While chocolate is a delicious and fun treat for humans, it is poisonous to pets. If your dog has consumed chocolate, it is important you know what to do to ensure their health and safety.
If your pooch managed to sneak a single chocolate chip or a bit of brownie dropped on the floor before you could pick it up, do not panic, ingesting a small amount of chocolate is unlikely to cause severe complications. However, as some chocolates (such as baker’s chocolate or dark chocolate treats) are more toxic than others, you should monitor your pet for symptoms of chocolate poisoning and call your veterinarian to make sure they are safe.
Pets experiencing chocolate poisoning can experience symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, inflammation of the pancreas (i.e., pancreatitis), an abnormal heart rhythm, seizures, and in rare cases, death.
Another complication that can result from your dog getting into your candy stash is the wrappers. In small dog breeds, candy wrappers can result in a secondary obstruction in the stomach or intestines.
What’s in it
When dealing with pets and chocolate, remember: Dark chocolate = dangerous!
Milk and dark chocolate contain methylxanthines (such as theobromine). If ingested, this chemical can cause health complications in pets.
Dark chocolate contains the highest amount of theobromine, meaning baker’s chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, cocoa powder, and gourmet dark chocolates are more toxic than milk chocolate treats. White chocolate will not cause chocolate poisoning in pets due to its low levels of theobromine.
Threat to pets
The risk of chocolate poisoning increases with the amount of chocolate consumed. While it is unlikely that our pets will experience severe chocolate poisoning from a small bite of a candy bar, how much chocolate is a dangerous amount? Some general guidelines to remember:
- Ingesting more than 0.5 ounces of milk chocolate per pound of body weight may put dogs at risk for chocolate poisoning.
- Eating more than 0.13 ounces per pound of dark or semi-sweet chocolate may cause poisoning to dogs.
- If your pet has ingested any amount of baker’s chocolate, seek emergency treatment as chocolate poisoning is likely.
- Young animals, pets with underlying diseases, and older pets are at an increased risk for chocolate poisoning and must be treated more conservatively
- Some pets may develop pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) after eating chocolate or baked goods containing chocolate due to the high fat content.
What happens if a dog eats chocolate?
In mild cases, your pet may experience mild vomiting and diarrhea. This is more common in pets who have ingested small amounts of chocolate.
In severe cases, chocolate poisoning can result in severe agitation, tachycardia (elevated heart rate), abnormal heart rhythms, tremors, seizures and collapse.
If your dog has eaten chocolate, call your vet and start treatment quickly. The first step will be to induce vomiting and give multiple doses of activated charcoal. If needed, your pet will be given IV fluids. Your pet may also be given sedatives to help calm them down.
In more severe cases, additional treatment may be needed such as administering medications to reduce heart rate and blood pressure, anti-convulsants for seizures and antacids (such as Pepcid) for stomach discomfort and diarrhea. Theobromine may be reabsorbed across the bladder wall, so a urinary catheter or frequent walks will be needed to keep the bladder empty.
Pets who have ingested a small amount of chocolate typically recover quickly with minimal issues (they are likely to experience a mild upset stomach).
Pets with mild chocolate poisoning symptoms (like mild stomach upset or slight restlessness) have an excellent prognosis.
Pets experiencing severe signs of poisoning such as collapse and seizures, have a poor prognosis
|White chocolate||0.25 mg/oz||0.85 mg/oz|
|Milk chocolate||44-60 mg/oz||6 mg/oz|
|Dark semisweet||135 mg/oz||20 mg/oz|
|Unsweetened baker’s chocolate||390-450 mg/oz||47 mg/oz|
|Dry cocoa powder||400-737 mg/oz||70 mg/oz|
|Cocoa beans||300-1500 mg/oz||–|
|Cocoa bean mulch||56-900 mg/oz||–|