With Easter just around the corner, many pet parents might be nervous about all the chocolate the Easter bunny will leave around. However, not all chocolate is created equal and not all chocolate is toxic to dogs. This does not mean that any chocolate is safe to feed your dog, however. To help you understand we will give you a rundown of the least and most toxic forms of chocolate, but first let’s talk about what it is that makes chocolate a potential health risk for dogs.
Chocolate contains substances called methylxanthines. The two most common being caffeine and theobromine which both affect the central nervous system, cardiovascular system and to a smaller extent blood pressure. As humans, we are able to breakdown and excrete these compounds much more effectively than dogs, which is why we are not as susceptible to toxicity.
Now to which chocolates are the most dangerous; in general, the darker and more bitter the chocolate the more dangerous it is. That’s to say, that if a 50 pound dog ate 2 ounces of white or milk chocolate there is very little risk of toxicity. However, if the same dog was to eat the same amount of baker’s chocolate or cocoa powder, there is a much greater risk of poisoning.
Here is a chart for quick reference, or you can check out this easy to use toxicity calculator.
A general rule is that mild symptoms such as upset stomach and diarrhea can occur at approximately 20 milligrams of methylxanthines per kilogram of the dog’s body weight. Cardiotoxic effects at 40-50mg/kg, seizures at >60mg/kg and potential fatality at >100 mg/kg. Of course, these are general levels and can vary greatly depending on the individual dog’s ability to break down the methylxanthines.
Here is a chart of some common household items that could pose a threat and the levels of caffeine and theobromine they contain.
Please keep in mind that even though lighter chocolate may not have enough methylxanthines to be toxic, it still has a lot of sugars and fats that can lead to pancreatitis, or other illnesses.