Dangers of chocolate for your dog
Chocolate is a sweet treat enjoyed with a cup of tea, hidden behind paper doors at Christmas, or delivered by the Easter bunny. While fine (albeit naughty) for us, it should all be hidden from our canine companions as digesting even a little bit of chocolate can make them ill.
We saw thousands of claims for toxic ingestion in dogs in 2022, with the average treatment costing £468.55. Of these claims, 37.5% were for puppies under one year old.
With so many different kinds of chocolate available, we look at how the different types have an impact on our dogs.
Why is chocolate dangerous for dogs?
Chocolate is made from cocoa, and within this cocoa is a chemical called theobromine. Dogs aren’t able to break down theobromine like we’re able to, and the slower rate of metabolism can have drastic effects on their bodies.
All chocolate includes theobromine, but it comes down to the type and amount of chocolate compared to your dog’s breed and weight.
A toxic dose of theobromine could be as low as 20 mg per kg, so it is worth remembering that a small dog could be poisoned by a much smaller amount than a big dog.
While white chocolate contains the least amounts of theobromine – around 0.9 mg of theobromine per 100g – it also contains other ingredients that could prove fatal to your dog. These include cocoa butter, butterfat and milk solids as well as higher concentrations of sugar.
So, don’t be tempted to give your dog a piece of your white chocolate as the other ingredients could have a bad effect on your dog.
Some milk chocolate will contain cocoa solids as well as cocoa butter and other ingredients like milk and sugar. These help water down the toxic theobromine, but with levels ranging from 150-220mg per 100g, it can still pose a threat to your dog and make them ill.
Cooking chocolate and dark chocolate contain the largest amounts of cocoa with extremely high levels of theobromine – reportedly ranging from 450-1600mg per 100g. These levels are extremely dangerous for dogs, very possibly fatal too, even if only a small portion is consumed.
Cocoa can be found in all sorts of ingredients and food you might have in your cupboards. From powdered drinks like hot chocolates to cake ingredients such as bars of cooking chocolate. These can be just as harmful to our dogs, if not more, depending on the cocoa levels.
So, avoid giving your dog any baked treats that might contain cooking chocolate, as this sweet treat can pose the greatest dangers to your dog.
Effects of chocolate poisoning in dogs
If you haven’t seen your dog eating chocolate it can actually take several hours for symptoms to appear, and it’s important to spot them if they occur.
At lower doses around 20mg/kg, the initial signs may become visible – symptoms can include:
- Hyperactivity or irritability.
- A sore and tender stomach.
- Increased urination.
If your pet has diarrhoea or vomits, this may smell of chocolate, which can be a useful indicator of the cause.
Cardiac symptoms may start to be seen at doses of around 40mg/kg – with symptoms such as:
- Rapid breathing.
- Racing heart.
- Heart arrhythmias (heart rhythm problems).
- High blood pressure.
Neurological effects may become apparent at doses around 60mg/kg, including symptoms such as:
- Muscle tremors or twitching.
- Warm to touch.
Larger doses will be increasingly serious – with fatalities having been recorded around 200mg/kg, or as a result of complications occurring from other effects.
What to do if your dog has eaten chocolate?
If you know your dog has eaten chocolate, don’t wait for the signs and symptoms to show and contact your vet straight away. Don’t forget Joii Pet Care is there to support you 24/7, even on Christmas and Boxing Day. A free service for Animal Friends dog and cat customers, the vets at Joii can let you know what to do depending on what and how much your dog has eaten.
If you have the packaging of what they’ve consumed then keep this, as this will help you and the vet see how much, and what kind of chocolate was eaten.
What are the alternatives to chocolate?
There are plenty of dog treats out there, with some shops offering pet-friendly chocolate for our dogs to enjoy. If you want to give them something a little different then why not make your own dog-friendly goodies?
How to prevent dogs from eating chocolate
It’s important to keep chocolate away from dogs so storing them in a high cupboard or in the fridge will prevent them from eating what they shouldn’t. At Christmas, the risk increases with chocolate hung from trees, hiding in advent calendars and given as gifts so never leave your dog alone in a room where chocolate is kept.
Kids love sharing with their friends so always make sure to teach them about what dogs can and can’t eat or just stick to giving pet-friendly treats as rewards for your pooch.