Chocolate toxicity is a potentially life-threatening condition that can affect dogs of all ages. The toxic ingredient in chocolate is theobromine, which can be found in dark chocolate as well as milk chocolate.1 The amount of theobromine that it takes to make your dog sick depends on the dog's size and weight, but all dogs should be monitored for signs and symptoms of chocolate poisoning if they’ve eaten any type of chocolate-containing product.2
Accidental chocolate ingestion
Chocolate can be toxic to dogs. Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, which are stimulants that affect the central nervous system. It can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, and seizures in dogs.
The amount of chocolate it takes for your dog to become sick varies from breed to breed; some dogs are more sensitive than others. Dark chocolate contains more caffeine and theobromine than milk chocolate does (which means dark chocolate is more toxic to dogs), so you should avoid giving your pet any type of candy--or even foods like cake frosting or brownies--containing cocoa powder or cocoa butter unless you know they're safe for him or her to eat.
Signs of chocolate toxicity
Signs of chocolate toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, and hyperactivity. If you suspect that your dog has ingested chocolate:
- Vomiting is common but not necessarily a sign of toxicity. If your dog vomits once or twice, it may be able to recover from the illness without treatment. However, if your dog continues to vomit after eating chocolate (or any other substance), this could indicate that he/she has eaten enough to cause serious harm so take him/her to the vet immediately!
- Diarrhea is another symptom of chocolate toxicity although it does not always occur in all cases where dogs have eaten chocolates or other sugary foods like candy bars etc. Again if this happens then go straight away because this could mean serious problems!
Administering activated charcoal
If you suspect that your dog has ingested chocolate, it's important to administer activated charcoal as soon as possible. Activated charcoal is a natural substance that can be used to absorb toxins in the stomach and intestines. It's available at most pharmacies without a prescription and comes in different forms including powder and tablets.
If you have any concerns about whether or not your dog has eaten enough chocolate to require treatment with activated charcoal, call your veterinarian immediately for advice on how much of this substance would be appropriate based on the amount of poison ingested (if any). In general terms:
- Administer no more than one gram per pound of body weight every eight hours until vomiting occurs or two hours after ingestion if there is no vomiting after 30 minutes.
- Do not give if less than 2 hours since ingestion; if more than 2 hours give half dose then repeat every 2 hours until 4 doses have been given.
- For example A 15 lb dog would receive approximately 1/4 tsp.; A 50 lb dog would receive approximately 1 tsp., etc.
- If vomiting occurs within 30 minutes after ingestion do not re-dose; wait one hour before giving another dose
Consider inducing vomiting if your dog has ingested
If your dog has ingested a small amount of chocolate that he or she may have eaten, consider inducing vomiting. Do this only under the supervision of your veterinarian.
Chocolate toxicity can cause severe stomach upset and symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and hyperactivity in dogs. Administering activated charcoal may help reduce the absorption of the toxin from the gastrointestinal tract into blood circulation by adsorbing certain chemicals from food substances (1). Consider inducing vomiting if your dog has ingested a small amount of chocolate that he or she may have eaten. Do this only under the supervision of your veterinarian
Keep chocolate out of reach
Keep chocolate out of reach of your dog, and call your vet right away if you think your dog has eaten any! Do not induce vomiting unless instructed to by a veterinarian. Do not give your dog any medications without talking to a vet first. When it comes to chocolate toxicity, the darker the better: semi-sweet and milk chocolate are the most dangerous kinds; white or milk chocolates are less dangerous than dark ones.
When it comes down to it: how much is too much? The answer varies depending on what kind of chocolate was ingested (dark vs. milk), how big your pup is (young animals tend to be more sensitive), whether he has other health issues like kidney disease or diabetes that may affect his body's ability to process sugar effectively--and so on.
If your dog has ingested a small amount of chocolate that he or she may have eaten, consider inducing vomiting. Do this only under the supervision of your veterinarian. If you think the amount ingested is large or if he or she shows signs of distress such as vomiting, diarrhea, or hyperactivity, call your vet immediately!