Most pet parents know that they shouldn’t feed their pets chocolate, but the number of pet food poisoning cases always tends to spike at the end of October due to excessive amounts of Halloween candy in the home.
While chocolate is a delicious treat for people, ingesting even small amounts can be fatal to pets. So if your four-legged friend is notorious for sniffing out where candy is stashed, it’s important to know how much chocolate warrants an emergency visit to the vet.
Chocolate is very dangerous to pets because it contains a substance called theobromine. While trace amounts of it may merely cause your pet to have tummy troubles, larger amounts can cause serious discomfort, or even be lethal.
Dr. Jennifer Maniet, on-staff veterinarian at pet insurance company Petplan, says the severity of symptoms will vary depending on the type of chocolate your dog ingested, how much they ate, and their weight. Signs of chocolate ingestion (and possible toxicity) include vomiting, panting, diarrhea, agitation, increased thirst, and in severe cases, seizures.
Unfortunately, you could be looking at an expensive vet bill if symptoms are bad enough to warrant an emergency visit. Petplan estimates that the average cost of treating pet food poisoning is roughly $830.
Calculating chocolate toxicity
Maniet says that baking chocolate is the worst for dogs, with roughly 450 milligrams of theobromine per ounce. The second worst is dark chocolate at 160mg/oz, followed by milk chocolate at 64mg/oz and white chocolate at 1mg/oz.
To calculate your pet’s risk for chocolate-related health issues, follow these steps:
Multiply the ounces ingested by the milligrams of theobromine per ounce.
Divide that number by the weight of your dog.
If the number is close to (or more than) 20, then the toxicity is at dangerous levels.
“Even if a pet is not in the danger zone, the sugar and dairy will likely have GI effects, like vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity or lethargy,” says Maniet. “These issues can be serious all on their own, so it’s best to visit the vet when a furry friend gets into mischief.”
Avoiding costume-related mishaps
Unfortunately, Halloween treats aren’t the only dangerous products that pets can consume this time of year. Consumers will also have to keep pets from swallowing parts of costumes if they are being dressed up for the holiday.
Foreign body ingestions are consistently in the top 10 claims submitted to Petplan each year and cost an average of $1,872 to treat. Costumes with frills and other features that could be easily chewed off can put pets at risk, says Maniet.
To keep costumed pets safe, she advises that pet parents ensure that pets can see and move freely and that any costume is free of frills that can be chewed off and swallowed. Additionally, be aware that elaborate costumes in warm climates can cause a pet to overheat or dehydrate.
“And remember: if a dog feels too constricted in his costume, ditch the threads and take him trick or treating in his one-of-a-kind, no-assembly-required dog suit,” she added.