Most people are aware that they shouldn’t feed their dogs chocolate, but what happens if your husky accidentally gets their paws on a bar of chocolate? We regularly get messages from panicked owners, concerned their dog may drop dead from eating a square of Dairy Milk or Hershey’s.
Why Is Chocolate Poisonous To Dogs?
Chocolate contains an ingredient called theobromine, which is a stimulant (a bit like caffeine) and while usually harmless to humans, it’s toxic to dogs. The levels of theobromine in chocolate varies, for example: dark chocolate contains twice as much of the toxin as milk chocolate and is therefore gram for gram, more dangerous to your dog. Pure cocoa beans contain about 1.2% theobromine, while processed chocolate contains lower amounts. Theobromine isn’t exclusive to chocolate. it’s also found in beverages such as tea and cola.
The issue is that dogs process theobromine much more slowly than humans and therefore can easily digest enough chocolate to cause poisoning. Also bear in mind, that chocolate contains other ingredients harmful to dogs such as high levels of sugar and fat.
“After 17 hours, half of the theobromine a dog has ingested is still in the system.”
Denver veterinarian Kevin Fitzgerald, PhD
Theobromine poisoning can be fatal!
What Symptoms Should You Look For?
- Vomiting, which may or may not include blood
- Rapid breathing
- Muscle tension
- Elevated heart rate
- Increased urination
Often dogs eat chocolate without their owners realising, so if your dog exhibits any of the above symptoms or if you think your dog may have eaten chocolate, phone your vet immediately for advice.
So How Much Chocolate Is Too Much?
As a hard and fast rule, you should never feed chocolate to your husky, or any other animal for that matter. But there’s always a chance your dog may accidentally eat some chocolate. Doses of Theobromine in the range of 100-150 mg per kg of your dogs weight are toxic to dogs and potentially fatal. While cats have an even lower threshold, they cannot taste the sweetness and are therefore much less likely to eat it, whereas dogs will eat almost anything they can get their paws on.
Approximate levels of theobromine per 50 grams of chocolate:
- White chocolate: Minimal amounts of theobromine due to the absence of cocoa (keep in mind white chocolate still contains high levels of sugar and fat, and therefore shouldn’t be fed to your dog).
- Milk chocolate: 88-128 mg theobromine.
- Dark chocolate: 300-320 mg theobromine.
- Baking chocolate: 780-900 mg theobromine.
- Dry cocoa powder: 1600 mg theobromine.
The levels of theobromine will differ depending on brand, growing conditions and sources of the cocoa beans.
Therefore a Husky weighing 20kg, would need to ingest 1kg (1,000 grams) of milk chocolate to have a potentially fatal toxic reaction. Whereas they’d only need to consume about 1/2kg of of dark chocolate, considering dark chocolate contains over double the dose of theobromine. Owning a husky myself and knowing the mischief they can get in to, I would strongly recommend keeping your house free of baking chocolate and cocoa powder, as small doses can be fatal. If you absolutely must keep these products in your house, please ensure they’re kept well out of reach of your dog, personally they scare me to death.
Even at lower levels of theobromine, your dog is likely to display symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea. A 20kg husky will likely develop diarrhoea from eating a 200g bar of milk chocolate, whereas 750g can cause serious symptoms such as seizures.
It’s not always possible to tell exactly how much chocolate your dog has eaten, it’s even more difficult to calculate if they’ve eaten a box of chocolate chip cookies. If you’re concerned, please err on the side of caution and contact your vet immediately, better safe than sorry I say.
What To Do If Your Dog Has Eaten Chocolate?
It all depends how much and the type of chocolate your furry friend has eaten, and of course the size of your dog. If your 20kg husky has eaten a 200 gram bar of Dairy Milk, then it’s likely to cause nothing more than stomach upset and perhaps diarrhoea.
If your dog has ingested a potentially fatal amount of chocolate, the best thing to do is quickly induce vomiting. The traditional but has been to give 1:1 ration of water and hydrogen peroxide, but concerns have been raised that this can cause esophageal ulcers. According to Dr. Michelle DeHaven from Cumberland Animal Clinic, a safer alternative to induce vomiting is syrup of ipecac. By inducing vomiting, you’re limiting the amount of theobromine that will enter the system. But the sooner you can get your dog to the vet, the better, time is critical.
What Is The Best Treatment For Theobromine Poisoning?
There’s no treatment as such, but if you haven’t already, your vet is likely to induce vomiting.
Other treatments may include:
- Activated charcoal to prevent further absorption of the remaining toxin.
- Fluids and intravenous drugs to limit seizures.
Even if your dog has eaten a potentially fatal amount of chocolate, immediate intervention and treatment can be the difference between life and death. If you act quickly, prognosis is generally good.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, the information provided on this page is based on my own experience and research. If unsure, always call your vet immediately.