monitored overnight at the pet clinic.
Complications like developing aspiration pneumonia because of vomiting can potentially make the chocolate poisoning prognosis worse. If in doubt, seek treatment immediately.
Tip: If you have several dogs and only one seems affected, it may be a safe precaution to present all the dogs to the vet for examination.
Preventing Your Dog from Consuming Chocolate
Even though small amounts of chocolate may not be such a big problem for larger dogs, vets recommend that dog owners avoid rewarding their dogs with chocolate.Dogs are cunning and know-how to reach sweet snacks.
To prevent Fido from sneaking chocolate, try these two simple tips:
Put it away: This is the simplest way of keeping your dog from chocolate. Make sure all items that contain chocolate, including hot chocolate and cocoa powder are stored where your dog cannot reach them, preferably in a closed-door pantry on a high shelf. Remind your children that chocolate is not suitable for the dog and that it should not be left on tables, countertops, or in purses.
Teach “leave it”: This is an acknowledged and effective way of teaching dogs not to touch or eat what you don’t want them to consume. Dogs are fast learners, and this will keep him from harmful items like chocolate.
Chocolate Treats for Dogs
There are special chocolate treats designed for dogs that are perfectly safe to give them as they contain neither theobromine nor caffeine. See our page here on Chocolate Treats For Dogs
A Brief Conclusion
Your dog loves to share your snacks. While he might love its sweet taste as much as you, his health comes first. Always remember that chocolate can be poisonous to your dog and could make him quite sick. So, no matter how much he begs for a piece of that tasty delicacy, remember chocolate and dogs don’t mix.
In this article, we looked at how eating chocolate can affect your dog. You should now understand why chocolate has health risks for your dog, the safe amounts that a dog can consume (or not), and which types of chocolate are harmful.
Just like human beings, dogs can develop allergies to what they eat. Despite chocolate being a tasty treat for most people, ingesting even a small amount can be very dangerous to your dog’s health. Dogs cannot metabolize caffeine and theobromine, two ingredients contained in chocolate.
These chemicals are widely used in the human medical field for their effects on the muscles and heart. These two chemicals are also used therapeutically as a heart stimulant, blood vessel dilator, smooth muscle relaxant, and diuretic.
For a dog, the bigger concern with eating chocolate is toxicity. Chocolate contains theobromine, a toxic chemical, and caffeine. Theobromine is remarkably similar to caffeine in how it works. Some humans get a noticeable kick from caffeine but for a dog this can be deadly.
The danger to your dog depends on the amount consumed, the type of chocolate (milk or dark), and the dog’s size. If your dog eats a small amount, he should be able to filter the chemicals through the body and avoid a visit to the vet. When consumed in large amounts, chocolate can kill your dog. If your dog shows an allergic reaction, the best course is to consult a veterinarian for guidance.