So what is the deal with dogs and chocolate anyway?
The Holidays give plenty of opportunities for dogs to get into chocolate. Lots of people have heard “chocolate is bad for dogs”, but what does that actually mean?
Any amount of sugar and fat can upset the stomach and intestines, so even white chocolate that lacks any real cocoa can cause vomiting and diarrhea. But to get into the true toxic effects you need the actual cocoa. The toxic components of cocoa act in the body in the same way adrenaline does.
A mild reaction, on top of stomach upset, could be like “coffee jitters”. A 40 lb dog would get there with 6 oz (170 g) of milk chocolate, 2 oz (60 g) of semi-sweet, and only 0.8 oz (23 g) of baker’s chocolate.
A moderate-to-severe reaction may involve heart effects, from an irregular racing rhythm (“palpitations”) up to possible cardiac arrest. In our 40 lb dog, that would take 12 oz (340 g) of milk chocolate, 4 oz (120 g) of semi-sweet, and only 1.6 oz (45 g) of baker’s chocolate.
At even higher levels of chocolate ingestion, a dog could have full out seizures.
Consumption of enough to get into the heart effect or seizure range has to be considered potentially life threatening.
If your dog eats chocolate, grab the wrapper (to identify how rich the chocolate is), make note of the amount eaten, and get to a vet (if it is after business hours, go to an Emergency Clinic!). They will try to decrease how much gets absorbed into the body, and give medications to help manage the dangerous effects.