If your dog ate chocolate, or you think it may have gobbled up some Halloween chocolate treats, you need to keep an eye on any worrying symptoms, and if there are such you may need to seek emergency help.
The reason is that as you have probably heard already – chocolate and any other cocoa products can be toxic, and in large amounts may even kill a dog.
If you are sure that your dog has ingested a large amount of chocolate, then call your vet now, or call the Pet Poison Helpline at 855 764-7661 or the ASPCA at 888 426-4435 now!
If you are not sure and want to know what symptoms to look for, and how chocolate poisoning in dogs is diagnosed and treated, read on to find out everything you need to know about the toxicity of chocolate to dogs.
What makes chocolate toxic for dogs?
Chocolate and cocoa contain the xanthine alkaloid theobromine and caffeine, which can both speed up the heart rate of a pup to unhealthy and dangerous levels. They can also cause stimulation to the nervous system of canines.
We, on the other hand, metabolize these quite easily, but in dogs, they can build up quickly to serious and dangerous toxicity levels.
Theobromine is also found in tea, soda, acai berries, and other foods.
Cocoa and different types of chocolate have different theobromine levels.
Cocoa powder is the most toxic of all, followed by unsweetened baker’s chocolate. Following them are semisweet and dark chocolate, and the least dangerous type is milk chocolate. White chocolate is almost non-toxic.
The risk of chocolate poisoning in dogs depends on what kind of chocolate and how much your dog has ingested as compared to its body weight. Also, the risk increases for senior dogs and pups with underlying health problems.
How much chocolate is dangerous for the dog?
The truth is that even a small amount of chocolate or cocoa can harm and even kill your dog. So, no amount is safe.
If your dog has somehow gotten to chocolate, it is essential you know what type of chocolate and how much it has ingested in order to help the vet determine whether you need emergency care now.
Also, you need to know the weight or at least the approximate weight of your pup to make the calculation and to tell the vet or emergency service.
Here are the different types of chocolate, the amount ingested and the bodyweight of the dog which are considered toxic and mean that you need to call or rush to the vet immediately:
- 0.5-oz is toxic for a 10 lbs. dog
- 1-oz is toxic for a 20 lbs. dog
- 1.5-oz is toxic for a 30 lbs. dog
- 1.5-oz for a 10 lbs. dog
- 3-oz for a 20 lbs. dog
- 4.5-oz for a 30 lbs. dog
3.5-oz for a 10 lbs. dog
7-oz for a 20 lbs. dog
10.5-oz for a 30 lbs. dog
47 lbs. for a 10 lbs. dog
95 lbs. for a 20 lbs. dog
145 lbs. for a 30 lbs. dog
So, you should always have handy, the following information when you are seeking veterinary care for your dog if you suspect it has eaten chocolate:
- Its weight, or at least approximate weight
- The amount of chocolate ingested (approximate or exact)
- The type of chocolate ingested
- Its age and any underlying health problems
Overall, the smaller the dog, and the darker the chocolate it has ingested – the more dangerous it is. On the other hand, if your giant dog breed has just had a bar of white chocolate, there is probably nothing to worry about, except for a minor stomach upset.
The age and the overall health of the dog also play an important role in how it reacts to eating chocolate. Obviously, old dogs in bad health will have more problems coping with the adverse effects of chocolate than young and healthy pups.
Types of Chocolate
Chocolate is made by processing the seeds of the cocoa tree. They contain methylxanthines which include caffeine and theobromine.
These compounds bind to the receptors of the cells and block the natural compounds from attaching to them.
Low doses of methylxanthines can lead to vomiting and diarrhea in pups, and to euphoria in people.
In larger doses, they can increase the heart rate to up to twice its normal rate and cause the dogs to become hyperactive and restless.
Different types of chocolates contain different amounts of theobromine. The amount also depends on the variety of cocoa seeds and the different chocolate brands.
In general, to stay on the safe side, you should never give your dog chocolate no matter what type and what amount, because in some cases, even the smallest piece of chocolate can make your pup ill.
Here is more information about the different types of chocolate, the amount of theobromine they contain, and how they can affect your dog:
White chocolate is the safest of all types because it has the lowest levels of theobromine. Still, this doesn’t mean you can give your dog white chocolate as a treat. It contains sugar which too is harmful to the dog.
