7 Questions About Dogs and Chocolate

dog-sniffing

You’ve probably heard that chocolate can kill your dog – but do you know why chocolate is poisonous, which types of chocolate are more harmful than others, the symptoms of chocolate poisoning and the one thing that’s more lethal than chocolate?

The following seven questions tell you all you need to know about chocolate and your dog.

Why is chocolate poisonous?

The cocoa tree contains two naturally occurring substances – theobromine and caffeine – both of which are toxic to dogs. Cocoa beans conatin theobromine a higher concentration than caffeine.

Dogs metabolise theobromine very slowly – it can stay in your dog’s bloodstream for up to 20 hours. During that time it interferes with the body’s functioning mainly stimulating the central nervous system and affecting the heart and kidneys.

What is the toxic level of theobromine?

The lethal dose for theobromine is between 100mg to 200mg per kg of bodyweight ; the lethal dose for caffeine is the same.

However, severe symptoms of theobromine poisoning may be evident at much lower doses .

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Animal Poison Control Center, mild signs of poisoning occur in animals ingesting 20 mg of theobromine and caffeine per kg of bodyweight, severe signs are seen at 40-50 mg/kg, and seizures occur at 60 mg/kg.

How your dog reacts to swallowing chocolate will be a function of his size, general health, sensitivity to theobromine and caffeine, and the type and quantity of chocolate eaten.

How much theobromine and caffeine is there in chocolate?

The level of theobromine and caffeine in chocolate varies between the type of chocolate, the brand and the fact that the natural occurrence of these substances in cocoa beans is variable.

Broadly:

  • White chocolate – 1.1 mg of theobromine and caffeine per ounce of chocolate;
  • Milk chocolate – 64 mg of theobromine and caffeine per ounce of chocolate;
  • Dark sweet chocolate – 150 mg of theobromine and caffeine per ounce of chocolate;
  • Instant cocoa powder – 151 mg of theobromine and caffeine per ounce of chocolate;
  • Unsweetened baking chocolate – 440 mg of theobromine and caffeine per ounce of chocolate; and
  • Dry coca powder – 808 mg of theobromine and caffeine per ounce of chocolate.

So how much chocolate can my dog eat?

White chocolate does not contain very much theobromine and caffeine, and your dog would need to eat a very large quantity before he would be at risk from theobromine poisoning.

If we look at a 10lb (4.5kg) dog such as a Yorkshire Terrier and a 70lb (32kg) dog like a Labrador Retriever, the following amounts of chocolate would be considered lethal doses (if we take 100mg/kg as the lethal dose):

For the Yorkshire Terrier – approximately 7oz of milk chocolate or 3oz of instant cocoa powder, or 1oz of unsweetened baking chocolate or just over half an ounce of dry cocoa powder.

For the Labrador Retriever – approximately 3lbs of milk chocolate or 1.3lbs of instant cocoa powder or 7oz unsweetened baking chocolate or 4oz of cocoa powder.

These are approximate amounts only, but do show how lethal dark chocolate is compared to milk chocolate, and how small dogs are more at risk than large dogs.

Dogs get a taste for chocolate – they find the flavor of theobromine addictive. Even if your dog can eat small amounts of chocolate without any ill effect, don’t give him a taste for it because he’ll then try to sniff out and eat chocolate at every opportunity.

If you really want your dog to eat something that’s like chocolate, you can always use carob which is a good alternative; here a link to a recipe for carob biscotti which your dog with love just as much as chocolate biscotti!

What are the signs of poisoning?

The symptoms of theobromine poisoning generally show within four to twenty four hours of your dog having eaten the chocolate.

The early symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, increased urination and restlessness .

As time goes on, and your dog absorbs more theobromine into his system, symptoms such as lack of co-ordination, muscle twitching, hyperactivity, increased heart rate and raised blood pressure will be evident .

These can lead on to seizures, coma, heart arrhythmia, hyperthermia, and ultimately death .

Even if your dog eats a small amount of chocolate, he may show signs of vomiting and diarrhea due to the high fat and sugar content of the chocolate.

