what to do if your dog eats chocolate

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what to do if your dog eats chocolate
Posted by Dr. Rebecca Jackson on Aug 07 2013

Updated October 24, 2019

Just as I was sitting down to compose this blog, my phone buzzed, indicating that I received a text message. 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.

Why is chocolate toxic to dogs?

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 responsible for chocolate toxicity in 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.

How different types of chocolate affects dogs

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.

So, what do you do if your dog eats chocolate? First of all, take a deep breath. Next, collect as much of the following information as you can:

Four questions to ask if your dog eats chocolate

1. What type of chocolate did your dog eat: Was it milk chocolate, dark chocolate or Bakers chocolate?

2. Approximately how much chocolate do you think your dog consumed? It is better to overestimate a little than underestimate.

3. How long it has been since your dog ate the chocolate: a few minutes, an hour, sometime while you were at work?

4. 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 methods.

Treatment for chocolate toxicity in dogs

  • Induce vomiting
  • Administer activated charcoal
  • IV fluid therapy
  • Control seizure activity and elevated heart rate as needed
  • Supportive therapy depending on clinical signs
  • 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!

Is chocolate toxic to cats?

Yes, different types of chocolate can have the same effects in cats as it does in dogs. Although it might be less common for cats to get into chocolate, it can still happen. All the same questions and treatment mentioned above can apply to cats too-including seeking immediate veterinary care.

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.