This is the most common type of chocolate probably lying around your home. It is often the main type of chocolate included in Halloween trick-or-treat bags, Valentine’s Day gifts, Christmas stockings, Easter baskets, and other holiday gifts and treats.
Milk chocolate is less dangerous than dark or baking chocolate and contains less theobromine, but still, even small amounts of milk chocolate can be dangerous and even fatal to some dogs, especially small, old or sick pups.
Dark chocolate can have severe adverse effects on dogs. it can cause irregular and fast heartbeat, seizures, tremors, heart attacks, and death.
This is the most dangerous type of chocolate for canines, as it contains much higher levels of theobromine than the others. It should be kept away from dogs in its original form, as well as when cooked and baked in the form of brownies, cake or others.
Also, keep in mind that if the baked goods which the dog has consumed contain raisins or macadamia nuts this can lead to even further trouble because both are toxic for dogs as well.
Even small amounts of baking chocolate can cause heart attacks and death in dogs.
Your dog ate chocolate – what happens now?
The theobromine and caffeine in the chocolate affect the dog’s heart, the central nervous system, and kidneys.
The first symptoms usually appear from 4 to 12 hours after the pup has eaten the chocolate.
The symptoms vary depending on the severity of the poisoning and may last for up to 72 hours.
Here are the most common symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs:
- Increased or irregular heart rate
- Increased urination
- Restlessness and increased hyperactivity
- Muscle tremors
- Internal bleeding
- Heart attack
What to do if your dog ate chocolate?
If you catch your dog snacking on chocolate, or find wrappers lying around, you should act immediately to induce vomiting.
Feed the dog a small meal to dilute the concentration of chocolate in its system and to slow down its absorption into the bloodstream, and then give it 3% hydrogen peroxide (two teaspoons per 10 lbs.) with a dropper or syringe. This should induce vomiting.
If you don’t have hydrogen peroxide handy, use regular table salt to make the dog vomit. A tablespoon of salt on the back of the tong of an adult dog and a teaspoon of salt for puppies should do the job.
If you are certain that your pup ate a dangerous amount and type of chocolate for its weight, you should immediately contact your vet or an emergency helpline for advice.
You should be ready to give all the facts to the vet, such as the weight of your dog, the type of chocolate consumed and the amount the dog ate. It is useful to keep the chocolate wrappers to show to your vet as a reference.
Based on the information, the veterinarian may recommend that you keep a close eye on the dog for symptoms and clinical signs of poisoning and call back if the condition worsens, or could request that you bring the dog over to the clinic as soon as possible, especially if the pet ate the chocolate less than 2 hours ago, when it is possible to induce vomiting to rid the system from the toxic substances.
What is the treatment for chocolate poisoning in dogs?
When you get to the veterinary clinic, the vet will examine the dog, and based on the information you give regarding the timing, quantity, and type of chocolate consumed will act immediately.
If the incident is from the last couple of hours the vet will induce vomiting, so that the dog can get out as much of chocolate as possible from its body. If the dog is not vomiting on its own, the veterinarian may give it hydrogen peroxide which induces vomiting. The usual dosage is 1 tablespoon per 20 lbs. of body weight. There are other medicaments that induce vomiting which the vet may decide to administer.
Once the pup seizes vomiting, you shouldn’t give it water or food until further notice.
Unfortunately, there is no antidote to theobromine, so the vet will try to get as much of the substance out of the dog’s system as fast as possible. The less theobromine is absorbed in the bloodstream – the better the prognosis for the pup.
It is very likely that your dog will be given activated charcoal which helps move the toxins out of the body faster and without all of them ending up in the bloodstream.
The stomach of the dog may be pumped out to get all contents outs too.
In severe cases, the vet may administer IV fluids to help resolve the poisoning. Also, if the dog is suffering from an irregular or increase heartbeat, it may be given medication to control it. The same goes for high blood pressure and for seizures which some pups may experience after ingesting chocolate.
If the dog is having seizures, it may need to remain in the clinic overnight for observation.
In any case, the faster you act after your dog has eaten chocolate – the bigger its chances are for a complete recovery.
Further Reading: What To Do If Your Dog Eats Chocolate: Home Remedies
Preventing your dog from eating chocolate
For the good of your dog, you should never use even the smallest amounts of chocolate as treats.
