Containing chemicals called methylxanthines, chocolate is a stimulant with both Theobromine and caffeine being active ingredients. Much like stimulant drugs such as amphetamines and cocaine hurt humans by overworking the heart, the stimulants in chocolate hurt dogs by doing several things simultaneously like quickening the heart rate, hyperactive behavior, and changing your dog’s overall metabolic rate.
Chocolate toxicity is serious. There is NO SAFE AMOUNT of chocolate that dogs can consume. All chocolate is bad for dogs.
The kind of chocolate your dog consumes and how much is consumed are two key factors in determining the lethality of consumption. Both factors need to be weighed against the dog’s body weight.
Dogs will begin to show symptoms of chocolate toxicity after consuming just 20 mg of methylxanthines per kilogram of body weight.
At 40 mg/kg, most dogs will begin to have heart problems.
At 60 mg/kg, dogs will often begin to have seizures, which can be lethal.
A basic equation to use is that an ounce of chocolate per one pound of body weight can be lethal. That means a personal size snack of M&Ms for example, that is 11.4 ounces would be lethal for dogs 11 pounds and lighter. Using this formula, 3 pounds of chocolate would be lethal for a 50-pound dog – but only if it’s milk chocolate.
The kind of chocolate a dog consumes is a big deal – dry cocoa-based chocolates (brownies, cakes, for example) are the worst for dogs. A brownie packed with chocolate chip cookies would be far worse for a dog to eat than, say, chocolate pudding. Both are bad, but the denser chocolate made from cocoa powder will require a visit to the vet much faster for any dog than chocolates made from milk.
Here’s a list of the amount of methylxanthines per gram for different kinds of chocolate:
28 mg/g – dry cocoa powder
16 mg/g – unsweetened baker’s chocolate
5 mg/g – sweet dark chocolate
2 mg/g – milk chocolate
Symptoms of chocolate toxicity include:
- unusual heart rhythms
- increased heart rate
- increased thirst
- elevated blood pressure
- elevated body temperature
If you see any symptoms above or if you are worried about your dog having eaten any chocolate, contact your veterinarian immediately.
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