What to do when your dog eats chocolate
Valentine’s Day and Easter share a wonderful-tasting vice – chocolate! Heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolates! Bunnies made of chocolate! And it’s all good. Unless your dog gets ahold of it and eats it. As someone who came home one day to discover my two dogs – one 40-pounds and one 6-pounds – gorging away on chocolates they’d managed to steal off the table, I learned a lot about how to deal with this potentially fatal doggie favorite.
How much is too much?
Technically, there is no “safe” amount for dogs to eat, but small enough quantities have limited side effects. Dark chocolate and baker’s chocolate are the most dangerous with milk chocolate still being bad but not the worst. White chocolate does not contain cocoa beans, so it should be relatively safe, but it’s still best to avoid feeding it to your dogs.
Chocolate is dangerous because it contains a compound found in cocoa beans called theobromine. While humans can ingest the chemical and get a slight buzz, their systems process it and it moves through their systems in under an hour. Dogs, however, may still have theobromine in their systems for more than 17 hours.
Too Much Chocolate For Dogs By Body Weight
Type of Chocolate
Amount of Chocolate
One ounce per pound
Half an ounce per pound
Quarter of an ounce per pound
Under a quarter of an ounce per pound
Signs and symptoms of chocolate ingestion
Commons side effects are vomiting and diarrhea. More serious side effects that occur when a toxic amount is ingested include hyperactivity, high blood pressure, tremors, seizures, a rapid heartbeat, respiratory failure, and cardiac arrest. In other words, too much chocolate can literally give your dog a deadly heart attack.
Treatment for chocolate overload
There is no specific treatment; however, most of the time, the veterinarian will suggest inducing vomiting. One option is ipecac, although some other vets may choose to use other methods to get the dog to vomit up the chocolate. Once the dog has vomited up the chocolate, the vets often give the dog activated charcoal to help stop absorption of any remaining chocolate. Fluids may be given intravenously or subcutaneously in order to help re-hydrate the dog and limit seizures and protect the dog’s heart.
The sooner you find out that your dog has eaten chocolate, the better. Get them to the vet as soon as possible. In my case, the dogs were at the vet in under half an hour, and the vet had induced vomiting within an hour. Since it happened to quickly, the dogs were able to come home the same day with some subcutaneous fluids, and while they were a bit tired from the vomiting, they were fine in the long run.
Keeping chocolate away from your dogs
After the dogs got into the chocolate, we decided that we were being too lax in our chocolate storage. In the past, we had a candy bowl so that friends and neighbors could snack, but after our dogs discovered their way onto the table and into the bowl, we moved it into a sealed container. If we have cookies or other items with chocolate in them, we store them in cabinets above the counters, in the refrigerator, or even in the microwave, just to make sure everything is high up enough that they can’t get to it.