One of the most commonly known facts about dogs is how dangerous it is for them to eat chocolate. Being a pet parent can be difficult, and despite the best supervision and preventative measures, accidents can happen.
While many responsible pet owners are so careful with their dogs, they can’t keep an eye on them all of the time. It only takes a second for a dog to ingest a piece of candy or a chocolate chip cookie. If your dog somehow snagged a bit of chocolate, don’t panic quite yet.
Again, it’s pretty well-known that chocolate is a toxic food for dogs, but just how dangerous is it? Can a trace amount of cocoa powder bring on severe cases?
The answer varies. Factors include the size and breed of the dog and the quantity and what type of chocolate they have consumed.
Read this article to learn about what can potentially occur if your dog gets chocolate. It will go over everything that you need to know about in this situation, starting with the first steps to take once you realize your dog has consumed this food. This article will also touch on why chocolate is bad for dogs, the toxicity of different types of chocolate, and how much a dog can eat without becoming extremely sick.
Discover the telltale signs to keep an eye out for that can indicate your dog has consumed too much chocolate. Finally, learn how to treat them in the instance they’ve ingested too much of this food.
Talk to a vet about it — for FREE.
If you're nervous about whether your dog has ingested toxic amounts of chocolate, talk to a vet now; don't wait. There are a few reasons why this is the easy answer and the best thing that you can do for both you and your dog in such a situation.
First, talking to a vet can provide you with the peace of mind you need in these stressful situations. If you’re worried that your dog ate a potentially toxic amount of chocolate, learning that your canine companion will be just fine can save you quite a bit of worry.
Secondly, with all health-related matters, it’s always better to act sooner than later. This means that your pet will have better chances of making a complete recovery from their chocolate consumption than they would if you wait it out to see how they are and then call a vet.
Third, talking to a vet can help you figure out what your options are. In some cases, you might find that your dog needs to be brought in to an in-person vet instantly. In other cases, the vet might advise that you keep a watchful eye on them and monitor symptoms. Either way, you can’t go wrong by getting a professional’s opinion on how you should handle the problem.
You’re probably wondering, why are dogs not allowed to have chocolate in the first place? Humans have very little to fear when eating chocolate. For pets, however, the result of eating chocolate can be devastating.
And while most pet owners keep a mental list of all those foods their pets need to stay away from, they may not know exactly what it is about those foods that are so dangerous for their pups.
“The toxic components in chocolate are stimulants called methylxanthines, specifically theobromine and caffeine,” says Jennifer Coates, DVM, who serves on the advisory board for Pet Life Today. Dogs are much more sensitive to methylxanthines than people are. In other words, it’s important that you keep chocolate out of your dog’s diet.
Methylxanthines are medications that work as a muscle relaxant on smooth muscles and as a heart stimulant. It can cause rapid breathing and feelings of restlessness. In fact, you may recognize these symptoms. This chemical is often found in coffee.
Beyond chocolate, there are other foods to avoid: Onions, grapes, and garlic can be a threat. Additionally, while many dogs love peanut butter, the sweetener xylitol is often used, which is dangerous to pets.
What if your dog got into some dark chocolate? Perhaps you haven’t considered if dark chocolate is more toxic for your pet, but this is certainly something to take into account—and something to mention to your vet when you talk to them.
In general, the darker the chocolate, the higher its methylxanthine content. “Milk chocolate typically contains around 60-70 mg of methylxanthines per ounce. Dark chocolate is around 155 mg per ounce, while baker’s chocolate can be as high as 500 mg per ounce,” said Coates.
But it’s more than the ingredients; it’s also that chocolate has a good amount of fat, which that’s bad for dogs as well. “Many products containing chocolate are high in fat and can lead to pancreatitis in dogs after ingestion regardless of their methylxanthine content,” says Coates.
Think of it this way: if your dog has consumed bitter, dark chocolate, that’s even more of a reason to get a vet’s opinion on their case...and as soon as possible.
Lastly: white chocolate. While it’s not as popular as some other variations of the food, and therefore, you might be less likely to have it lying around, it’s still essential that you know what to do if your dog ingests some of it.
White chocolate, on the contrary, doesn’t pose a significant threat to chocolate poisoning for dogs. This is because it only contains about .25 mg of theobromine per ounce.
Still, you don’t want your dog to get a hold of any type of chocolate. This is because the fat and sugar content can have truly terrible consequences for dogs. Therefore, regardless of the type of chocolate your dog consumed (or the amount), it never hurts to get a vet’s opinion on how you should proceed with treating your pet.
Don't wonder. Get a vet's opinion — for free.
If you’re attempting to figure out if your dog could have chocolate poisoning, you might be calculating how much chocolate they had. The amount of chocolate consumed can make an impact on the outcome, of course. You should also have detailed notes about how much chocolate you think your pet ate before you talk to a vet. This can help them get a better idea of what the situation at hand is.
