chocolate theobromine pet poison

Just the Facts: Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs

I dropped my chocolate bar and the dog ate it! Should I be concerned?

We’ve heard the warnings of how bad chocolate is for dogs, but how much is too much and what are the signs of chocolate poisoning?

Can Fido have a bite of my chocolate chip cookie? Well now all you chocoholic owners (and pets) can relax, we’ve put together an FAQ to help you, as we address the facts on chocolate toxicity in our canine friends.

1. Is chocolate toxic?

Yes. However, some chocolates are more toxic than others. It is the theobromine in chocolate that’s harmful. Chocolate that is purer contains higher amounts of theobromine. For example, milk chocolate contains 44 mg of theobromine per ounce on average; whereas baking chocolate contains a whopping 390 mg per ounce on average. And as you probably guessed, your semi-sweet chocolate falls in the middle with approximately 150 mg theobromine per ounce.

The good news is, Fido would have to consume a fairly high amount of theobromine (100-150 mg/kg) to experience chocolate toxicity. The threshold between a dog and dangerous amounts of chocolate depends on the dog’s size, and the kind of chocolate he’s consumed. This brings us to our next question.

2. How much chocolate is too much?

The type of chocolate, and weight of the dog factor into knowing if the dog is in danger. If a 95 pound dog ingested a 2 pound bag of semi-sweet chocolate, he would likely survive, but for a 60 pound dog this dose would be toxic. If we use the low end of the toxicity scale (100 mg of theobromine/ kg) as the toxic dose, then:

  • Milk Chocolate is toxic at 1 ounce per 1 pound of a dog’s weight
  • Semi-Sweet Chocolate is toxic at 1 ounce per 3 pounds of a dog’s weight
  • Baking Chocolate (unsweetened) is toxic at 1 ounce per 9 pounds of a dog’s weight

White Chocolate contains theobromine but in a small amount – making poisoning unlikely. Meanwhile, if your 10-pound dog gets his paws on the little one-ounce square of baking chocolate that you dropped while making dessert; you should consider our next question…

3. When should I call the vet?

Immediately! Administering activated charcoal is crucial for treatment. This treatment is not something that can be tweaked with an “at home” remedy. If you suspect your pooch has consumed too much chocolate, then treatment should be administered by your veterinarian; so call them immediately!

4. What are the signs/ effects of chocolate toxicity?

If you are fortunate enough to catch Fido with the remains of the chocolate wrappers, then you know right away to be concerned about chocolate toxicity. Other signs may manifest as digestive issues (diarrhoea, vomiting, increased urination), theobromine is also a central nervous system (CNS) and cardiovascular stimulant and causes increased blood pressure. As such you may notice your dog is excitable and irritable or has an increased heart rate and muscle tremors.

5. What are the treatments for chocolate toxicity?

In the first couple of hours, it may be as easy as inducing vomiting, but your dog may also need intravenous medications, respiratory support, anti-convulsants. These treatments need to be administered by a professional, which makes contacting your vet right away a top priority.

For more than a decade, Susan Wright has been a practicing veterinarian who provides professional, quality care to domestic and family pets. Dr. Wright is a dog bark collar expert and writer. Susan composes articles that offer instruction, helpful tips, and advice on proper care of dogs in between vet visits.

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