understanding chocolate toxicity in dogs (with a link to a chocolate toxicity meter)

The shimmering wrappers were strewn all over the floor of my sister's condo. And there was an empty bag of Dove dark chocolate. No, she hadn't gone on a midnight binge, she'd just returned home from work to find Darby, my dogphew, sick as a dog after indulging. The dangers of chocolate toxicity in dogs hits close to home. 

My sister hadn't even left the confections within reach. Darby had figured out how to push chairs around, so he was able to independently mount one and reach the upper pantry shelves. And of course he chose chocolate. This guy was destined for trouble. 

She immediately rushed Darby to the vet, and the vet tech rushed him into the back room to pump his stomach. When the veterinarian came out to give my sister an update, he said "sheesh, it smells like a bakery back there!"

Though he added some levity to the situation, the danger Darby faced was no joke. He had consumed a lethal amount of chocolate, and they'd gotten to him just in time. He would be okay. After the stomach-pumping, Darby became so dehydrated that he needed subcutaneous fluids. He would go home to rest and survive the ordeal. He was lucky. 

Though chocolate poses a year-round danger to dogs, Halloween and the surrounding days see the highest number of vet visits due to canine chocolate consumption. (Chocolate is also toxic to cats, but cats rarely eat it.) 

But why is chocolate so toxic to dogs?

According to PetMD,

Chocolate is derived from the roasted seeds of Theobroma Cacao, which contains certain properties that can be toxic to animals: caffeine and theobromine. If ingested, these two ingredients can also lead to various medical complications and may even prove fatal for your dog. 

PetMD has developed an interactive Chocolate Toxicity Meter that can be helpful in determining which amounts of various types of chocolate can be toxic to your dog based on his weight. The meter also lists symptoms for each level of toxicity.

Click here to go to the Chocolate Toxicity Meter.

I recommend checking out the Chocolate Toxicity meter before your dog consumes chocolate as a precaution, especially if your dog is the piggish type, more likely to seek out food. If you have some idea of what amount of chocolate would be detrimental to your dog before there is a crisis, you'll be better prepared to take appropriate action quickly. 

If you have small children, make sure you let them know about the dangers of chocolate to the family pets. Children love to spread out their Halloween haul on the floor to check it out. They may think it's cute that Fido steals a few pieces. Or they may absentmindedly leave their candy unattended. Make sure you have a safe spot for candy, even if that means locking your pantry. 

If you are unsure of the quantity of chocolate your pooch has consumed, it's always best to take your pooch to the vet as a precaution. 

Has your dog ever gotten into your chocolate stash?

Chocolate image source: petinsurance.com