As we celebrate Valentine’s Day each February, it is important to keep in mind that one of our favorite romantic treats can be toxic to our favorite fuzzy buddy.
Chocolate contains two substances that can be harmful to dogs: Theobromine and Caffeine.
Theobromine interferes with a dog’s body functions by stimulating the central nervous system and affecting the heart and kidneys.
The lethal dose of Theobromine and Caffeine in dogs is between 100 mg and 200 mg per kilogram of body weight. However, severe symptoms of poisoning can occur at much lower doses.
Different kinds of chocolate contain different amounts of Theobromine and Caffeine. In addition, your dog’s size and sensitivity to these substances will determine how toxic chocolate can be to them individually. Levels of these substances can also vary between brands.
Generally, the amount of Theobromine and Caffeine in various types of chocolate are:
White Chocolate: 1 mg per ounce
Milk Chocolate: up to 64 mg per ounce
Dark Sweet Chocolate/Semisweet Chocolate: up to 160 mg per ounce
Instant Cocoa Powder: 151 mg per ounce
Unsweetened Baking Chocolate: up to 450 mg per ounce
Dry Cocoa Powder: 800 mg per ounce
White Chocolate is the least toxic of all the types of chocolate and Baking Chocolate and Cocoa Powder are by far the worst offenders when it comes to toxicity to dogs.
Dogs can get a taste for chocolate. Even if your pet can handle small amounts without getting sick, don’t offer it to them. They can find the flavor addicting and will sniff it out and eat it at any opportunity.
The early symptoms of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, increased urination and restlessness. As time goes on and your pet absorbs more Theobromine into their system, you may notice lack of coordination, muscle twitching, hyperactivity, increased heart rate and raised blood pressure. These can lead to seizures, coma, heart arrhythmia, hyperthermia, and ultimately death.
If your pet has eaten chocolate, seek veterinary help immediately! Your veterinarian may recommend emergency treatment. Don’t forget to tell them what kind of chocolate and how much you suspect has been ingested.
Please remember to keep your Valentine’s Day treats out of your pet’s reach!
— Janni Kimble, RiverWoods Pet Hospital