Chocolate tastes good for people, and most dogs like the taste of chocolate as well. But chocolate can be dangerous for dogs especially if the dog ate chocolate in large quantities.
But what causes chocolate toxicity in dogs?
Chocolate contains methylxanthines, which are naturally occurring stimulants made up of alkaloid theobromine and caffeine, although the latter is in much smaller amounts in chocolate than the former.
Methylxanthines are not toxic to people in the concentrations found in chocolates and baked goods, but when ingested by dogs, the effects can be deadly.
Dogs metabolize theobromine at a much slower rate than humans. This results in adverse effects on their hearts, central nervous systems, and kidneys.
What Type of Chocolate Has Your Dog Eaten?
If your dog has eaten some chocolate, don’t panic! Not all chocolates have the same level of toxicity to dogs. The important questions are: What type of chocolate did he eat? And how much?
As a rule of thumb, higher quality pure chocolate contains more theobromine than lower quality chocolate.
Theobromine levels are higher in dark chocolates (e.g. baker’s chocolate) than in milk chocolates. White chocolates contain the least amount of theobromine.
The Merck Veterinary Manual shows the approximate levels of theobromine in different types of chocolate, as follows:
|Chocolate Type||Theobromine Level|
|Dry cocoa powder||800 mg/oz|
|Unsweetened (Baker’s) chocolate||450 mg/oz|
|Cocoa bean mulch||255 mg/oz|
|Semisweet / sweet dark chocolate||150-160 mg/oz|
|Milk chocolate||44-64 mg/oz|
|White chocolate||insignificant amount|
How Much Is Too Much?
As you can see from the table above, not all types of chocolates contain the same amount of theobromine. So even if your dog ate a significant amount of white chocolate, he would probably not show any signs of toxicity because the amount of theobromine in white chocolate is negligible.
But the same cannot be said about dark chocolate.
In order to answer the question “How much is too much?”, we need to consider several factors, such as the type of chocolate, as well as the weight and health condition of the dog.
The following table shows you the type and the quantity of chocolate a dog has to eat in order to cause signs of toxicity, in accordance with the size of the dog.
To read the table, please understand the following:
- First column of the table: A list of different chocolates;
- Second column: toxic dose per pound of body weight;
- Third column: The approximate amount of chocolate a 10-lb dog has to eat to become sick;
- Fourth column: The approximate amount of chocolate a 20-lb dog has to eat to become sick.
So, a 20-pound dog has to eat about 250 pounds of white chocolate before getting sick, but only about 2 ounces of Baker’s chocolate can cause toxicity in the same dog.
|Chocolate Type||Toxicity/lb||10 lb Dog||20 lb Dog|
|White Chocolate||200 oz||125 lbs||250 lbs|
|Milk Chocolate||1 oz||8 oz (2-3 chocolate bars)||1 lb (5-6 chocolate bars)|
|Semi-sweet Chocolate||1 oz||8 oz||1 lb|
|Sweet Cocoa||0.3 oz||1/6 lb||1/3 lb|
|Baker’s Chocolate||0.1 oz||1 oz||2 oz|
Symptoms of Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs
Signs of chocolate toxicity in dogs occur within hours after ingestion of chocolate. Early signs of chocolate poisoning in dogs include:
Dogs with more advanced chocolate poisoning show signs such as:
Death, which is rare, is caused by cardiac arrest.
What To Do If Your Dog Has Eaten Chocolate
If you know your dog has just eaten some chocolate within the past six hours, try to determine the type and amount of chocolate ingested.
If you can determine that your dog has eaten enough dark chocolate to cause toxicity, and he has not vomited yet, induce vomiting immediately.
To induce vomiting, make a 50/50 mix of hydrogen peroxide and water and pour between a teaspoon and a tablespoon, depending on the size of your dog, down his throat.
If it does not work within five minutes, repeat the procedure, but do it no more than three times.
After your dog has vomited, give him granular activated charcoal (food grade). Mix five heaping teaspoons of granules in one cup of water. The dosage is 1 teaspoon for dogs under 25 pounds and 2 teaspoons for dogs over 25 pounds.
Then take your dog to the vet for further examination and treatment.
If more than six hours have already passed before you realize that your dog has eaten chocolate and he is already showing advanced poisoning symptoms, such as seizures, do not try to induce vomiting.
Rush him to the vet for emergency treatment immediately!
Prevention of Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs
To prevent your dog from getting chocolate poisoning, keep all chocolate out of the reach of your dog.
Make sure that all family members, including children, understand the potential danger of feeding your dog chocolate.