What do I do if my dog’s eaten chocolate?

The first thing you should do is to call your vet and describe the symptoms your dog is showing (if any) and the type and quantity of chocolate your dog has, or you think he has, eaten.

Your vet will need to treat your dog, but may advise you to make your dog vomit before bringing him to the surgery. This will reduce the amount of theobromine that’s in your dog’s body that he can absorb.

Most dogs recover within 24 to 72 hours of treatment by their vet .

Does this mean that cocoa mulch is toxic too?

Yes, cocoa bean shell mulch is very toxic to dogs – there is approximately 255 mg of theobromine per ounce of mulch.

For a lethal dose of cocoa mulch our 10lb (4.5kg) Yorkshire Terrier needs to ingest just under 2ozs (368g), and our 70lb Labrador Retriever just 13ozs (368g).

Dogs are attracted to cocoa mulch as it has a sweet smell. As your dog explores things of interest with his mouth, and being an indiscriminate eater, he could easily swallow a couple of mouthfuls whilst he’s investigating where that lovely cocoa smell is coming from.

It’s not easy to notice that your dog has swallowed cocoa mulch – you’re not likely to spot a pound of mulch missing from the garden. Most deaths from theobromine toxicity are from the ingestion of coca mulch because owners aren’t aware their dog’s eaten it. By the time the symptoms show the dog has often suffered too much internal damage to be saved .

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Comments

  1. Hi,
    Congrats for your blog, very nice!
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    - Marco

  2. I didn’t know all this and my dog got into the chocolates (coated with cocoa) that were set out for the guests on my wedding day. I decided that we should keep him there with us so we could watch for signs of toxicity, which I assumed would be lethargy, confusion, vomiting- because I was too distracted and frantic to get ready for the wedding to take the time to take him to the emergency vet. He never showed signs of sickness that we could discern but he got really hyper- rolling around, running in circles, wouldn’t sit down. This is a very mellow yellow dog.

    After awhile if this we put him in the basement because he was being a nuisance but he got out without anyone noticing and the guests kids (without permission and after being told the dog was too high strung to play with today) took him into the other room to play with him without a single one of us grownups noticing and one of them was badly bitten. We put the dog in my mom’s fenced yard while we rushed the girl to the emergency all the while thinking, “Wow, what’s gotten into him?” we never thought it might be the chocolate. Shortly thereafter a young man put his hand into the fence to pet the dog and got bit too! My dog was a jumping, rolling, running around in circles, barking, biting mess and I never connected it to the chocolate. 48 hours later, he was fine. Back to his mellow yellow self, but possibly on death row. (We’re not sure of his fate yet at this point.) Seems chocolate kills in more ways than one.

  3. glad to have read this blog. my 10 lb pug just ate a 12oz bag of bakers chocolate and had vomiting and hyperactivity and restlessness and let me tell you i have never been so scared of loosing my baby pug. she is ok now but man it was nerverecking

  4. Our dogs love carob. Nice and crunchy.I have never let them eat chocolate and it is good to have all the facts pointed out.

  5. My dog was poisoned with chocolate. I want to thank your site for the only site I could find that shows symptoms that also include lack of coordination. My dog ate baking cocoa. I came home to this. She was acting drunk, falling and weaving.

    Very important to get this information out that the lack of coordination is also a symptom to be aware of.

    Fortunately, even injesting the whole can, she is doing alright as we speak. She is still at the vet, but her heartrate is down and they are administering more charcoal.

    Very very dangerous. Do not give your dog any amount as then they search out for the smell.

  6. Ohmygod!
    I didn´t know this, and I´ve been giving my dogs tiny bites of my favorite milk chocolate(Chocolove hazelnut, that god it has LOTS of hazelnuts – hope nuts are not poisonous for dogs) for probably 6 months, probably what amounts to 5 grams daily! He´s a King Charles Cavalier, a year old, probably 18lb. He´s never gotten sick and is in excellent health. He is insanely crazy about the chocolate, he can hear between floors when I unwrap the chocolate! Whoa, I have to give him something else, I´ll try the carob. Thanks!

