Most people are aware that chocolate is toxic to dogs. But how much is dangerous? How worried should we be if our dog eats our Halloween chocolate?
The chemicals in chocolate that are toxic to dogs are theobromine and caffeine. They cause similar symptoms, though the effects of theobromine last significantly longer. Because the effects and treatment for both are similar and theobromine is far more problematic, for the sake of simplicity we can limit this discussion to the theobromine in chocolate.
Symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs
The most common signs of toxicity from theobromine are vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, panting or restlessness, excessive urination, and racing heart rate. In severe cases, symptoms can include muscle tremors, seizures, and heart failure.
How much chocolate is toxic to dogs?
For dogs, the toxic dose of theobromine starts at 9 milligrams (mg) per pound of the dog’s body weight; this enough to cause mild signs of toxicity. At 18 mg of theobromine per pound of the dog’s body weight, severe toxicity occurs.
Dark chocolate contains far more theobromine than milk chocolate – and the darker the chocolate, the greater the theobromine content. Baker’s chocolate is by far the most toxic to dogs; fortunately, it’s also the least palatable, though some dogs will still give it a try. It contains up to 450 mg of theobromine per ounce of chocolate.
An 85% dark chocolate contains about 230 mg of theobromine per ounce. Milk chocolate contains no more than 60 mg per ounce, and chocolate baked goods are significantly lower still.
It’s not difficult to calculate the amount of theobromine that should concern you. Let’s use a 30-pound dog as an example. For the dose that would cause mild toxicity, multiply the dog’s 30 pounds by 9 mg; it would take about 270 mg of theobromine to see the onset of mild toxicity. For the amount of theobromine that would cause severe toxicity, multiply the dog’s weight (30) by 18 mg; an intake of 540 mg of theobromine would be highly toxic.
Now let’s look at some chocolates. A standard milk chocolate candy bar weighs 1.55 ounces. Multiply 1.55 ounces by 60 mg of theobromine (the amount that’s found in milk chocolate); that candy bar contains 93 mg of theobromine – nowhere close to the 270 mg of theobromine that would cause mild symptoms. Whew!
But if the same-sized candy bar was dark chocolate, your dog would have consumed about 357 mg of theobromine, which is in the dangerous range. The same amount of Baker’s chocolate is the worst-case scenario, containing just under 700 mg of toxic theobromine.
|How Much Chocolate is Toxic to Dogs: Theobromine Toxic Dosages|
|Dog’s weight (lbs)||mg theobromine that causes mild symptoms||mg theobromine that causes severe symptoms|
|5||45 mg||90 mg||Baker’s chocolate contains 450 mg theobromine per oz of chocolate|
85% dark chocolate contains 230 mg theobromine per oz of chocolate
Milk chocolate contains 60 mg theobromine per oz of chocolate
|10||90 mg||180 mg|
|20||180 mg||360 mg|
|30||270 mg||540 mg|
|40||360 mg||720 mg|
|50||450 mg||900 mg|
|60||540 mg||1,080 mg|
|70||630 mg||1,260 mg|
|80||720 mg||1,440 mg|
|90||810 mg||1,620 mg|
|100||900 mg||1,800 mg|
What to do if your dog eats chocolate
You can almost always prevent serious problems caused by your dog’s chocolate consumption by simply inducing your dog to vomit – if you have discovered the theft quickly enough. If you catch your dog eating the chocolate, or are fairly certain she just ate it, calculate whether she’s consumed enough theobromine to justify making her vomit. If the dose approaches or exceeds 9 mg of theobromine per pound of your dog’s body weight, go find your bottle of 3% hydrogen peroxide. The solution works as a direct irritant to the dog’s gastric lining; dogs usually vomit fairly quickly after administration.
When calculating how much chocolate your dog ate, remember that it’s just the chocolate that’s toxic. The cream filling or nuts may add to your pup’s stomach upset, but not to the toxicity caused by the theobromine.
Baked goods are rarely a concern. A typical chocolate cake recipe calls for about 3/4 cup cocoa powder, which contains about 50 mg of theobromine. The chocolate frosting adds only an additional 45 mg, so our 30-pound dog could eat an entire frosted chocolate cake without risk of chocolate toxicity. You would almost certainly have a sick puppy on your hands, but it won’t be due to the theobromine!
When it’s time to get to the vet after your dog eats chocolates
Chocolate consumption can often be managed at home. There are, however, situations where medical intervention is prudent:
- If your dog eats a toxic dose of chocolate and does not successfully vomit it back up.
- If your dog ate a large amount – or an unknown but potentially large amount – of Baker’s or 85% dark chocolate (better safe than sorry).
- If your dog shows signs of chocolate toxicity: agitation, tremors, seizures, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Any of the above scenarios warrant a trip to the veterinarian. It can take days to recover from theobromine toxicity, but fortunately, with early intervention and proper veterinary care when needed, dogs usually recover uneventfully.