How Much Chocolate Can Kill a Dog? Here’s What You Should Know

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Chocolate is the one snack whose sweetness can’t be shared with your four-legged pal, however much they love it. It is toxic to dogs and may cause severe illness or fatality. This is because the cacao bean that makes chocolate has a potent concentration of a chemical called theobromine, a mild stimulant for humans but is poisonous to dogs of any body weight.

Their digestive system cannot break down theobromine the way humans do, and you may end up in the dog emergency room on Valentine’s Day if the wrong recipient consumes the treat. Theobromine is still present in the dog’s digestive system 17 hours after ingestion.

The level of chocolate toxicity and theobromine poisoning will depend on the amount of chocolate that has been consumed, the concentration of theobromine in it, and the body weight and size of the dog.

Different types of chocolate have varying amounts of theobromine. Baking chocolate has the highest concentration at 16 milligrams per gram, followed by dark chocolate at 5.5, milk chocolate at 2.4, and white chocolate at 0.01. Specific chocolate brands have their own unique chocolate formula, which could also vary the concentration of cacao beans.

Even small amounts of chocolate will manifest in symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. Higher amounts will induce hyperactivity, tremors, a rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, internal bleeding, seizures, respiratory failure, and even cardiac arrest.

According to a veterinarian, an ounce of milk chocolate per pound of the dog’s weight is potentially lethal. The threshold reduces as the chocolate becomes darker. Deaths have been reported for lower amounts of chocolate ingestion. Baking chocolate has up to 390 milligrams per ounce which is approximately 10 times the content of white chocolate.

To put it into perspective, a 20-pound dog can be killed by 20 ounces of milk chocolate or as little as 2 ounces of baker’s chocolate. Likewise, a 60-pound dog will exhibit symptoms after consuming 60 ounces of milk chocolate or 6 ounces of baker’s chocolate.

Theobromine aside, chocolate is laced with fats and sugars, leading to digestive problems like inflammation of the pancreas or pancreatitis that is lethal if left unchecked. This is very painful for the dog, and you will notice them stretching into a prayer-like position to alleviate the pain. In addition, it comes with symptoms like lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss.

Like babies, dogs are very curious and will taste anything they feel is food, especially if you also eat it. This means they can get chocolate poisoning without your knowledge. They have been known to tear gift wrappers at the bottom of Christmas trees in search of treats. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the symptoms to identify the problem in good time.

Clinical Signs of Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs

dog waiting to eating pug chocolate homemade cake

The symptoms and clinical signs of chocolate poisoning typically develop between 4 and 24 hours after chocolate consumption and may continue for up to 72 hours. If you know your dog has eaten a substantial amount of chocolate, do not wait for the symptoms. Contact your veterinarian immediately and tell them the type of chocolate and the amount taken so they can guide you on the way forward.

  • If the exposure were minimal, the dog would just get an upset stomach which will pass. If the chocolate consumption were beyond what the dog can weather, they would start vomiting and develop diarrhea.
  • Another sign is hyperactivity, restlessness, and agitation partly due to stomach pains and theobromine’s stimulating properties, which takes longer to digest in dogs.
  • Overstimulation of the heart can be lethal, leading to other symptoms like an elevated or abnormal heart rate, convulsions.
  • Lack of appetite due to a combination of pain in the dog’s stomach and nausea
  • Muscle Tremors
  • Rapid breathing
  • Increased urination
  • Seizures
  • Collapse and death

These symptoms do not always come together, and you may experience some but not others. The aim is to be vigilant, so you can catch the problem early when all your options are still available.

What Should Be Done If Your Dog Ate Chocolate

Induce vomiting if the dog does not vomit on its own because it helps with excretion, getting rid of any theobromine that is yet to be absorbed in the system. You can give the dog ipecac syrup for this or a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water. The sooner you do this, the better so you can prevent absorption.

These should be done with moderation as too much of them, or frequent use may cause other problems like esophageal ulcers or throat injuries. There is also the risk of choking. Wait for approximately 30 minutes before you try again if you cannot successfully induce vomiting the first time. You should be monitoring the dog for any signs of deterioration in the meantime.

Give a lot of fluids which should help dilute the theobromine and any chemical that was ingested after it to induce vomit.

Feed the dog several doses of activated charcoal. It helps to remove toxins from the dog’s body, preventing them from getting absorbed into the bloodstream.

Take regular walks to encourage the canine to pee more and flush out the theobromine. It is easily reabsorbed in the system across the bladder wall, so it is safer to take it out at the first opportunity.

If the symptoms are severe, your dog may need to be monitored overnight and kept on fluids and anti-seizure medication for days after the incident. Some of these procedures need to be administered at the clinic. Seek professional advice if you feel you are getting in over your head.

An upset dog

In light of all the above, chocolate and dogs should never mix. No amount of chocolate is okay for a dog to consume. There are too many unreliable variables which make the risk too high. Learn to resist those adorable eyes when they want a bite of your chocolate. This meanness is necessary for their own protection.

Exercise caution when stashing your treats or leaving gifts, and ensure the dog never gets the chance to discover their sweet tooth for chocolate. If you still have questions or need more assistance, you can also contact the pet poison hotline in your area for more information.

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