I can remember when I was younger being told never to give our dog chocolate because it could make him sick. I didn’t question it until I found out that you couldn’t really grow an apple tree in your belly after eating the seeds. Chocolate poisoning in dogs is, however, not only real but also very common. The majority of pet owners don’t realize the potential for toxicity that chocolate possesses.
Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, which is toxic to dogs in sufficient quantities. When dogs ingest theobromine, it begins to affect the nervous and cardiovascular systems. Signs include:
- Hyper excitability
- Hyper irritability
- Increased heart rate
- Increased urination
- Muscle tremors
How much chocolate is deadly? You have to take into consideration the health and age of the dog and the type and amount of chocolate consumed. It takes a fairly large amount of theobromine to cause a toxic reaction. The lethal dose for theobromine is between 100mg to 200mg per kg of bodyweight. As a rule of thumb:
- White chocolate: 200 ounces per pound of body weight. It takes 250 pounds of white chocolate to cause signs of poisoning in a 20-pound dog, 125 pounds for a 10-pound dog.
- Milk chocolate: 1 ounce per pound of body weight. Approximately one pound of milk chocolate is poisonous to a 20-pound dog; one-half pound for a 10-pound dog. The average chocolate bar contains 2 to 3 ounces of milk chocolate. It would take 2-3 candy bars to poison a 10 pound dog. Semi-sweet chocolate has a similar toxic level.
- Sweet cocoa: 0.3 ounces per pound of body weight. One-third of a pound of sweet cocoa is toxic to a 20-pound dog; 1/6 pound for a 10-pound dog.
- Baking chocolate: 0.1 ounce per pound body weight. Two one-ounce squares of bakers’ chocolate is toxic to a 20-pound dog; one ounce for a 10-pound dog.
If you suspect your dog has eaten a large amount of chocolate, contact your vet immediately. Treatment will usually involve fluid replacement, sedatives and medication to reduce heart rate and blood pressure if the poisoning is severe. So think twice about offering your dog chocolate, it could be a fatal mistake.