It's almost time for Halloween, which means lots of candy in the house. Much of that candy contains chocolate, which many of us crave. Unfortunately, your dog may have the same cravings! Why is chocolate so dangerous for our pets?
Chocolate contains compounds called methylxanthines, specifically theobromine and caffeine. Most of us are familiar with the caffeine boost, and theobromine produces similar effects that last a lot longer. It can take up to 4 days for a dog to completely process theobromine.
Not all chocolate is the same. White chocolate is mostly fat and doesn't contain much theobromine, so while it may cause GI upset and pancreatitis, white chocolate is the least toxic variety. The most toxic type of chocolate for your pet is baking chocolate, which has a greater concentration of theobromine. Semi sweet/dark chocolate and milk chocolate fall in the middle of the toxicity spectrum, while chocolate flavored cakes and cookies typically have low levels of toxic compounds.
This means that 2 ounces of milk chocolate can be toxic to a 10# dog - that is just 7 Hershey’s miniature bars! Just 1/2 an ounce of semi-sweet chocolate (2 dark chocolate miniatures) or 1/4 ounce of baking chocolate (1 tiny square) will be dangerous for the same size dog. It doesn't take much.
Signs of chocolate toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, fast heart rate and irregular heartbeats, tremors, seizures, and even death if the dose is high enough. If you catch your dog chewing on the bag of Halloween chocolates, call us or the emergency clinic right away. Inducing vomiting is useful if the ingestion just happened. The dog’s body is already absorbing the toxin after just an hour, but inducing vomiting up to 4 hours after ingestion can reduce the toxic amount absorbed. After inducing vomiting, the next step is to administer medication to prevent further absorption of the toxic substance and give the pet needed supportive care while they process the toxins.
The best prevention is keeping all chocolate away from your pets! Keep the chocolate in a place the dog can't get into, and teach your children that chocolate is for people only – it is ok to share with friends but not the pets!
We hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable Halloween!