  7. Ok I know someones going to call me a horrible owner
    But I have a 120# pound black lab/mastiff that I give
    Chocolate in small doses, say like a couple squares
    Of a hersheys bar or a kitkat bar, and have never
    Noticed any ill effects. And he doesn’t seem to seek it
    Out any more than anything else. In fact, it’s the only thing
    He seems to think of as a “treat”, probably because he’s pretty much
    Fed everything. I’ve never noticed any change in his behavior, either.

  8. annemarie Hatchard says:

    After reading about chocolate and dogs. Im hoping that my 20k staffy chopper will be fine after eating chocolate from easter. thanks great info well done annemarie and chopper.

  9. My 4 pound puppy ate a handfull of triple chocolate cake off my nephews hand. I didn’t think much about it. Thinking as a child my dogs ate a bunch of crap off the floor. I’m nervous now after visiting diff. Sites. He’s sleeping now and looks fine.

  10. So my boy Duke – a 1year old, 15 lb Jack Russell Mix – got onto my chair at the dining room table where I had about 15 tiny tiny chocolate covered raisens. He has gotten into the before but had no more than 5 and was fine. He is just acting like his normal self now. 5 minutes ago running around like crazy and now sleeping silently on the couch right next to me. I am worried but i think he will be fine. He, even without chocolate, exhibits all the symptoms except vomiting all the time. So not so sure about how I am gonna tell whether he is sick or just himself yet… We will see though.

  11. Thank you so much for sharing this information! Especially now around the holidays, it’s so important to be aware. People tend to leave fudge and other chocolate treats on the coffee table and places where pets can easily reach.

    Always keep chocolate and other toxins out of reach of your 4-legged friends!

    Thanks again for sharing :)

  12. Thanks for getting the details out about the fact that it will take about 3lbs of chocolate to kill a dog. Imagine 3 blocks of butter worth of chocolate!

    I have had dogs all my life and have always fed them a little bit of chocolate as a treat once a week. The last one lived to be 13 years old. The same dog ate an entire box of chocolates when she was a puppy.
    I think like anything it’s important to realize that everything can be in moderation. Did you know that chocolate can kill us? What about alcohol? Although it might not be the best idea to feed Dogs chocolate, it’s not natural after all, i think it’s important to get the word out that a dog consuming 1 oz of chocolate will not kill it.

  13. I think my dog, a 8month 42lbs, black lab/Austrialian shepard/Rott mix, just got into some chocolate, cus i found aluminum wrapping next to his bed and one of the Christmas Stockings was ripped apart… He is one of the most mellow dogs in the world.. I am concerned now.. i had heard that chocolate was harmful to dogs, but didn’t realize how harmful… I’m actually really worried.. i’m sure it wasn’t much chocolate.. maybe a couple pieces… but now that i have read some of the postings.. i am watching him closer.. He’s laying there on his “punishment pillow” in the corner.. but once in a while i catch kind of a weird twitching movement. i hope he is just trying to get comfortable… his breathing seems to be a little more rapid. than normal. .. Keeping an eye on my lil’ boy…….

  14. I had a female Brittany Spaniel that weighed approximatly 50lbs. I was given a 2lb solid chocolate bunny rabbit one year for easter. I left the chocolate bunny rabbit in the closet one day when I went to work. When I came home that night I noticed that my dog had eaten about two thirds of the that bunny. I had always heard about chocolate being bad for dogs but I’ll tell nothing ever really happend to her. She seemed a little listless at first but other than that she seemed normal. She also lived to be 15 years old. So you never know do you!

