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what to do if your dog eats chocolate

Just as I was sitting down to compose this blog, my phone buzzed, indicating that I received a text message. Little did I know that my next topic of discussion was texting its way into my writing. It was a message from a friend that simply said, “My 25-pound dog ate about 3 ounces of dark chocolate truffles. Should I take him to the ER?” 

Of course, the answer to this question is never a simple yes or no; I needed more information. This prompted a quick back and forth question and answer session until we came up with a game plan that fit the scenario at hand. 

Whew! The situation resolved, I sat back down at my computer and decided that chocolate toxicity sounded like a great discussion topic. So, here we go!

You have probably heard that Baker’s chocolate is the most toxic to dogs. This is true. Coming in a close second is dark chocolate, with milk chocolate trailing behind. The component of chocolate that is toxic to dogs is called theobromine, which can cause excitation and hyperactivity, increased heart rate and arrhythmias, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and can even cause sudden death. This is not a topic to take lightly.

Theobromine is toxic to pets. How much does chocolate contain? Use this graphic from Petplan pet insurance to find out.

 The most important things to consider are what kind of chocolate your dog ate, how much your dog ate, how much your dog weighs, and how long ago was the chocolate consumed. For instance, one ounce of milk chocolate isn’t as toxic as one ounce of Baker’s chocolate.  Similarly, a 5-lb. Chihuahua that eats one ounce of Baker’s chocolate is at a greater risk of toxicity than an 80-lb. Labrador that eats the same amount. 

How much chocolate is toxic for dogs? Use this formula from Petplan pet insurance to find out!

So, what do you do? You walk into the kitchen, find your box of nonpareils on the floor, and your crafty canine standing there licking his lips. First of all, take a deep breath. Next, collect as much of the following information as you can:

  • What type of chocolate: milk, dark or Bakers?
  • Approximately how much you think your dog consumed (it is better to overestimate a little than underestimate)?
  • How long it has been since he ate the chocolate (a few minutes, an hour, sometime while you were at work ...)?
  • Are you noticing any abnormal behavior? For example, is there vomit and/or diarrhea all over the house? Does your dog seem anxious or hyperactive? What is your dog’s heart rate?

Your vet can help guide you on the best course of action depending on your answers to the questions above. In general, your vet will treat for chocolate toxicity/ingestion with any combination of the following:

  1. Induce vomiting
  2. Administer activated charcoal
  3. IV fluid therapy
  4. Control seizure activity and elevated heart rate as needed
  5. Supportive therapy depending on clinical signs
  6. Bland diet 

If caught and treated early, chocolate toxicity is generally treatable and dogs will recover. Luckily, this was the case for my friend’s dog – and even more fortunately, he had a Petplan pet insurance policy to pick up the bill. I am happy to report that his dog is doing well, and his owner is being much more cautious about where he keeps his scrumptious truffles!

Chocolate isn't the only edible pet health hazard you can find in your home. Check out our Pet Poison Guide to see what else you should keep out of paws' reach.
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Posted by Jasper Whiteside
on November 04 2016 17:38

I knew that chocolate was bad for dogs, but I didn't know any of the symptoms like vomiting. It is good to see this guide here to help prepare for these scary circumstances. It might be a good idea to take the dog to a 24 hour vet if they have eaten too much chocolate.

Posted by Susan Hagstrom
on October 27 2016 22:31

Does the computation shown apply also to cats? Obviously they often weigh less than dogs.

Posted by Bradley Streeter
on October 28 2015 15:56

I am a Petplan insured. We have faced the almost inevitable occurrence of "DOG EATS CHOCOLATE". My first piece of advice (and I'll hedge this with I'm not a vet) is DON'T PANIC. If your dog ate only a moderate amount of chocolate, particularly milk or even semisweet, you're probably OK. The dog may have irregular bowel movements, etc. Look up charts for the type of chocolate ingested, weight of the dog, etc. For our 55 pound basset, even 8 oz. of milk (4 oz. of semisweet) would only cause a mild reaction.

Posted by Jessy Shaw
on June 05 2015 21:15

One of my dogs ate a some chocolate a few months ago and I rushed him straight to the local animal hospital here in St. Petersburg. They were able to help him get better really fast. I'm grateful for great veterinarians! Thanks for the story! http://www.gulfportveterinarian.com

Posted by Gerra Gembarosky
on August 07 2013 16:09

I'd also add to this article to add the telephone number of Animal Poison Control, since many of these incidents happen after hours. You will have a vet every time you call that number guiding you along the way. We had a major case of tearing open a lot of chocolate (and the chocolate was in sturdy, cardboard boxes, just not put away), with 3 dogs. All 3 dogs are insured with Pet Plan, but we were able to monitor them throughout the night with the Poison Control vets. Pet Plan would have been there and used had their heart rates gone out of range with a needed trip to the 24 hour emergency vet.

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