What to do if your dog ate chocolate

I know this whole thing about dogs and chocolate can be confusing. There is our “normal” chocolate, there is “dog chocolate”, then you hear about your neighbor’s dog who ate a whole bar but is fine, but you saw on TV that a dog died from eating a piece of birthday cake…argh.

I really do understand all this confusion, and that’s why I decided to write this article 🙂

Because as vets, we get a lot of these “should I come?” calls. And I’m always glad when an owner at least calls and asks, rather than having a collapsing dog on my examination table when it might be already too late.

I think it’s important for you as the owner to know all the facts. So if your dog ever eats a chocolate bar, you’ll know the risks. (And you’ll call your vet 😉 )

Is chocolate really bad for dogs?

I get asked this question a lot, unfortunately.
So first of all – yes, chocolate is bad for your dog, yes, it can be life-threatening and yes, you should take your pet to a vet.

There are a few foods that are toxic to cats and dogs, and chocolate is one of them.

We rarely see chocolate poisoning in cats, however, in dogs, it does happen a lot. As opposed to cats, dogs usually aren’t picky eaters, love sweet flavors, and can easily find your hidden secret chocolate stash.

So if you are a dog owner, you should know what to do if your dog ate your Valentine’s Day Candy (or Christmas candies…or your kid’s Halloween candies… 🙂 ).

Chocolate poisoning is actually Nb. 1 in the top 10 most common toxins that Pet Poison Helpline gets called about. So better to learn about it before something happens.

Banners web planner 1040 × 400 px

Why is chocolate bad for dogs?

Chocolate is made from roasted cocoa beans. Cocoa beans contain methylxanthines, especially theobromine, and a small amount of caffeine. They are both toxic to cats and dogs.

The lethal dose of both caffeine and theobromine is reportedly 100–200 mg/kg body weight, however, already 20mg/kg can cause clinical symptoms. And there’s also individual sensitivity to methylxanthines – some dogs can tolerate it a bit more, some a bit less.

To put it another way – One ounce (ca 28g) of milk chocolate per pound of body weight is a potentially lethal dose in dogs.

The amount of methylxanthines in chocolate or cocoa products varies. The darker and less sweet the chocolate, the more toxic it can be to dogs. Baker’s chocolate and dark chocolate pose the greatest risk. Unsweetened baking chocolate and cocoa powder usually contain more than 14 mg of theobromine per gram. Semisweet dark and milk chocolate often contain around 5 and 2 mg of theobromine per gram.

Signs of chocolate poisoning in dogs

One ounce (ca 28g) of milk chocolate per pound of body weight is a potentially lethal dose in dogs

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning depend on the type and amount of chocolate, as well as your dog’s individual sensitivity.

Clinical signs can take several hours to develop and can last for days.

Symptoms can range from vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, increased thirst, and elevated heart rate to tremors, seizures, and coma. Death may occur from cardiac or respiratory failure.

is chocolate bad for dogs

What to do if your dog ate chocolate

Call your vet immediately.

There is no antidote to theobromine poisoning. As I said before, it all depends on the amount and type of chocolate. Treatment consists of multiple doses of active charcoal and supportive or intensive medical care.

If you manage to get your dog to a vet within 2 hours after ingestion, he can induce vomiting. This will remove the toxins from the stomach and thus prevent their further resorption. However, after those 2 hours inducing vomiting is no longer effective.

Call your vet immediately if your dog ate chocolate or if you have a suspicion that your dog might have eaten chocolate.

One more question I get a lot:

Is white chocolate bad for dogs?

Well, technically, it’s not really chocolate since it doesn’t contain cocoa particles 🙂 Therefore it’s considered to be an insignificant source of theobromine.
But while it’s not toxic to your dog, it doesn’t mean it’s good for him. It can cause a number of other issues like dental problems, overweight due to high fat and sugar content…

So please, don’t feed your dog any kind of chocolate, there are better treats for dogs which I promise he will like more 🙂

If you want to learn more about pet health, you can sign up for my newsletter. Now you can get a free pet care planner as a bonus 🙂


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *