Did you know that 35 million people will receive heart-shaped chocolate boxes this Valentine’s making it the busiest day for veterinarians to field calls and treat chocolate poisoning in dogs?
If you have a dog, you are likely aware that chocolate and dogs are a notoriously bad combination and can have lethal consequences. Even tho chocolate is poisonous to dogs, it won’t stop your dog from trying to eat it. Dogs have eaten whole pans of brownies, entire chocolate cakes and boxes of chocolates and all of them ended up at the vet.
Why is Chocolate Toxic to Dogs?
Unfortunately for man’s best friend, chocolate is toxic and can cause severe poisoning and even death. That’s because chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine (a stimulant similar to caffeine). Dogs can’t process theobromine, so the levels accumulate and become deadly.
Different types of chocolate contain different amounts of theobromine. Dark or baker’s chocolate contains 10x more theobromine than milk chocolate. Levels vary from 130mg to 450mg of theobromine in an ounce of dark chocolate to 44mg to 58mg in an ounce of milk chocolate.
It only takes 115mg of theobromine per 2.2 pounds of body weight to kill a dog. To put that in perspective, 2 ounces of dark chocolate or 20 ounces of milk chocolate could kill a 20-pound dog. That’s equivalent to approx. three-fourths of a dark Ghirardelli chocolate bar or four and a half Hershey chocolate bars.
If your dog happens to snag a few chocolates on the sly, you’ll want to look for symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, or hyperactivity. For larger consumption, you will notice an increase in your dog’s heart rate, muscle twitching, excessive panting, restlessness, and increased urination. If not treated immediately, it can lead to hyperthermia, muscle tremors, seizures, coma, and death.
If you know your dog ate chocolate, don’t do the math – call your veterinarian immediately.
Prevention is the Best Strategy
Store chocolate in a top-level cabinet or the refrigerator where it is not accessible by your dog. Dogs are sneaky, smart, and they enjoy the taste of chocolate, so choose a good hiding place.
Never leave chocolate out on counters or coffee tables. If you want to leave chocolates out for guests, secure your dog in another room or leave them with a friend for the night.
Have a heart shaped box at home that you are dying to dig into? Secure your dog in another room while enjoying your treats. Eating chocolate in front of your pup will tempt them to find it later. Remember that they have extra powerful noses, so they’ll remember the scent and hunt it down later.
Doggy Safe Valentine Recipes
Feeling bad that you can’t share your Valentine treats? There are ways you can make treats for your pup by substituting carob for chocolate. Here are recipes that you and your dog will enjoy!
This blog was originally published on February 4, 2014 and updated on January 10, 2023.