Dog owners beware!  There is a lot of candy available during the Halloween season, and most of it is not good for your dog. Unfortunately, too much candy can actually cause death in animals. Dogs should never have chocolate. They love it, and it’s tempting to give them just a bite, but chocolate is simply not safe for dogs.  According to the ASPCA’s Animal Control Center, dogs ingesting chocolate is one of the common reasons for phone calls from both pet owners and veterinarians.

What about chocolate is so bad you ask?  The culprit is Theobromine, found in all chocolates in varying degrees. The darker the chocolate, the more Theobromine it contains.  This list shows the various types of chocolate listed from least dangerous to most dangerous:

  • White Chocolate
  • Milk Chocolate
  • Semi-sweet Chocolate
  • Baker’s  Chocolate

The variance in amounts of Theobromine in white chocolate and baker’s chocolate is huge – white chocolate typically has 1mg of Theobromine per ounce of chocolate whereas baker’s chocolate has a whopping 465 mg per ounce.  Theobromine is a chemical similar to caffeine. When we eat chocolate, we metabolize it within 40 minutes or less.  When a dog ingests Theobromine, it is still active in their systems 17 hours later, and causing damage.  Small amounts of chocolate can cause diarrhea and/or vomiting.  Toxic amounts eaten causes tremors, high blood pressure, hyperactivity, a rapid heart rate, seizures, respiratory failure, and cardiac arrest.

All chocolate can cause issues, and even death, so great care needs to be taken to ensure your dog never eats chocolate. There are many factors that determine the impact of chocolate on your dog. 

  1. What type of chocolate did your dog eat?
  2. How much does your dog weigh?
  3. How healthy is your dog?
  4. How old is your dog?

According to the Merck Veterinary Manuel, one ounce of milk chocolate per pound of body weight in your dog is potentially lethal, so it doesn’t take much for small dogs.  Just 2.25 ounces of baking chocolate can cause death in a 22 pound dog.  Obviously the smaller the dog, the bigger the problem since dogs will wolf down a candy bar quicker than you can get to it.  If your dog is older or in poor health to begin with, the more dangerous chocolate will be – so again, keep all chocolate up high where your dog can’t possibly get to it.

If the worst has happened and your dog got into the Halloween candy and ate chocolate, what do you do?  First, call your vet or the Pet Poison Hotline for advice at 800-213-6680.  Please note that there is a fee for this service.  The ASPCA pet Poison Hotline number is 888-426-4435.  There may be a fee for consultations.

In most cases, you’ll be asked the same questions as above. If your dog has not yet vomited, they will probably recommend inducing vomiting, which is accomplished by using syrup of ipecac, or giving your dog a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water mixed one to one. If your dog is having seizures, agitation or hyperactivity, get it to a vet as soon as possible so it can be treated – your dogs heart needs to be protected to avoid death.

One other warning not typically associated with chocolate – avoid using cocoa shell mulch if you own dogs.  Dogs love the taste and you guessed it – they can get theobromine poisoning from it.

Please, enjoy the holiday season, and trick or treating – it’s fun!  Just remember that your four-legged friend cannot have chocolate, but he can sure enjoy the fun in other ways! And here are further Halloween safety tips for your pets.