Let’s face it, many dogs will be quick to eat things that they shouldn’t and it can be easy for dogs to get access to chocolate, especially during the holidays, whether it’s Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas, or any other time of the year. Most dog owners will know that even a small amount of chocolate can’t be good for their dogs but how much does it affect their pooch? In this article, we answer these questions and more, while addressing the long-term effects of eating chocolate for dogs.
Can a Dog Die from Consuming Chocolate?
The answer to this question will depend on how much chocolate the dog has eaten, the type of chocolate it has ingested, and the size of the dog. Unfortunately, chocolate contains high caffeine and theobromine content, and when mixed together, they produce chemicals known as methylxanthines. Signs of chocolate toxicity will start to occur after a dog ingests 20 mg of methylxanthines per kilo of the dog’s weight.
The dog’s heart may also be seriously affected when it consumes between 40 to 50 mg per kilo of its body weight. Once it consumes enough chocolate, a dog can even experience seizures. Consuming between 100 to 500 mg of theobromine is reported to be a lethal dose in dogs, so make sure that your furry friend never gets their hand on any chocolate at home.
Why is Chocolate Bad for Dogs?
Chocolate is toxic to dogs but not humans because it takes canines a longer time to digest the toxic compounds found in them. It takes humans 2 to 3 hours to reduce the amount of theobromine inside our systems in half. The same amount takes 17.5 hours in dogs, which means it takes them much longer to metabolize just half of this compound.
Dogs will also take 4.5 hours to metabolize caffeine, which has an effect on the cardiovascular system, respiratory system, and central nervous system. Furthermore, they act like a diuretic for dogs. In the end, a toxic amount of chocolate can severely damage the dog’s system and even lead to death.
Type of Chocolate
One factor that will help determine how much your dog will be affected is the type and quality of chocolate your dog ingests. You may already know this but there are different types of chocolate. Dark chocolate is much more dangerous than white chocolate, which is related to the ratio of milk, sugar, and butter to theobromine.
This is because the amount of caffeine and theobromine in chocolate can vary depending on the amount of cocoa used, sources, varieties of cocoa, and their growing conditions. Baker’s chocolate and darker chocolates will come with the highest amount of caffeine and theobromine. One ounce of baker’s chocolate will contain around 390mg of theobromine, which equates to around 6240 mg of theobromine per pound.
Cocoa powder also contains a high concentration of theobromine, which is around 20 mg for every gram. Chocolate bars are readily available in the market, where some are made from rich and dark chocolate, while others are more heavy with cream and sugar. Milk chocolate will contain around 44 mg of theobromine for every ounce of chocolate.
When it comes to sugar-free chocolate, it can be especially dangerous for your pet — apart from the caffeine and theobromine, this kind of chocolate may also come with an artificial sweetener such as xylitol. This chemical can cause a dangerous drop in your dog’s sugar levels and may also lead to liver failure.
Symptoms of Chocolate Poisoning
Clinical signs of poisoning when it comes to dogs may start 2 to 24 hours after eating which will vary depending on the severity. Some dogs may only experience an upset stomach while others may eat enough theobromine to induce severe symptoms.
Signs of toxicity include the following:
- Abdominal pain
- Fast breathing
- High heart rate
- Heart arrhythmias
- High blood pressure
- Muscle tremors
- Excessive thirst
- Cardiac failure
- Muscle rigidity
What to Do if You See Symptoms of Poisoning?
If you suspect that your dog got its hands on chocolate treats, the best course of action is to get help as soon as possible. The first step for you to take is to call the Animal Poison Control Center for advice. You may also call the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-213-6680. As a general rule, the earlier you’re able to eliminate the toxins from your pet’s body, the better, and practicing caution for your dog is always a good idea.
When you do choose to get help, be sure that you’re prepared to give them details on what happened, as well as the weight of your dog, the type of chocolate it ate, and the breed of your pup. Always seek immediate treatment and never wait around to see symptoms of chocolate poisoning before you get help.
Do Dogs Die in Severe Cases of Chocolate Poisoning?
Depending on the size of your dog, it may have better chances for survival — for example, a small dog that ingests 10 ounces of milk chocolate may not fare as well as a large dog would. However, as long as you move quickly and phone your veterinarian right away, can induce vomiting, and bring your pooch in for supportive treatments, it should make a full recovery.
The quicker we can get our dogs to a veterinary clinic, the sooner they can get help in the form of intravenous fluids, a heart stimulant, and a blood vessel dilator. Fortunately, once your dog has been treated successfully for mild symptoms of chocolate toxicity, it won’t suffer from any long-term health issues. However, brain damage may occur in rare cases when the dog experiences seizures.
Long-Term Effects of Eating Chocolate for Dogs
While small amounts of chocolate won’t permanently harm your dog, it shouldn’t have access to any kind of chocolate. A toxic dose of chocolate can lead to severe signs and can cause serious health problems in our dogs. To keep our dogs away from potential danger, it’s best to keep the chocolates and other toxic substances out of our dogs’ reach.