You may think that the single chocolate egg your dog snatched from the Easter basket can't be that harmful, but think again. Though some dogs display less symptoms than others, chocolate toxicity is very real. More importantly, theobromine in chocolate can accumulate in your dog's system over time -- so those "single" pieces he's getting on occasion can add up to big trouble. Because of that, it's crucial to avoid ever giving your pet any chocolate, regardless of how crestfallen his brown eyes look when when he watches you eating it.
Theobromine and Chocolate
The poisonous factor in chocolate is its theobromine, which is a type of methylxanthine -- an intense stimulant. It isn't easy metabolized by your dog, so it can remain in his system and accumulate over time if more chocolate is ingested. However, even tiny portions of theobromine from chocolate can be hazardous, depending on size and type of chocolate as well as the size and general health of the dog. It often leads to vomiting, antsy behavior, panting, loose stools, quivering and problems with heart rhythms. In severe situations, significant consumption of chocolate can even bring upon seizures, comas, and even death in dogs. This is why it's so important to never give your pet chocolate. It's also important to make sure he never gets it on his own, whether by going through your kitchen cabinet or exploring the contents of your trashcan.
Kinds of Chocolate and Toxicity
"One piece" of chocolate can mean many different things. Different kinds of chocolate contain varying amounts of theobromine, for one. Not all single pieces of chocolate are the same size, either. Darker chocolate, in general, has more theobromine and is therefore more hazardous to dogs. Baking chocolate and good dark chocolate often have 130 to 450 milligrams for every single ounce. Milk chocolate, on the other hand, generally has markedly less, with a typical 44 to 58 milligrams for every ounce. Lastly, white chocolate has the least theobromine, as it typically has just 0.25 mg for every ounce. Since there's absolutely no reason for your dog to have chocolate in his diet, the smartest thing you can do is make sure he never even has the slightest taste of it. If it's large enough, one piece of chocolate can indeed be detrimental to your dog's health, especially if it's dark.
Chocolate Size and Toxicity
A single "piece" of chocolate can sometimes be as big as 8 ounces. If your curious mid-sized dog gets his paws on a giant milk chocolate bar of 8 ounces and eats it, it might be enough to bring upon toxic effects in him, indicates veterinarians Justine A. Lee and Ernest Ward on VCA Animal Hospitals' website. This applies to dogs who weigh around 50 pounds. If your pooch is smaller than that, he could experience toxicity with a more minimal amount. Baker's chocolate is even more hazardous. A mere single ounce of baker's chocolate can be dangerous to mid-sized canines. Remember, single squares of baker's chocolate often are 1 ounce. If you ever see your dog eating any type of chocolate, get immediate veterinary assistance for him, no matter the amount. Seek veterinary care even if you don't notice any symptoms. Check out this helpful chart from VSPN to better determine the ill effects of chocolate according to amount ingested.
Symptoms of chocolate poisoning usually begin within two to four hours after ingestion. The first to manifest are vomiting and diarrhea, followed by hyperactivity, rapid pulse, muscle tremors, excessive urination and fever. In severe cases, a dog may experience seizures, coma, heart failure and, tragically, death within 12 to 36 hours of ingestion. If you know for certain or highly suspect that your dog ate chocolate, contact your veterinarian immediately. Induced vomiting and activated charcoal treatments can help remove a lot of the theobromine from your dog's system if administered within the first two hours after ingestion.
Ban Chocolate in General
White chocolate is less toxic to dogs than darker kinds, but it's still nowhere near safe for your furry buddy. Paler chocolates are fatty, and as a result can bring upon diarrhea and throwing up in dogs. Fatty foods can also make dogs more vulnerable to pancreatitis, which is a potentially deadly disorder that involves the pancreas swelling. Keep all chocolates out of your pet's mouth, period. Never feed your dog any human food unless your veterinarian tells you that it's safe.
By Naomi Millburn
AAHA Healthy Pet: Chocolate is Dangerous for Pets
ASPCA: Why is Chocolate Bad for Dogs?
ASPCA: Dogs and Chocolate
VCA Animal Hospitals: Chocolate Poisoning for Dogs
The Complete Healthy Dog Handbook; Betsy Brevitz
The Veterinarians' Guide to Your Dog's Symptoms; Michael S. Garvey and Anne E. Hohenhaus
Willits Veterinary Hospital: Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs
High Plains Veterinary Hospital: Chocolate Poisoning
Pulaski Animal Hospital: Chocolate - Sweet and Poisonous
About the Author
Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.