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What happens when a dog eats chocolate

The essentials

  • Chocolate toxicity can be fatal if untreated — It’s vital to get your dog to a veterinarian as soon as you discover they’ve eaten chocolate.
  • Watch for signs of chocolate toxicity — Clinical signs include vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, elevated heart rate, and general restlessness.
  • Chocolate has varying toxicity levels — While no chocolate is safe, dark chocolate has higher levels of the toxic molecule theobromine compared to milk or white chocolate.
  • Treatment includes inducing vomiting, activated charcoal, and giving fluids — These all help to prevent the toxins from being absorbed and being flushed from the body.

Why chocolate is bad for dogs

In short, chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, both of which can speed up your dog’s heart rate and stimulate their nervous system. Too much of these chemicals and your dog could have a serious, sometimes fatal, reaction.

How much chocolate can a dog eat?

Mild symptoms of chocolate toxicity can occur when a dog consumes just one ounce of chocolate per pound of body weight. An average Hershey’s chocolate bar is 1.55 ounces, so your dog eating even one bar can cause severe cases of toxicity, especially in smaller dogs.

Chocolate toxicity calculator

Chocolate toxicity in dogs

Dog’s weight Toxic amount of milk chocolate Toxic amount of dark chocolate
5 pounds 4 ounces .5 ounce
10 pounds 8 ounces 1.0 ounce
20 pounds 1 pound 2.5 ounces
30 pounds 2 pounds 3.25 ounces
40 pounds 2.5 pounds 4.5 ounces
50 pounds 3 pounds 5.5 ounces
60 pounds 4 pounds 7 ounces
70 pounds 5 pounds 8.5 ounces
80 pounds 6 pounds 10 ounces
100 pounds 8 pounds 13 ounces
120 pounds 10 pounds 1 pound

Levels of chocolate toxicity

Different chocolates have different levels of theobromine and caffeine. Here are a few types of chocolate listed in order of theobromine content:

  1. Cocoa powder (most toxic)
  2. Unsweetened baker’s chocolate
  3. Semisweet chocolate
  4. Dark chocolate
  5. Milk chocolate
  6. White chocolate (least toxic)

Chocolates from least to most toxic

Chocolate type Amount of theobromine
Milk chocolate 45-60 mg/oz
Semisweet or dark chocolate 130-185 mg/oz
Unsweetened baking chocolate 400-450 mg/oz
Cocoa powder (which is the most toxic) 800 mg/oz

Symptoms of chocolate toxicity

Signs of chocolate poisoning usually appear within six to 12 hours after ingestion, and may last up to 72 hours. Here are symptoms for pet owners to watch for after your dog has eaten chocolate:

👉 In serious cases, chocolate toxicity can lead to death. Older dogs and those with heart conditions are more at risk of sudden death from chocolate poisoning. Get your dog to the vet as soon as you discover they’ve eaten any chocolate.

If you’re unaware your dog has consumed any chocolate, learn to recognize the signs when your dog is anxious as these may indicate they’re uncomfortable and not feeling well. Signs of chocolate poisoning may also be seen in specific behaviors, including licking lips, yawning, tensing of the face or body, pacing, and more.

What to do if your dog ate chocolate

If your dog ate chocolate, call your veterinarian immediately or call the Pet Poison Helpline (855-213-6680) for advice. Based on your dog’s size and the amount and type of chocolate they ate, your vet may want you to bring your dog in for monitoring or treatment.

Treatment for chocolate toxicity

Treatment can look different depending on your dog’s specific scenario. If caught early, your vet may induce vomiting and administer activated charcoal to help prevent your dog from absorbing the theobromine.

If your dog isn’t improving or ate a large quantity of chocolate, extra treatments of activated charcoal may be repeated to reduce resorption and recirculation of theobromine through their body. Other common treatments include intravenous fluid therapy to stabilize your dog and encourage their body to excrete the theobromine.

Frequently asked questions

What makes chocolate toxic to dogs?

Chocolate contains theobromine, which is toxic for dogs and can lead to cardiac symptoms and nervous system failure. It’s also made with caffeine, which can cause cardiac issues in animals.

What amount of chocolate is toxic to a dog?

Ingesting 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate per 10 pounds of body weight, or 3.5 ounces of milk chocolate per 10 pounds of body weight can be toxic to a dog. As an example, even a standard-size Hershey’s bar can be fatal for a small dog.

How long do dogs react after eating chocolate?

Symptoms can show up as early as six hours after eating chocolate and last as long as 72 hours. It’s important to call your vet as soon as you discover your dog has eaten chocolate since the earlier it’s treated the better your dog’s chances are.

Are there any chocolates that are safe for dogs?

While no chocolate made for humans is safe for dogs, there’s a non-toxic chocolate alternative called carob with a similar taste.