My friend would feed her dog pieces of Kit Kat every now and then because he “loved it” and he lived to be 14 years old! But if chocolate is toxic, how come her dog lasted so long?
What makes it poisonous?
The fact is that chocolate contains Theobromine, a bitter chemical compound found in the cocoa plant. Animals metabolize this chemical much slower than humans which can lead to poisoning. However, the quantity of Theobromine found in different types of chocolate varies significantly, making some chocolates more poisonous than others.
Milk chocolate contains about 40-60 milligrams of Theobromine per ounce. The general rule for milk chocolate is that one ounce of Theobromine per pound of your dog’s weight is toxic. There are 16oz. of chocolate in a pound, thus your average Shih Tzu (weighing 10 lbs) would have to eat an entire pound of milk chocolate to be in serious condition. A regular sized Kit Kat bar contains approximately 1.5oz of milk chocolate, which means that same Shih Tzu could eat the entire chocolate bar in one sitting and still be reasonably okay. Perhaps he would have a stomach ache or mild diarrhea, but nothing to rush to the vet for.
Dark and Semi-Sweet Chocolate
Dark and semi-sweet chocolate contain roughly 150-160mg of Theobromine per ounce. This means that the same 10-pound Shih Tzu would need to ingest only 1/6 of a pound of dark chocolate to be at risk of Theobromine poisoning.
Even more toxic than dark and semi-sweet, unsweetened chocolate contains 450mg of Theobromine per oz. A mere ounce of unsweetened chocolate is toxic to a 10 pound Shih Tzu.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is white chocolate, which contains so little Theobromine that poisoning is unlikely. It would take 125 pounds of white chocolate to cause signs of poisoning in your little Shih Tzu…which I suppose wouldn’t be so little after consuming that much chocolate.
Signs of Theobromine poisoning in animals:
You can tell if your dog or cat has ingested a toxic amount of chocolate within the first few hours by a few symptoms including: significant vomiting, diarrhea, and bloating. More advanced poisoning signs include seizures, rapid panting, frequent urination and increased heart rate. Chocolate poisoning can lead to comas or even death from cardiac arrest, although these are rare occurrences.
Below is a helpful calculator for determining just how much chocolate is too much for the size of your dog. This way the next time Fido sneaks that Toblerone out of your purse, you can make sure he won’t get into trouble…from the chocolate at least.
Calculator provided by Ask A Vet Question.
If you’re unsure about your dog’s weight, click here: Dog Weight Chart