  15. Just had a scare the other night – my Bichon/Shitsu decided to enjoy about 1/2 truffles (dusted with cocoa and made from dark chocolate). He had thrown up twice before I noticed the empty package on the floor in the family room. I gave him a couple of doses of the hydrogen peroxide mixed with water and got him to throw up again. Nothing but the mixture came up so I knew it was already in his system. I did not know when he had eaten the chocolate but estimate 1 hour before he was vomiting. I gave him a slice of bread with some meat and took him out for a 40 minute walk/run. He ran all the way and seemed fine. (Sorry if this description offends anyone but it might be important to note – that he never had diarrhea) His poop was still firm but was very dark in color. I used a little shringe to give him water and checked him through the night – 1am, 3am, 5am & 7 am. He/We went for a 16 klm walk the next day and his poop in normal and he is fine. So I am guessing the concentration of theobromine was not alot in the truffles.
    I do note that he ate mice poison a few years ago (opened the package himself) unbeknownst to me until a few hours later and the vet said that because I gave him a hamburger with bun shortly after he ate the poison- it probably saved his life as the food helped absorb the poison. The vet still administered charcoal and induced vomiting.
    The dog is now 9 years old and doing fine.

  16. Can giving a 14 -20 pound dog one or 2 Oreo cookies cause a problem in their digestive system – every other day ?

    Is this chocolate alert for excessive consumption ?

  17. Melissa says:

    My husband and I never give our dogs chocolate, because we know that even small amounts over a long period of time, can have devastating affects. Our Cocker Spaniel
    Mercedes got into a box of chocolates about 1 1/2 pounds of it. The vet told up to wait it out she would be really sick. Her eyes were this blood shot red, and she was so sick she was just shaking. It was horrible; I thought we lost our dog due to me carelessly leaving down chocolate. It could have cost Mercedes her life. Its just not worth it.

  18. I have always gave my dogs afew M&Ms when I have them. So far no problems but after reading this I think Iwill have to hide the M&M bag from now on.

  19. Dave DeShazo says:

    My Black Lab ate a German Cholocate that my wife had just finished putting the frosting on when we went to bed. I didn’t give a second thougt about leaving the cake pan on top of the kitchen counter. However when we got up the next morning, about 3/4 of the cake was gone, and Buddy was sleepin good! Didn’t seam to effect his sleep or his desire to play HARD the next day.

  20. My dog ate about a 1/4 – 1/2 cup of indian corn, cocoa powder is the 3rd ingredient on the package, i am not sure how much each corn contains, he threw up a mass of food coloring and some pieces of candy, i gave him water and a slice of bread no more vomiting,
    i am watching him closely

  21. David Parrish says:

    I’m sorry I came upon this information too late. For those of you who think it is silly that chocolate could kill a dog, think again. Our schnauzer ate a little more than 3 ounces of 72% chocolate and died less than 24 hours later. We had instances of him getting into candy/chocolates before and didn’t think too much about it, especially with such a small amount. What we didn’t realize was that it is the amount of cocoa solids which determines the theobromine content, and this was the first time he had helped himself to this type of chocolate. We waited until the following morning to take him to the emergency room, I administered activated charcoal about 12 hours after the event, but none of this was enough to save him.

    With the availability of darker chocolates these days, this information should come as part of an owner’s manual with every dog. I only wish we had known sooner just HOW lethal certain kinds of chocolate can be.

  22. I just found that my 30lb(13.6 kilos) dog had gotten into the last of my milk chocolate hedgehogs (3 oz. worth) that I had carelessly left on the floor. I did my reaserch and found that its a very minor amount, and she isnt showing any symptoms. But I am still worried sick that it will have effects bad effects on her digestive system. Im a little hesitant on inducing vomiting and such because she’s only had 11mg of theobromine per kilogram of body weight and only mild signs of poisoning occur in animals ingesting 20 mg of theobromine and caffeine per kg of bodyweight. Im not sure what to do but I think I may just wait this one out and provide her with lots of fluids.

  23. We have a 4 lb toy poodle that ate some milk chocolate. I am guessing close to 4 hershey kisses. She had thrown up most of it and was acting fine but I induced vomiting anyway to be sure we had gotten most of it. She is acting fine at the moment other then looking at me like how could I make her throw up. I am still worried . Anyone ever have one that small ingestthis amount?