Methylxanthine content is partially responsible for the toxicity of chocolate. While this is true, theobromine is also something to take into account. Theobromine is one of the toxic components of chocolate. “Mild toxicity is seen at 9mg of theobromine per pound of dog, and severe toxicity is seen at 18 mg theobromine per pound of dog,” says Dr. Angie Krause, DVM, CVA, CCRT from “I and love and you.”
Another dangerous component in chocolate is caffeine and is found at approximately 10% the amount of theobromine. “In essence, it depends on the type and amount of chocolate ingested compared to the weight of the dog,” said Dr. Krause.
The darker the chocolate, the more caffeine, and theobromine are present. For example, baker's chocolate is more dangerous compared with milk chocolate.
Ultimately, if you have any questions about how much chocolate is toxic for your pet, you should reach out to a vet and get their input. Not only will a vet be able to help give you ways that you can treat your dog, but they will also provide you with a clearer understanding of how much chocolate is toxic for your individual dog.
In addition to contacting your vet, you can use a chocolate toxicity calculator to determine how much danger your pet is in.
If you think that your dog ingested a dangerous amount of chocolate, we urge you not to panic until you talk to the vet. They can help you learn more about your dog’s condition and help calm your worries.
As a general rule of thumb, you should take into account several factors while attempting to determine if your pet ate a toxic amount of chocolate. The amount of chocolate your pet ingests, as well as your pet’s size, will determine the seriousness of the risk.
For example: “A Golden Retriever who eats a single M&M is going to be just fine,” says Jen Jones, the founder of Your Dog Advisor, a leading blog for dog owners. However, says Jones, a six-pound Yorkie who ingests half a Hershey bar, is in serious trouble.
If you suspect your dog ate chocolate, you might be wondering what symptoms you should keep an eye out for. Knowing what to monitor will help you act faster if symptoms arise. As with humans, the symptoms of a food reaction will vary between pets.
“Symptoms of chocolate toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, excitability, tremors, a high heart rate, abnormal heart rhythms, and seizures,” says Coates. Chocolate toxicity can be fatal without appropriate veterinary care.
If you know that your pet ate chocolate, your best bet is to reach out to a vet as soon as you can. This increases the odds that your pet will be alright. Waiting for symptoms to appear can be risky, and you’re losing valuable time that a vet could be helping your pet recover.
To determine whether a dog got a dangerous amount of chocolate, you need to know how much was eaten, what kind of chocolate was eaten, and the dog’s weight. “Symptoms usually start to develop when dogs eat around 9 mg methylxanthines per pound body weight. Severe illness is possible at around 19 mg per pound body weight,” clarifies Coates.
If you are unsure of these, once again, your best bet is to double-check with a trusted veterinarian. Remember: when it comes to your pet’s life, there’s no such thing as being too careful.
It can be tricky to figure out your next steps once you realize your dog got chocolate. You could try to treat your dog in one of these ways if they ate this food. However, your best option is always to get an expert’s opinion that can give your animal individualized care.
Stop Googling. Get a vet's opinion on it.
Talk to a veterinarian if your dog could have eaten a potentially toxic amount of chocolate so that you know how to proceed immediately. “Treatment can involve making the dog vomit, cleaning out the stomach through a procedure called gastric lavage, administering activated charcoal, and providing supportive and symptomatic care,” explains Coates.
If you fear that your dog ate a lot of chocolate, this is definitely not a vet visit that can wait until the next day or morning, if it’s a weekend or overnight. Instead, you should get a vet’s opinion as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, many dogs ingest chocolate around celebratory holidays like Christmas or Easter. This means that your regular vet might not be open. That’s just one reason why 24/7 telehealth visits for pets are such an ideal option. With Pawp, there’s no appointment necessary and no wait. Contact trusted, experienced vets at any time, and they’ll help steer you and your dog in the right direction.
Activated charcoal may also be recommended to help absorb whatever is left in the dog’s system. “The usual dose for activated charcoal is 1 to 4 grams per kilogram of weight,” says Connie Monico, the veterinary specialist at the thedogadventure.com. The powder may come in capsules or loose in a container. “It can typically be purchased at a health food store or even online,” says Monico. Of course, your best option is to ask a vet if this is the right plan of attack.
If the chocolate has recently been ingested and it was a toxic dose, it is possible to use hydrogen peroxide to cause your pup to vomit, says Dr. Krause. Once again, you’re better off asking a vet’s opinion before you attempt this at home.
If the ingestion was hours ago and severe symptoms are present, hospitalization and medical therapy are warranted. It’s important to call your veterinarian immediately if any symptoms occur.
At Pawp, the vets understand how frightening it can be for your dog to be at risk of chocolate poisoning. That’s why they’re here to help. The most important thing you can do as a responsible pet owner is getting a professional’s opinion on how to treat your pet. If you do that, then your dog has a better chance of making a full recovery.