Give chocolate to your loved ones's on Valentine's day and you could end up poisoning them; that is the loved ones are your pets! Even small amounts of theobromine, the active ingredient in chocolate, can cause vomiting, hyperactivity, and accelerated fatal heart rhythms in pets. Larger doses can be fatal.
While most pet parents would expect an upset stomach after any dietary indiscretion, few realize the toxic potential of chocolate. The lethal dose of theobromine depends on the size of the dog and the type of chocolate. Ounce for ounce, baking chocolate has 6-9 times the amount of the substance as milk chocolate.
Estimates of the smallest amounts that can be fatal are:
~4-10 ounces of milk chocolate or 1/2-1 ounce of baking chocolate for small dogs such as Chihuahuas and toy breeds.
~1-1/2 pounds of milk chocolate or 2-3 ounces of baking chocolate for medium sized dogs, like cocker spaniels and dachshunds.
~2-4 1/2 pounds of milk chocolate or 4-8 ounces of baking chocolate for large dogs, including collies and Labrador retrievers.
Cats and smaller mammals have different eating habits and therefore are much less likely to be poisoned by chocolate ingestion.
While a very small amount of chocolate may not harm some pets, it's best and safest to avoid giving it to them at all! If an accidental ingestion does occur consult your veterinarian immediately. Treatment is time sensitive and may include induction of vomiting, stabilizing the animal's heartbeat and respiration, controlling seizures, and slowing the absorption of theobromine. If the animal is already comatose otehr emergency intervention may be necessary to save your pet's life.
What should you do if you think your pet has ingested chocolate or any other potential poison and if you cannot reach your pet's vet or a local veterinary emergency hospital keep the following number handy 888-426-4435 for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center and the website www.aspca.org.