What to do if Your Dog Eats Chocolate

Most pet owners are aware of the fact that chocolate is toxic to dogs. Knowing what to do in the event that your dog eats chocolate is equally important. The ingredient in chocolate that is toxic to dogs is a stimulant called theobromine, the same substance that is responsible for giving humans the positive mood associated with eating chocolate. It is ironic that something that is so good to us can be so bad for our furry friends. But, keeping yourself informed is the best way to keep your pet safe from the deadly affects of ingesting chocolate.

Theobromine’s affects are primarily seen in the heart, central nervous system, and kidneys. Symptoms can occur within 4-24 hours after your dog has eaten chocolate and will vary depending on the amount of chocolate your dog has eaten.

Symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Restlessness or hyperactivity
  • Rapid breathing
  • Muscle tension and incoordination
  • Increased heart rate
  • Seizures
  • Even death

The amount and type of chocolate eaten can give varying affects depending on the amount of theobormine present. Theobromine is more concentrated in dark chocolate than in milk chocolate, making it more of a threat. Dogs should never be given chocolate in any amount, but if they have managed to get a hold of some these are some guidelines you need to be aware of:

Serious toxic reactions can occur with ingestion of about 100 to 150 milligrams of theobromine per kilogram of body weight.

That means:

  • A 9-pound dog could be expected to show symptoms of chocolate toxicity after eating 1 ounce of baking chocolate, 3 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, or 9 ounces of milk chocolate.
  • A 27-pound dog might have such symptoms after eating 3 ounces of baking chocolate, 9 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, and 27 ounces of milk chocolate.
  • A 63-pound dog might exhibit symptoms after eating 7 ounces of baking chocolate, 21 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, or 63 ounces of milk chocolate.

If your dog has eaten any amount of chocolate treatment may be necessary so contact your vet as soon as possible. Try to find out how much chocolate your dog has eaten, what type of chocolate it was (if you are not sure, check for wrappers) and when the chocolate was eaten. This will help your vet determine whether your dog has eaten a toxic dose or not and what treatment your dog will need.

While there is no antidote to theobromine ingestion, the most usual response is to make your dog vomit. After a couple of hours of ingestion, however, vomiting is no longer an option as the food makes it’s way into the intestines. Feeding activated charcoal which can be bought over the counter, is usually given afterward to absorb any theobromine left in the intestine. Other treatments may be determined depending on the signs your dog is showing. An IV may need to be inserted to provide your pup with fluid medication in order to control heart rate, blood pressure, and seizure activity.

Prompt intervention and treatment is key in order to help, even dogs that have eaten large amounts of chocolate, to make a full recovery.

This information should not replace getting help from a vet. If your dog has ingested chocolate in any amount, please call your vet immediately for further instructions. 

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