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My Dog Ate Chocolate!

If your dog ate chocolate he's in danger of some serious, potentially fatal, consequences.  

This is because chocolate contains Theobromine, one of a group of natural stimulants called Methylxanthines (caffeine is another common Methylxanthine).

These affect your dog's central nervous system and his heart.

They cause the heart beat faster and/or erratically, and also dilate blood vessels which makes blood flow faster, while at at the same time lowering blood pressure.

They also acts as a diuretic - forcing the kidneys to work harder and output more urine.

When dogs ingest chocolate, they metabolize the Methylzanthines it contains very slowly (so it stays in their bodies for longer and can build up to toxic levels quite easily).

Glass bowl full of candy and chocolate bars

Symptoms of poisoning in dogs can show up almost right away, but they can also take 12 - 24 hours to develop.

They can sometimes last last for up to 48 hours or more.

Although symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs can take a while to develop, it doesn't take much to make them very sick indeed.

For a small dog, ingesting even a tiny amount can be deadly.

Coffee, coca-cola (and to a slightly lesser extent, black tea) contain caffeine which is an even stronger Methylzanthine and is also highly dangerous and toxic to dogs.

It's important to know how much is too much and how your dog's weight, age and health fits into the equation.

My Dog Ate Chocolate - How Much Is Poisonous?

This is a good question, but unfortunately there is no 'one-size-fits-all' answer because different types of chocolate contain differing concentrations of Theobromine.

The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is to your pet.

Baking chocolate contains the highest levels of Methylzanthine - approx. 400mg per ounce in fact.

Pile of chocolate pieces of different kinds, including white, milk and dark chocolate

Semi-sweet chocolate has about 260mg per ounce, and milk chocolate about 45mg per ounce.

White chocolate has the least Theobromine, somewhere around 1mg per ounce.

Most chocolate candies will contain anywhere between 40mg and 60mg of Theobromine per ounce.

Chocolate-flavored frosting and such generally has even lower levels as they're also made up of sugar, butter and so on.

Cocoa powder also contains Theobromine, so do cocoa beans.

For dogs, how much Theobromine is TOO much isn't an exact science, and eating one ounce of milk chocolate doesn't carry the same risks as eating an ounce of bakers chocolate.

A dog who ate chocolate may have ingested enough Theobromine to be life-threatening.... or it could be that the worst he's going to suffer is some diarrhea and vomiting.... what happens depends on both the type he ate, and his size/weight.

If your dog ate chocolate, here's a quick guide that gives you a way to estimate whether or not he's at serious risk or poisoning.....

Milk Chocolate

Toxic Dose: Approx. 1 ounce of chocolate per 1 (one) pound of body weight

1 oz is approximately one square of chocolate, and that will help you if he's eaten a chocolate bar.

if your dog weighs 10 lbs or under and has eaten 10 oz of milk chocolate he is in serious danger. 

But, if he weighs 120 lbs and has eaten 10 oz then he will probably get sick, but a healthy dog isn't likely to be in serious danger.

Semi-sweet Chocolate

Toxic Dose: Approx. 1 ounce of chocolate per 5 pounds of body weight

So if your dog ate chocolate of this type, it takes less of it to cause serious problems.

If you take the same 10 lb dog from the previous point, he would only need to eat 2 oz of semi-sweet chocolate to be in danger of poisoning (as opposed to the 10 oz of milk chocolate).

Dark or Baking Chocolate

Toxic Dose: Approx. 1 ounce of chocolate per 10 pounds of body weight

This is the most dangerous type and it's twice as dangerous for him if that chocolate was the dark or baking variety, rather than semi-sweet. Ten times as dangerous as eating milk chocolate!

Your 10lb dog will have ingested a toxic level of Theobromine from only 1 oz. of dark/baking chocolate!

If he weighs 50lbs and he's eaten 5 oz's he's in the same situation.

how much chocolate is too much?

Please remember that the above figures are only estimates, and the effects of chocolate on puppies, very small dogs, very young dogs or those with other health problems, can be more severe and therefore more dangerous.

These are guidelines only!

I strongly recommend that if your dog has eaten any chocolate at all, that you get him to your own veterinarian or a 24 hour emergency pet hospital right away rather than 'guess' whether or not he's going to be okay.

Even calling your vet, or an Animal Poison Control helpline is better than leaving it to chance - it could literally cost your pet his life.

If you know (or even think) that your dog ate chocolate, get veterinary help/advice right away!!

For a more accurate calculation of how much theobromine and caffeine was in the amount of chocolate your dog ate, check out this very useful 'Dog Chocolate Toxicity Meter'.

It uses your dog's weight plus type and amount of chocolate he ate to estimate how dangerous it is, and what symptoms you might see.

BUT, again, if there's any element of guesswork in your calculations, don't take any chances. Get vet help right away.

Symptoms of Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs

If you know your dog ate chocolate, depending on what type he ingested and how much he weighs, symptoms of a toxic level of Theobromine could include:

  • Vomiting, diarrhea, increased urination
    These are often the first signs of trouble. The vomit may contain blood. If you have a large dog who's only eaten a small piece of chocolate he may be lucky enough to only suffer from these symptoms.

  • Agitation or Nervousness
    Too much Theobromine can make your pup or dog restless or hyperactive and cause pacing, whining and/or panting. Unusual or excessive drooling can also occur. He may be extra-thirsty.

  • Rapid breathing, breathlessness, seizure, convulsions
    These symptoms in a dog who ate chocolate are very serious indeed and your dog is at risk of convulsions or death. They indicate toxic levels of Theobromine and can appear many hours after he's eaten the chocolate.

Whether or not you feel the symptoms your dog is experiencing are serious, it's vital to get veterinary help IMMEDIATELY if your dog ate chocolate - no matter how much, or what type.

Only a qualified vet can decide whether or not any treatment is needed and time is of the essence! The sooner your dog gets help the better his chances of making a full recovery.

Generally if there is any doubt about whether he's eaten enough to be dangerous, a vet will induce vomiting as quickly as possible to prevent any more Theobromine being absorbed into your pet's bloodstream.

If your own veterinary clinic/office is closed, take your dog to a 24 hour emergency pet hospital, this is not a 'wait and see' situation.

Sad Spaniel dog

You can also call the ASPCA Poison Control Center or your local Poison Control Hotline.

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center
1-888-426-4435 or 1-800-548-2423

Although there may be a charge (around $65 at time of publication), I'd imagine your dog's life is worth much more than that to you, so if you need to - call them!

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