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Dogs and Chocolate: Get the Facts

Most of us have heard that chocolate can make dogs sick. But how serious is the risk?
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Dogs and Chocolate: How Much is Too Much? continued...

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, one ounce of milk chocolate per pound of body weight is potentially lethal.

But the real danger lies with dark chocolate. Merck warns that deaths have been reported with theobromine doses as low as 115 milligrams per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight.

So 20 ounces of milk chocolate, 10 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, and just 2.25 ounces of baking chocolate could potentially kill a 22-pound dog, Fitzgerald says.

Serious toxic reactions can occur with ingestion of about 100 to 150 milligrams of theobromine per kilogram of body weight.

That means:

  • A 9-pound dog could be expected to show symptoms of chocolate toxicity after eating 1 ounce of baking chocolate, 3 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, or 9 ounces of milk chocolate.
  • A 27-pound dog might have such symptoms after eating 3 ounces of baking chocolate, 9 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, and 27 ounces of milk chocolate.
  • A 63-pound dog might exhibit symptoms after eating 7 ounces of baking chocolate, 21 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, or 63 ounces of milk chocolate.

“In 27 years of practice, I’ve seen two dogs die from eating chocolate,” says Fitzgerald, who appears regularly on Animal Planet’s hit show Emergency Vets. “Both were under 20 pounds, both were elderly and both ate baking chocolate in very large amounts.”

Although most people would not eat a 4-ounce bar of bitter-tasting baking chocolate, this is not true of dogs, he says.

“Dogs experience the world through tasting it, and they are gorgers,” he says. “Baking chocolate tastes good to them.”

Your Dog Ate Chocolate: Now What?

DeHaven, who owns Cumberland Animal Clinic in Smyrna, says she typically gets two to three calls a month from owners whose dogs have eaten chocolate.

When an owner calls, she asks how much and what kind of chocolate the dog has eaten and the dog’s weight.

“If a 60-pound golden retriever eats a bag of Hershey’s kisses, there isn’t too much to worry about,” she says. “The dog will probably have a stomachache, but not much else.”

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