Sharing your love by giving chocolate to your furkid on Valentine’s Day or Halloween and you could end up poisoning them. That is, if the loved ones include any pets. Even small amount of theobromine, an ingredient in chocolate, can cause vomiting and restlessness in pets. Larger doses can be fatal.

The Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association reported that a springer spaniel died from accidental theobromine poisoning after eating a 2-pound bag of chocolate chips. Unaware of theobromine hazards, the dog’s owner did not seek veterinary care until it was too late. The pet became agitated, lost its bladder control and developed seizures. Less than 18 hours after eating the chocolate, the animal died.

While most pet owners expect a dog to develop an upset stomach after eating a large amount of chocolate, few realize its toxic potential. When pets are finally taken to veterinarians, they are often in more advanced states than if they had eaten something obviously toxic, like rat poison.

The lethal dose of theobromine depends on the size of the dog and the type of chocolate. Ounce for ounce, baking chocolate has six to nine times as much of the substance as milk chocolate. Estimates of the smallest amounts that can be fatal are:

  • 4 to 10 ounces of milk chocolate or ½ to 1 ounce of baking chocolate for small-sized dogs, like Chihuahuas and toy poodles.
  • 1 to 1 ½ pounds of milk chocolate or 4 to 8 ounces of baking chocolate for medium-sized dogs, such as cockers and dachshunds.
  • 2 to 4 ½ pounds of milk chocolate or 4 to 8 ounces of baking chocolate for large dogs, including collies and labs.

Cats have much different eating habits and seldom are poisoned by chocolate.

While a very small amount of chocolate may not harm some dogs, it’s safest to avoid giving it to them at all. If an accident occurs, consult your veterinarian immediately. Treatment may require inducing vomiting, stabilizing the animal’s heartbeat and respiration, controlling seizures and slowing the absorption of theobromine. If the animal already is comatose, its stomach may need to be pumped.

Keeping the chocolate out of harm’s way is the loving thing to do.