The Truth about Chocolate Poisoning (will it kill your dog?)
We all love to indulge in a little chocolate at Christmas and Easter so it's no surprise that these are the peak times to see chocolate poisoning in dogs. Thankfully most owners are aware chocolate is toxic. But just how poisonous is chocolate to dogs?
Chocolate poisoning is by far the most common poisoning in dogs in terms of calls to the vet with people wondering what to do next. As a result it is actually uncommon for serious, life-threatening toxicity to occur. Most dogs are seen for treatment long before they are truly in danger. Make no mistake though, chocolate definitely has the potential to kill.
How much chocolate is poisonous?
It doesn't even need to take that much for toxic signs to be shown. It all depends on how much of the poisonous ingredient theobromine is in the type of chocolate eaten. White chocolate for all intents and purposes is harmless. It only contains tiny amounts of this substance.
Milk chocolate - it's not too bad
Milk chocolate has a small risk of poisoning. 14g of chocolate needs to be eaten per kg body weight before treatment is recommended. This equates to 1 oz per lb body weight. But what does that mean?
- a small 45g / 1.6oz bar of milk chocolate would only be dangerous to a pet weighing less than 3.2kg or 7lb
- a medium sized milk chocolate bar of 100g / 3.5oz is poisonous for a 7kg / 15.7lb pooch
- a large 250g / 9oz block of milk chocolate would be toxic to an 18kg / 40lb dog or lighter
If you've got a big dog then they would need to get into a big stash of milk chocolate to be in trouble.
Dark chocolate is worse
Dark chocolate is a different story though. This contains much higher levels of theobromine and while the amount varies, the recommendation is that if a pet eats more than 3.5g per kg body weight (or 1/4 oz per lb) they need to be treated. Dark chocolate is 4 times more poisonous than milk chocolate.
- a small 45g / 1.6oz bar of dark chocolate is dangerous for a 13kg / 28lb pet or lighter
- a medium sized dark chocolate bar of 100g / 3.5oz is poisonous for a pooch under 28kg / 63lb
- a large 250g / 9oz block of milk chocolate would be toxic to a huge 72kg / 160lb dog
Cooking chocolate and cocoa powder can be more toxic again but the number of dogs which eat this is thankfully very small.
What are the signs of chocolate poisoning?
These are average figures and some dogs may be more sensitive than others to the effects of chocolate toxicity. This means it is important to look out for signs of poisoning even if you don't think your pet has eaten enough to be affected. Chocolate toxicity causes a range of problems including:
- rapid heart rate
- irregular heart beat
- abdominal bloating
Thankfully most dog owners are very aware of the dangers of chocolate and severe, untreated poisoning is rare. In most cases a quick trip to the vet to make them sick is all that is required but if they ate the chocolate more than a few hours previously or they ate a very large amount above the toxic dose then they may need hospitalization for closer monitoring and treatment. Activated charcoal may also be given. This absorbs the poison in the intestine, preventing it from being absorbed. This is especially important with chocolate as it can stay in the gut for several days.
Cats, ever the sensible ones, can be poisoned just as easily but because they can not taste sweet things they rarely eat enough to be poisoned.
Weight of dog that will be poisoned by a chocolate bar:
If you want to learn about other poisonous foods for your pet or if to make your dog vomit then be sure to check out this article on the most common poisonous foods for dogs and cats.
Also remember there are plenty of other poisons in the house and garden to avoid too!
In the meantime make sure your chocolate collection is well hidden and secured out of reach of your furry friend. As well as the disappointment of finding it missing, it's loss could also mean a quick visit to your vet is needed!
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