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Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs – An Up-To-Date Guide

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs includes excessive thirst (polydipsia), vomiting, diarrhea, hyperexcitability, cardiac arrhythmia, tremors, and seizures.  Theobromine (the compound in chocolate that is toxic to dogs) is slow to digest.

For that reason, you might not see any symptoms up to 24 hours after ingestion.  The more likely scenario would have you seeing symptoms 6 – 12 hours after ingestion.

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What To Do If Your Dog Eats Chocolate

Don’t panic.  If a dog eats chocolate, the effects aren’t instant, which means you have time to get help. The first thing you should do is call poison control (or your licensed veterinarian) for advice.   

PET POISON CONTROL ($59 incidental fee) 
855-764-7661

Naturally, the earlier the toxins can be cleared from the dog’s body the better.  Erring on the side of caution is always a good idea when it comes to our dogs.  

The person on the phone is going to have a lot of very specific questions for you. You should be prepared to tell that person the type of chocolate eaten (milk, dark, white, baker’s, etc.), amount eaten, weight of your dog and dog breed.  Do not wait to see symptoms of chocolate poisoning in your dog before getting help.

Lethal Doses Of Chocolate in Dogs

A lethal dose of theobromine (the compound toxic to dogs) is reported to be 100 – 500 mg per kg of body weight in dogs.

For perspective, a 50 pound dog would only need to swallow 9 ounces of milk chocolate to potentially show signs of poisoning.

Convert Metric to Imperial 

You can use this link to calculate and convert from metric to imperial.

What Happens Next?

Whether you phone your veterinarian or Poison Control, you will likely be asked to try and induce vomiting in your dog before bringing them to the veterinarian. This is get as much poison out of the system as quickly as possible.

BEFORE that, it’s important to assess whether your dog is healthy enough. For example, conditions that affect the respiratory system may cause the dog to inhale vomit into the lungs.  Brachycephalic breeds are most at risk for this. A brachycephalic dog is one that has a flattened face rather than a snout-like appearance. English bulldogs, French bulldogs, Boston Terriers, etc., are examples.

How to Induce Vomiting in Your Dog

The only way to safely induce vomiting in a dog is by giving the dog a specific, one-time dose of hydrogen peroxide. 

The suggested dosage is approximately 0.5 – 1 ml per pound.  For perspective, 15 mls equals 1 tablespoon.  

Never try to stick your finger down the dog’s throat or administer any caustic agents or chemicals.  Ask your veterinarian or pet poison control for advice on how to safely induce vomiting.

Will My Dog Die of Chocolate Poisoning?

As long as you act quickly by phoning poison control or the veterinarian, inducing vomiting, and bringing your dog in for immediate treatment, your dog will likely be fine.  

The quicker those toxins can be blocked with activated charcoal, the better off your dog is going to be.

Getting the Poison Out 

Once you’re at a clinic with your dog, the veterinarian will want blood work done. This will indicate how much toxin is in the blood and whether or not the organs have been affected. 

The best the veterinarian can do is induce vomiting, administer activated charcoal, and provide intravenous fluids.  

Activated Charcoal is a carbon that absorbs and prevents toxins from infiltrating through the body.  It can only retrieve the toxins that haven’t already passed through the gut. 

Check out this YouTube video on chocolate toxicity in dogs:

Is All Chocolate Toxic For Dogs?

Chocolate toxicity depends on the amount of theobromine and caffeine ingested.  Not all chocolates contain the same amounts. However, it’s important to note that a veterinarian will always assume the worst-case scenario. Better to over-treat than under-treat in this case.

White Chocolate

White chocolate is made by mixing cocoa butter with milk solids and sugar.  This confection isn’t considered as serious an issue for dogs, primarily because it doesn’t contain cocoa liquor or chocolate solids.

According to Ahna Brutlag, DVM, MS, DABT, DABVT, Associate Director of Veterinary Services, Pet Poison Helpline:

“White chocolate barely poses any threat of chocolate poisoning with only 0.25 mg of theobromine per ounce of chocolate (that said, dogs can still get sick from all that fat and sugar, which can cause pancreatitis). To put this in perspective, a medium-sized dog weighing 50 pounds would only need to eat 1 ounce of baker’s chocolate, or 9 ounces of milk chocolate, to potentially show signs of poisoning. For many dogs, ingesting small amounts of milk chocolate is not harmful.”

Milk Chocolate 

Milk chocolate includes all types of candy bars, brownies, cookies, puddings, etc.  Each of these products may contain varying amounts of theobromine and caffeine.   

If you get the dog to the vet within two hours of ingesting chocolate, the veterinarian will likely induce vomiting and administer activated charcoal to remove the toxins from the body before they can be absorbed into the bloodstream

Dark Chocolate 

Dark chocolate contains the highest levels of theobromine and caffeine because it is more concentrated than other forms of cocoa.  Dark chocolate is thought to provide humans with antioxidants.  In a dog, the stuff can be deadly.

Chocolate Toxicity Calculator

Petsci.co.uk has an amazing toxicity calculator that you can access here.

Just enter your dog’s weight and any amount of chocolate to see what effects it would have. The calculator is meant to inform and enlighten, not to take the place of professional veterinarian care or advice.

Anecdotally, I know several people with dogs of various sizes who have accidentally gotten into the cookie jar, or the chocolate drawer, and no toxic symptoms were witnessed.  I certainly don’t recommend taking a casual attitude about it, but I think it’s reassuring to note that, as Dr. Brutlag (above) suggests, small amounts of chocolate are probably not going to be fatal.

Holidays Are Made For Chocolates

When any holiday rolls around – Easter, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, birthday parties, etc., chocolate ends up being a theme.  As we enjoy ourselves with family and friends, our routines are thrown off and what we’d normally think to do (hint: hide the chocolates from the dog) might not happen.

It’s easy to get distracted with all the chaos of holidays. Dogs can easily find a way to get into those chocolates so pay particular attention during these times.  A little bit of chocolate is one thing, but when the pack leader isn’t looking, your beloved pooch might take liberties with as much as he can get. 

Leaving Your Dog with a Pet Sitter?

Before hiring any dog walker or dog/house sitter, make sure they understand the symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs. In fact, they should have a good awareness of all potentially toxic items in and around the house. Make sure that person has your phone number AND the phone number of your veterinarian on hand – just in case.

At the end of the day, the biggest concern is the size of the dog, the amount of chocolate, and more specifically the TYPE of chocolate.  Remember, the darker the chocolate the more potentially dangerous it can be for your dog.

Thanks for sticking around! You’ve now got some pretty good information on chocolate toxicity in dogs so why keep it to yourself! Go ahead and share this post for me!

Remember, I’m not a veterinarian.  Always bring your dog to a licensed veterinarian for medical advice and diagnosis.

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