Also, to prevent your dog from getting to chocolate, follow these simple rules:
- Keep the chocolate, hot chocolate mix, and cocoa safely away from reach by the dog. Keep these in a high cabinet or shelf or in a pantry with a closing door
- Teach your kids and remind your guests to not leave chocolate lying around in easy to reach places, such as tables, purses or countertops
- Be careful where you place the trick or treat bags on Halloween
- The same goes for Easter baskets, Christmas stockings, Valentine’s Day chocolate, and Hanukkah coins – keep them well away from your pup because most cases of chocolate poisoning in dogs have bene reported on these holidays
- Remember that any baked or other foods containing baking chocolate are equally dangerous for the pup, so keep them away from it as well
- Train your dog to obey the “leave it” command. It is very effective for preventing it from anything it finds on the ground, including chocolate
- Crate train the dog if you cannot supervise it, but choose a large and comfortable crate which it can use as a safe place and retreat rather than think of it as punishment. Do not leave the dog closed in the crate for more than a few hours, and provide it with soft bedding, toys treats to help it feel happy and safe
- Refrain from using cocoa shell mulch in your garden, because it too is dangerous for dogs, and will attract them with its sweet smell. You should replace it with mulch which is safe for dogs such as shredded pine, hemlock bark or cedar.
What are the leading toxic dangers for dogs?
According to the Animal Poison Control center, the leading causes of toxicity in dogs are:
- Food, including chocolate, raisins, grapes, and xylitol
All types of chocolate, as well as various candies, gums, and sweets containing xylitol are dangerous for dogs. So are grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts and a variety of other foods which we can safely eat and enjoy – but dogs cannot.
The second most frequent cause of dog poisoning is the ingestion of insecticides and pesticides. These include various sprays, spot-on tick and flea treatments, bait stations, and others.
Ingestion of insecticides or pesticides, especially if they contain organophosphates can be deadly to dogs, even in tiny amounts.
Rat and mouse poisons contain so many chemicals, active ingredients and different types of actions and all of them are potentially dangerous for canines. Rodenticide poisoning in dogs can lead to swelling of the brain, kidney failure, internal bleeding, bloat, severe vomiting, and death.
Rat and mouse poisons are also dangerous for other pets and for wildlife, because of the risk of another pet or wild animal getting to a poisoned rat or rodent.
- NSAID medications
These include ibuprofen, naproxen, Advil, Morin and Aleve, and can cause intestinal and stomach ulcers if ingested by dogs, as well as kidney failure or death. Never give your dog your NSAIDs to your dog even if it is in pain because it can be dangerous for dogs.
- Detergents and other house cleaning products
Any alkaline cleaner or strong acidic detergents, such as rust removers, toilet cleaners, lime or calcium removers, drain cleaners, lye and others are dangerous for dogs. It is wise to keep any cleaning product out of reach from your dog, even if it says “natural.”
- Antidepressants for humans
Prescription antidepressants for humans such as Prozac, Celexa, Paxil, and Effexor account for the most cases of dog poisoning from human drugs. So if you keep your pills on your nightstand – don’t. These can cause serious neurological problems in canines including sedation, agitation, seizures, tremors, and death.
While some fertilizers which people use for their gardens or house plants are safe for dogs, others which contain bone meal, blood meal or feather meal and iron are especially attractive to dogs due to their smell, but can cause pancreatitis or can cause an obstruction in the gut of the dog.
This is the ingredient in Tylenol and other popular human cold and cough medications which we can take without prescription and without a second thought, but for dogs, acetaminophen can lead to dry eye and to liver failure. It is well for multiple pet owners to know that this medicament is 10 times more dangerous for cats and can cause rapid death even after the kitty has ingested one single pill!
Human ADD and ADHD medications such as Concerta and Adderall contain amphetamines and methylphenidate. Even after minimal ingestion, these can cause seizures, elevated temperature, heart problems and tremors all of which life-threatening for the pup.
- Veterinary pain relievers
Veterinary drugs containing Carprofen, often sold under the name Rimadyl which are given for pain and inflammation control for osteoarthritis in dogs can cause acute kidney failure and ulcers, if overdosed.