During Halloween week last year calls to Pet Poison Helpline concerning dogs that ingested chocolate increased by 209% over a typical week at the 24-hour pet poison control center. Despite increased awareness over the past few years, chocolate poisoning continues to pose a serious danger to dogs, especially at Halloween.
“During the week of Halloween, our total call volume increases by about 12 percent, and the majority of those calls involve dogs that ate chocolate,” said Justine Lee, DVM, DACVECC and associate director of veterinary services for Pet Poison Helpline.
One such dog was Thor, an 8 month old Great Dane puppy. While his owner was away, he ingested four entire two-and-a-half pound bags of Halloween candy, most of which contained milk chocolate. Upon finding the empty candy bags and a very sick 95-pound puppy, Thor’s owner immediately called Pet Poison Helpline. Thankfully, Thor’s stomach was so upset from ingesting nearly 10 pounds of chocolate candies, he vomited on his own. According to his owner, “What he left behind was about the size of an over-filled dinner plate.” Thankfully after carefully monitoring his condition with Pet Poison Helpline, it was determined that Thor didn’t need to be hospitalized.
Of all candy, chocolate is most poisonous to dogs. Many dogs are inherently attracted to the smell and taste of chocolate, making it a significant threat. In general, the darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more poisonous it is. The chemicals in chocolate that are dangerous – methylxanthines – are similar to caffeine and more heavily concentrated in the darker varieties. In fact, just 2-3 ounces of Baker’s chocolate can make a 50-pound dog very sick. Milk chocolate, on the other hand, is less dangerous. It can take up to a pound of milk chocolate to cause poisoning in that same 50-pound dog. White chocolate rarely causes true chocolate poisoning because it contains very low amounts of methylxanthines; however the high fat content may result in pancreatitis (see Candy Overindulgence below).
Pet Poison Helpline recently produced a video with information about chocolate poisoning titled “Kitchen Dangers” available online: http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/Ask-the-Vet-Videos.
If you think your dog may have ingested chocolate, call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline right away for medical assistance. Untreated, chocolate poisoning in dogs can result in vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, agitation, increased thirst, an elevated heart rate, or seizures.
Other Halloween food-related hazards for pets are candy wrappers, raisins and general candy overindulgence.
This Halloween season, help keep your dogs and cats safe and keep chocolate and other holiday fare out of their reach. If you think your pet has ingested something poisonous, it is always better (and less expensive) to get help immediately. Contact your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680 for life-saving help.