Dogs + Chocolate = Death

Jake E. Lou

I didn’t lose my dog Jake last night, but I could have. I left a bar of chocolate on the coffee table and went into the other room to conduct a podcast interview. Before walking out I thought: don’t forget to pick up the chocolate bar.

When I came back an hour later the wrapper was on the floor, along with pieces of foil, and the chocolate was nowhere to be seen. Although I’ve been a dog mom for ten years, I didn’t know how dangerous chocolate really is. I knew it was bad for them, but the truth is they can, and often do, die from ingesting it.

Chocolate contains the chemical theobromine which is poisonous to dogs. And since they metabolize theobromine more slowly than humans, it can take six hours or more for the signs of poisoning to begin. There are two more factors. One is the amount of cocoa since that’s where the theobromine is. For example, extremely dark chocolate is much worse than milk chocolate and white chocolate usually won’t poison them.

Very dark chocolate typically contains 130–140mg of theobromine per ounce whereas milk chocolate has 44mg per ounce and white chocolate has .25mg per ounce. The chocolate I eat is 88% dark!

The other factor is the dog’s weight and how much they’ve consumed. The poisoning occurs when the dog has eaten more than 100–150mg (200mg tops) per kilogram of body weight. But they can become ill from eating as little as 20mg per kilogram of body weight.

The culprit that could have killed my dog!

I thought my dog had consumed a little under 3 grams (85,000 mg) and per his body weight, anything amount over 550 mg can be toxic. I didn’t know this when I rushed him to the emergency pet hospital, but it was three hours before they saw him. They induced vomiting, but he didn’t throw up any chocolate. I assumed I had arrived too late, and it was already being digested.

Symptoms can include: excessive panting, restlessness, increased thirst and heart rate, excessive urination, tremors, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and ultimately heart failure.

After putting down my credit card, paying several thousand, because his life is my responsibility and my priority, I went home to wait. I called each hour, and they kept telling me he was fine, no signs or symptoms. Seven hours after I surmised he had ingested the chocolate bar, I grew suspicious. There was no way my senior dog who gets a tummy ache from eating too much food or even a small amount of peanut butter would be fine after eating 154x the amount of theobromine that would kill him. So I started the search. I lifted up the corner rug of my coffee table and there was chocolate on the underside, which told me it had slipped under the rug. Now my dog is tenacious and he will eat pretty much anything. He survived on the streets for several weeks, scavenging for food and water before I adopted him. So I figured he’d pulled it out from that corner, but due diligence drove me to keep searching. I lifted the center of the rug and found more chocolate smeared on the back. My spirits lifted. I pushed my head underneath the rug and there, in the center, under the heavy table, was the entire chocolate bar! He had torn off parts of the foil and there were some teeth marks on the top from that, but not a single square was missing.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t go into the emotions surrounding this. It was my fault. A bunch of friends and even my therapist were on hand and they all told me it was an accident and while I don’t disagree, it’s still my responsibility to make sure poison is not within reach of my dog’s mouth. He’s a dog. They eat stuff. I felt tremendous guilt last night. How could I not? And had he actually eaten it and died, I would have held myself responsible for the rest of my life. Would I move on and come to terms with it and deal with it and work through it, yes, but that kind of guilt weighs heavily on a person. It’s truly a lesson. We do make mistakes, every single one of us. I did not leave that chocolate bar there on purpose but I also didn’t know how toxic chocolate truly is to dogs (and cats).

It was a hard and expensive lesson to learn, but I am beyond grateful for this little blue carpet, heavy coffee table and slippery chocolate bar. I now have a second chance to make sure my little guy stays safe and I hope this helps other animals stay safe too.

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Kimberly Anne

Kimberly Anne

Full-Time Digital Nomad (currently in a van traversing the US). IG:@MyUnknownAdventure -Podcast and YT: My Unknown Adventure Website: www.myunknownadventure.com