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What to do when your dog eats chocolate

Updated on January 31, 2013
A stack of chocolate
A stack of chocolate | Source

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
Milk Chocolate
One ounce per pound
Semi-Sweet Chocolate
Half an ounce per pound
Dark Chocolate
Quarter of an ounce per pound
Baking Chocolate
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.

Our dogs were just fine!
Our dogs were just fine! | Source

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 the chocolate safe from prying dogs
Keeping the chocolate safe from prying dogs | Source

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.

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    • savingkathy profile image

      Kathy Sima 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Very useful information, especially with Easter just around the corner. Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image

      lesliebyars 

      5 years ago

      I knew to keep chocolate away from my dogs but now I know why:)

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      5 years ago from USA

      I don't understand why dogs like chocolate when it is so bad for them. I keep my chocolate out of reach of the dog, but he looks longingly at it like I am depriving him of this special treat. I hadn't made a plan for what to do when he did eat chocolate, so thank you for this. I know exactly what to do if my dog ever eats chocolate.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 

      5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Important hub, Kat. It's always helpful to remind people of the dangers of chocolate.

      One thing that isn't mentioned too often is that the caffeine in chocolate can be problematic as well. Even though the dog doesn't ingest fatal levels of caffeine and theobromine, he can absorb enough to cause other problems.

      Also, dogs can smell food through packaging, so merely containing it may not be sufficient if the dog can chew through the packaging. As you advised, it's important to secure it where the dogs can't reach it.

      Voted up and useful, although you might want to double check your toxicity levels. I believe about 2 ounces of baker's chocolate is the toxic level for a 20 pound dog.

    • profile image

      Jennifer 

      5 years ago

      One more tip: if you're told to induce vomiting at home before bringing your pet to the veterinarian, you can feed them a tablespoon or two of hydrogen peroxide. But you should still ALWAYS call your veterinarian as soon as your dog has eaten chocolate!

    • kingkos profile image

      kingkos 

      5 years ago

      I didnt know this thanks for the tips and information, I will stop giving chocolate to my dogs.

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