My Dog Ate Chocolate

“My dog ate chocolate.” This sentence is scary for every pet owner, and while your dog eating a morsel of chocolate may not cause any issues, it is still imperative to keep an eye on your dog after the fact. Dogs that ingest a small amount of chocolate will likely not suffer from any negative health effects, however it is still a very good idea to keep an eye on your pet, as some types of chocolate are more poisonous than others. Baker’s chocolate and dark chocolate are the most detrimental to dogs, while varieties such as milk chocolate contain less of the chemical that leads to chocolate poisoning in dogs.

All kinds of milk and dark chocolates contain methylxanthine (like theobromine). This chemical is poisonous to pets if ingested, and results in vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, inflammation of the pancreas (i.e., pancreatitis), an abnormal heart rhythm, seizures, and in rare cases, death.

Chocolate is loved by most of us, and is a popular household treat for humans. Because of this, it is important to ensure anyone interacting with your pet knows that dogs cannot and should not eat chocolate.

An additional complication that may result from your dog getting into your candy stash is wrappers. For small dog breeds, candy wrappers can result in a secondary obstruction in the stomach or intestines.

What’s in it

When it comes to chocolate, here’s a good phrase to remember: Dark chocolate = dangerous!

Dark chocolate contains a high amount of theobromine, which means baker’s chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, cocoa powder, and gourmet dark chocolates are more dangerous for pets than milk chocolate treats. White chocolate contains very little theobromine and will not cause chocolate poisoning in pets.

Threat to pets

The more chocolate a dog eats the likelier they are to suffer from chocolate poisoning. So, how much chocolate can your dog eat before it becomes a serious issue? Dogs are generally unlikely to undergo severe chocolate poisoning if they accidentally eat a small bite of a candy bar or sneak a few licks of chocolate pudding. Listed below are some rules of thumb:

  • 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 milder cases, chocolate poisoning may result in a small amount of vomiting and diarrhea. Dogs who have eaten a small amount of chocolate may suffer from these symptoms.

In more serious cases, chocolate poisoning can result in severe agitation, tachycardia (elevated heart rate), abnormal heart rhythms, tremors, seizures, and collapsing.

Treatment

If you know your dog has consumed chocolate, call your vet and get your dog treated as soon as possible. The first step is to induce vomiting and give multiple doses of activated charcoal to decontaminate. If needed, your pet will be given IV fluids, and sedatives may be given to keep your pet calm. In more severe cases, additional steps will be taken, including administration of heart 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.

Prognosis

Pets who have ingested a small amount of chocolate are likely to recover quickly with minimal issues (they are most likely to experience a mild upset stomach).

Pets exhibiting small signs of poisoning (such as mild upset stomach or slight restlessness) have an excellent prognosis.

Pets with severe signs of poisoning such as collapsing and seizures, have a poor prognosis.

Product Theobromine Caffeine
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