When your dog gets his or her paws on some chocolate, it is important to get treatment as quickly as possible. If your pet eats a tiny bite of chocolate, he or she will likely not have any serious issues, however it is still important to know what steps to take to ensure your dog is safe. Dogs that ingest a small amount of chocolate will likely not have any negative effect on their health, but it is still crucial to make sure they are in the clear, as some types of chocolate have a higher toxicity than others. For instance, baker’s chocolate and dark chocolate pose a big problem, while milk chocolate is less concerning, as it contains a smaller amount of the chemical that causes chocolate poisoning in dogs.
Both 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.
Humans love chocolate: it tastes delicious and is a fun treat every now and then. While we sometimes can’t help sneaking some human food to our pets, it’s important for anyone interacting with your pet to know that chocolate cannot be on the menu.
Not only is your dog in danger from the poison of chocolate, but chocolate wrappers that are consumed by your pet can also be detrimental to their health. Small dog breeds that eat candy wrappers can develop a secondary obstruction in the stomach or intestines.
What’s in it
A phrase to keep in mind when dealing with your pet and chocolate: 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 likelihood of your dog suffering from chocolate poisoning increases with the amount of chocolate they eat. This brings about a big question: how much chocolate can our dog eat before it gets too dangerous? For the most part, dogs are unlikely to have severe chocolate poisoning if they accidentally eat a single chocolate chip or sneak a lick or two of chocolate pudding. Here are some guidelines:
- 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, your dog may suffer from a small amount of vomiting and diarrhea. Dogs who have eaten a small amount of chocolate could have these symptoms.
In more serious cases, chocolate poisoning can result in severe agitation, tachycardia (elevated heart rate), abnormal heart rhythms, tremors, seizures, and collapsing.
If your dog has consumed chocolate, call your vet and get your dog treated as quickly as possible. The first step is to induce vomiting and give multiple doses of activated charcoal for decontamination. 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.
Pets that have consumed a small amount of chocolate will likely recover quickly with minimal to no issues (a mild upset stomach, for instance).
Pets showing small signs of poisoning (such as mild upset stomach or slight restlessness) have an excellent prognosis.
Pets with more extreme and serious signs of poisoning (such as collapsing 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||–|