  24. Thanks for the information. My sheppard ate about 6oz of Dove dark chocolate. He began vomitting within 2 hours. I gave him burned toast and then held onto him thinking he wasn’t going to make it through the night. After reading it takes 3lbs for a 70 pound dog, I might get some sleep tonight. Thanks

  25. This was very informative and helpful. I liked it so much I am bring excerpts of it to my teacher. Now I know what to do when Lucy eats chocolate! Thank you!

  26. I just came home and my Lab/Charpei mix 93lbs just ate 9 oz of dove dark chocolates. He ate the foil and all. Stacy thank you for your input. I was very worried. I know he will probably get diarrhea and may not feel very well. But from what I am reading he should be fine.
    If I am calculating correctly he ate about 1/2 lb and would need about 3 lbs to be very dangerous………..Thank You! (he jumped gate and climbed on counter to get to it.)

  27. Im so happy i i found this site. Its theonly one i found with good infromation. my golden retriever just ate 3 pounds of chocolate, so im feeding it vodka and lemonaid trying to get it to throw up. I hope my little baby is gonna be alright

  28. Thank you for this very informative web site. My 9 pound chihuahua may have eaten a small amount of a chocolate truffle easter egg. I am not sure because I fell asleep and may have left a small amount in the wrapper. He was licking the wrapper. I gave him a small amount of milk. He seemed very playful and not in any distress. So later I gave him a small amount of dry food and a few pieces of white turkey breast to fill up his stomach and maybe absorb the chocolate. He is sleeping now and this happened about eleven hours ago, I am not sleeping because I am afraid that he may become ill during the evening, so I read this site and also the comments that so many of your devoted pet owners submitted. It was very comforting to know that some of the dogs were able to survive. I have an emergency care center open 24hour, if I see any distress when he gets up in the morning. I will be there with him. I am 76 years old and this little pet is my buddy. I hope he is okay. Thank you for this wonderful web site.

  29. I have 2 beautiful shitzu’s , both dogs are never ever given human food, but unfortunately my 6 month old managed to get into a cupboard and ate 200 grammes of 85% dark chocolate , he started vomiting about and hou and half later , I hope he will be ok (he vet said to keep an eye on him ! Fingers crossed people x

  30. My pug ate 8 oreos this morning and ive been so scared all day, she hasn’t showed any symptoms though! She’s very old pug so i thought she wouldn’t be able to handle it. I feel more informed about the dangers of chocolate and my dog, thank you:)

  31. My dog 65 lb lab/huskie mix just ate 1/4 of a dark chocolate cupcake – she seems to be acting fine – I didn’t know if I should take her to the vet or if it was a small enough amount that she would be fine?

    Any suggestions?

  32. I’m waiting it out right now. My mix got into some mining marshmallows drizzled with chocolate, dark chocolate. I’m guessing it was about half an ounce but it has effected him. Please read the measurements carefully cause dark chocolate is more along the lines of bakers chocolate that milk chocolate. He’s starting to sleep a lil but is still a lil restless. Stuff has always acceded him worse though. Thanks for the tips

  33. Thanks for the blog. I am an avid dog lover and knew that chocolate was bad for them, however, I always wondered what amount would effect them. I have kids and they have at times shared their M&M’s with our dogs and our foster dogs. They never got sick, so I couldn’t understand why people would say that it was so dangerous. Now I know that the amount they ate wasn’t enough to make the ill, and the fact that the chocolate was mild chocolate helped.
    This blog is very helpful.
    Thanks again,
    Hope

  34. I am glad to have this site to go to. My sister came into my room and had a chocolate wrapper in her hand. She found it on the floor of our kitchen and was worried that our border collie who is 1 had gotten into it. I have watched her for about 4 hours now and not a sign of diahrrea or vomiting. So I think we may have been wrong. I am glad to know what the signs are so I can keep an eye on her and how I am going to be able to do my 12 hour shift tomorrow is another story lol guess I will have to do my best. Thanks again
    Larissa

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