Melissa cares for a variety of exotic animals and has completed a certificate in veterinary assisting and a bachelor's degree in biology.
Dr. Mark, U of Missouri Veterinary Medicine grad and 40+ years working with dogs, exotics and livestock
Chocolate Is Toxic to Dogs
Unfortunately, chocolate is a common household substance that dogs can get a hold of with relative ease. Despite our best efforts, it is normal to let your guard down once in a while and discover that your pet has ripped open a bag of your favorite chocolate candy. Don't feel bad if this accidentally happens. While you should remain calm, chocolate toxicity should be taken seriously.
Most owners are aware that chocolate can potentially be harmful to canines, but just how much does your dog need to consume before they should be taken to the vet? Here are the steps you should take if your dog has eaten chocolate.
Symptoms of Chocolate Toxicity
Do not wait for symptoms to show up. Symptoms can take 6–12 hours to appear, and by then, veterinary care will be required (extensive and costly). Do not attempt to induce vomiting if there are symptoms; just go to the vet. Signs of chocolate toxicity include:
- Excessive Drinking
- Polyuria (Excessive Urination)
1. How Much Chocolate Did Your Dog Eat?
If you think your dog ate chocolate, first find out how much of the substance was consumed. This will determine the difference between "wait and observe" treatment versus emergency veterinary care (see number 4).
- Look for the wrappers, if there are any. The weight of the chocolate should be listed in ounces or grams. Also, save this information just in case you need to go to the vet.
- If you don't know how much your dog weighs, use a scale. Weigh yourself, then weigh yourself holding the dog and subtract your weight from that figure.
- Chocolate consumption is worse for smaller dogs and elderly dogs with heart conditions, so the concern increases unless they've consumed a minuscule amount.
2. What Type of Chocolate Did They Eat?
The type of chocolate will largely affect toxicity. Chocolate is toxic to dogs because the compound theobromine, which is present in milk chocolate, increases with dark chocolate, and has even higher levels in semi-sweet chocolate. Cocoa powder is the most toxic. Pure white chocolate is not real chocolate and has extremely low toxicity. The toxic dose for dogs is around 9 mg to 18 mg per pound. This can be easily calculated with an online Toxicity Calculator.
- Baker’s chocolate: 390 mg per ounce
- Semi-sweet contains:150mg per ounce
- Milk chocolate: 44mg per ounce
- Pet Poison Helpline | Animal Poison Control Center
Pet Poison Helpline, a 24-hour animal poison control center for pet owners and veterinarians dealing with a poisoned pet (Cost is about $60)
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3. Determine When Your Dog Ate It
This is an important step if you are going to try to induce vomiting after determining that your dog has consumed a toxic dose of chocolate. This remedy only works if the chocolate has been consumed within the last hour. Later than that, it has already moved into the intestines and will require veterinary treatment.
If you aren't sure when your dog ate it, it's better to be safe than sorry and go to the vet.
4. How to Induce Emergency Vomiting
If your dog has eaten the chocolate within the past hour, you can attempt to induce vomiting using the instructions below, but be careful to follow the instructions carefully for this as it is potentially harmful if something goes wrong. It is highly recommended to do this with a recommendation from a veterinary or poison hotline.
- Give about 2 teaspoons (3 teaspoons equals 1 tablespoon) for every 25 pounds, not to exceed 4–5 tablespoons total.
- Getting your dog to eat this might be difficult. It's best to use a syringe or turkey baster if you have one, aiming the liquid down the side of the dog's mouth (see video below). Your dog might try to spit some of the liquid back up or some will leak out the side, so take note of this when trying to determine how much your dog drank. You should hear, feel or see your dog gulping the solution to ensure it has gone down successfully.
- You can mix this substance with something palatable like peanut butter, broth, or gravy to encourage the dog to eat it.
- Wait 15 minutes. If your dog does not vomit, give another dose. If your dog still doesn't vomit within around another 15 minutes, do not give any more peroxide and call the helpline or see a vet.
My dog is in the above photo after she was given peroxide. She had gotten into some "chocolate coal" candy stocking stuffers in December. I used the Toxicity Calculator and a vet visit was recommended. We called the Pet Poison Helpline and were advised to use the peroxide method, even though we weren't sure when she ate the chocolate (it could have been 30 minutes to 3 hours ago). I used a syringe (if you are reading this and have the opportunity to purchase one before issues arise, you should do so) after my dog did not eat much of the solution mixed with peanut butter.
It seemed to take longer than 30 minutes for her to vomit. She received 2 doses. Luckily, she eventually vomited twice, and this photo is of the second time; the first had even more material! We were confident that she had removed enough of the chocolate from her system and she was fine afterwards (although a bit miserable from all the fuss and vomiting).
Veterinary Briefing on Inducing Vomiting
5. When to Call or Visit the Vet
It's best to get professional help if:
- Your dog has not vomited on his own or with induction.
- Your dog vomited but there is no chocolate present.
- Your dog is showing symptoms.
- You aren't sure if your dog vomited or what time (or how much) chocolate was consumed.
You can try calling your vet (or an emergency vet, depending on their time and their availability). You will likely be told by the receptionist to come to the clinic. You can also call the Pet Poison Helpline, but this has a fee and you will likely be told to see a vet if you don't know when the chocolate was eaten. Your vet may decide to simply observe the dog based on the information you give. Treatment may involve fluids, IV drugs, stomach pumping, and force-feeding activated charcoal that will absorb the toxins and prevent it from getting into the dog's bloodstream.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.