Why is chocolate bad for dogs?
Chocolate contains substances known as methylxanthines, specifically caffeine and theobromine, both of which are toxic to dogs. Dogs metabolize theobromine much slower than humans, so depending on your dog’s weight, even small amounts of chocolate can be bad.
The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more dangerous it is to dogs.
Different types of chocolate have varying amounts of theobromine in them. Generally, the more cocoa solids contained in a product, the more theobromine will be present and the more dangerous the item is for your pet. Dark chocolate, cocoa powder, and Baker’s chocolate are much more toxic to dogs than milk chocolate or white chocolate.
If your dog ate chocolate, use this calculator to determine if it was enough chocolate to be toxic.
Symptoms of chocolate toxicity in dogs
Initial or minor symptoms of chocolate toxicity may include:
- diarrhea & vomiting
- agitation or hyperactivity
- increase in thirst
In worse cases or in high doses, ingesting chocolate may cause:
- tremors or twitching
- racing heart rate
- muscle rigidity
Treatment for chocolate ingestion
Treatment for chocolate ingestion is dependent on how much chocolate is ingested and the symptoms the patient is having.
Dogs who have ingested a low dose of chocolate may or may not need medical treatment, but if the ingestion was recent (within 1 to 2 hours) we minimally recommended inducing vomiting to prevent further absorption. Some patients may be given subcutaneous fluids (under the skin) to help flush their kidneys as well as keep them hydrated if they’re already having symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea. Anti-nausea medications are often sent home.
Dogs who have ingested higher doses and are showing more symptoms are hospitalized. If you are diligent about treatment as soon as ingestion is noticed, most patients make a full recovery.
What to do if you think your dog has ingested chocolate
If you suspect your cat or dog has gotten into chocolate, it is best to contact us immediately. After hours, please call one of our local emergency veterinary hospitals for advice, or call one of the pet poison centers listed below.
Pet Poison Helpline: 855-764-7661
ASPCA Poison Control: 888-426-4435