Can chocolate kill dogs?

With St. Valentine’s Day looming and more and more chocolate on the shelves ( I saw Easter eggs replacing the christmas selection boxes at the end of December!) it’s a good time to help kids understand just what effect chocolate has on their beloved friend.

Chocolate is poisonous to dogs; however, the potential toxicity of chocolate to your dog depends on the type of chocolate, the amount consumed and your dog’s size. In large enough amounts, chocolate and cocoa products can kill your dog.

What’s wrong with chocolate?

  • The toxic component of chocolate is theobromine. Humans easily metabolize theobromine, but dogs process it much more slowly, allowing it to build up to toxic levels in their system.
  • A large dog can consume more chocolate than a small dog before suffering ill effects.
  • A small amount of chocolate will probably only give your dog an upset stomach with vomiting or diarrhea.
  • With large amounts, theobromine can produce muscle tremors, seizures, an irregular heartbeat, internal bleeding or a heart attack. The onset of theobromine poisoning is usually marked by severe hyperactivity.

The usual treatment for theobromine poisoning is to induce vomiting within two hours of ingestion. If you are worried or suspect that your dog may have eaten a large quantity of chocolate and they are showing any of the signs listed above, call your vet immediately.

If you have a small dog that has eaten a box of chocolates, you need to call and go to your veterinarian right away. Do not wait.

Different chocolate types have different theobromine levels. Cocoa, cooking chocolate and dark chocolate contain the highest levels, while milk chocolate and white chocolate have the lowest. If you’re dealing with any quantity of dark or bitter chocolate, err on the side of caution. The high level of theobromine in dark chocolate means it takes only a very small amount to poison a dog. Less than an ounce of dark chocolate may be enough to poison a 44-pound dog.

Never consider chocolate as a reward.

 

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