How Chocolate Can Poison Your Dogs

Chocolate is dangerous to dogs, as it can poison them due to its high fat content and the substance theobromine.

Dogs Have Trouble Metabolizing Chocolate Ingredients

High fat content can cause gastric distress to your dog's digestive system. Theobromine is similar to caffeine and can also be found in coffee, tea, soda and other foods.

The reason theobromine is more dangerous to cats and dogs is because their bodies metabolize the chemical slower than our bodies do, causing it to build up in the blood stream, which can over stimulate their heart and nervous system. One piece of chocolate can cause theobromine to sit in the blood stream for nearly one day.

The Toxic Amount

The amount of chocolate that is poisonous to your pet relies on your pet's weight and what kind of chocolate has been consumed. White chocolate has the least concentration of theobromine, while baking chocolate has the greatest concentration.

White Chocolate - This contains very little theobromine because it contains very little cocoa bean. Toxicity occurs when 45 oz. per pound of body weight is consumed. A 10 lb. dog would have to consume 28 lbs. of white chocolate, while a 20 lb. dog would have to eat 56 lbs. to show signs of toxicity. Though theobromine poisoning seems unlikely from this sort of chocolate, the high fat content will cause gastric upset.

Milk chocolate - Toxicity occurs with about .7 oz. per pound of body weight consumed. Therefore, a little less than half a pound (.7 oz) of milk chocolate is dangerous to a 10 lb. dog, while a 20 lb. dog would have to eat a little less than a pound (14 oz.) of milk chocolate to show signs of poisoning.

Semi-sweet/Dark chocolate - 1/3 of an ounce (.3 oz.) per pound of body weight can be toxic to your dog. A 10 lb. dog needs to ingest only 3 oz. (about 1 average chocolate bar), while a 20 lb. dog would have to swallow 6 oz. (3 chocolate bars) to show symptoms of illness.

Baking chocolate - As little as .1 oz. per pound of body weight ingested can cause toxicity. A 10 lb. dog would need to consume only 1 oz., or 1 square of baking chocolate to become ill. A 20 lb. dog would need to consume only 2 oz. or two squares of this kind of chocolate to become sick. This chocolate contains the highest amount of theobromine and very little is needed to make your pet very ill.

Symptoms of Theobromine Poisoning

Nausea Vomiting Diarrhea Increased urination Increased heartbeat Hyperactivity Muscle spasms Seizures Cardiac arrest Death

In small amounts, chocolate will cause digestive upset, vomiting and diarrhea. If these symptoms worsen or do not clear up within 4 to 6 hours, or you suspect your pet of eating a large amount of chocolate, it is vital you contact your vet immediately.