What to Do if Your Dog Ate Chocolate
What if Your Dog Eats Chocolate?
Around Christmas time, Valentine's Day, and Easter, the veterinary hospital I worked for was bombarded by frantic phone calls about their dogs eating chocolate. Everybody loves chocolate and so it comes as no surprise that Lassie goes for a fix too. If your dog ate your last batch of brownies or stole your unattended bag of Oreo cookies, you have a reason to be concerned, as chocolate can be harmful to dogs. At the vet clinic, we used to take these phone calls very seriously.
The culprit of chocolate intolerance in dogs is a substance found in chocolate called theobromine. The level of toxicity is determined by various factors:
- the amount ingested
- the concentration of theobromine
- the overall health status of the dog
- and the size and weight of the dog.
The effects may range from a mild stomach upset, excitability, to even a potentially fatal cardiac arrest.
But how much is too much? How can an owner know when it is time to rush their beloved pet to the vet, or simply keep a watchful eye on him/her?
How Much is Too Much?
It is really difficult to determine exact toxic levels, as there are different factors to keep in mind and sometimes the effects may also vary on an in individual basis (just like in humans, one alcoholic drink may cause one to feel dizzy while another may still feel sober on his third drink).
As a general rule of thumb, the toxic levels of chocolate in dogs according to PetPlace veterinarians are as follows. (Note that the lower range is likely to cause mild signs whereas the higher range is likely to cause severe toxicity.)
- White chocolate: 45 ounces to 90 ounces per pound of body weight. A 20 pound dog would need to ingest 55 pounds to exhibit nervous system signs.
- Milk chocolate: 0.7 ounces to 2 ounces per pound of body weight. A 20 pound dog would have to ingest a little less than one pound to exhibit nervous system signs.
- Semi-sweet chocolate: 1/3 ounce to 1 ounce per body weight. A 20 pound dog would have to ingest only 6 ounces to exhibit nervous system signs.
- Baking chocolate: 0.1 ounce to 0.3 ounces per body weight. A 20 pound dog would have to ingest 2 ounces to exhibit nervous system signs. All it takes for a 10 pound dog to exhibit nervous system signs is one ounce!
Generally, the darker and more bitter the chocolate, the higher its theobromine contents. It is very important to determine, therefore, the type of chocolate ingested and the amount. This information is often found on the candy wrapper. At the same time, it is also important to know the dog's weight.
Confused by all these numbers? Use this cool tool, a virtual dog chocolate toxicity calculator crafted by veterinarian Dr. Marie by visiting this link: Dog Chocolate Calculator. No guarantees of accuracy can be made.
What to Do
Once you realize your dog has ingested a toxic dose, the best thing to do is to contact your veterinarian and follow their instructions. They will need to know:
- the amount of chocolate ingested
- how long ago it was ingested
- and the weight of your dog.
He/she may also ask you to induce vomiting if your dog ingested less than two hours ago. This is the time when it is still in the stomach.
Always keep on hand 3% hydrogen peroxide which will help the dog induce vomiting. Your vet will instruct you on how much to give. Unfortunately vomiting alone may not be sufficient, since some of the theobromine may still be absorbed. Your dog may require further treatment at the vet's hospital. Keep in mind that there is no antidote for chocolate poisoning, therefore, treatment is mostly supportive!
Symptoms suggesting chocolate toxicity include the following: Vomiting
- increased urination
- high blood pressure
- high heart rate
Don't wait for these to happen! the sooner you see your vet the better chances of recovery and the cheaper on your wallet!) Note: chocolate mulch can also cause toxicity in dogs!
These symptoms may only develop after 12 hours post ingestion. Therefore, don't assume that just because your dog is doing fine that he will not get sick. See your vet immediately instead!
- Always keep chocolate and candy bars away from your furry friend.
- Always keep on hand 3% hydrogen peroxide and activated charcoal.
- The quicker you act, the better the prognosis. Generally, dogs treated within four hours have the highest chance of survival. Time is of the essence, so do not delay treatment. Call your vet for advice and follow it carefully.
- If your vet is closed, seek help from a 24 hour animal emergency center immediately or call the ASPCA Poison Control at (888) 426-4435.
Note: I am not a vet and I am not qualified to determine if your dog will get sick or not from eating chocolate. Remember to always call your vet for advice!
How to Induce Vomiting in Dogs Who Ate Chocolate Less Than 2 Hours Ago
Did you know chocolate was poisonous to dogs?
For Further Reading
- The Dangers of Giving a Dog Burnt Toast
Can I give my dog burnt toast? When working for a veterinary hospital we were often asked this question when a dog ate something it shouldn't. Learn the implications of doing so.
- Can You Give a Dog Too Much Hydrogen Peroxide?
Dog owners are often told to give hydrogen peroxide to their dogs when they ingest something potentially harmful , but how much is too much? Can you give too much?