How Much Chocolate Will Hurt a Dog? Need-to-Know Info

How Much Chocolate Will Hurt a Dog? Need-to-Know Info

The short answer to this question is that any amount of chocolate and any kind of chocolate can be harmful to dogs. The longer answer is that it can vary, depending on the type of chocolate, the dog's weight and the volume of chocolate eaten.

What's important is that dog owners take care to keep chocolate products well away from their dog's reach. This is especially true at times like Easter and Christmas when the risk of chocolate toxicity is higher.

In the excitement of the occasion, chocolate bars from selection boxes and Easter egg packs can be strewn about without much thought, and your dog could ingest a toxic dose quickly.

Infographic with toxicity of chocolate from low to high

Different Types of Chocolate and Your Dog

Caffeine in chocolate is harmful to dogs as it increases their heart rate and can actually lead to high blood pressure and dangerously abnormal heart rhythms.

But the biggest concern is the theobromine content. It also works on the central nervous system and is a heart stimulant, diuretic and smooth muscle relaxant that works similarly to caffeine.

Since dogs don't metabolise this compound very well, the effects of ingesting it can be very distressing. Really serious cases of chocolate toxicity can also lead to death, so it's important to be vigilant.

The amount of theobromine varies by chocolate type. As a rule, the darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is.

So white chocolate has the least amount of theobromine. Milk chocolate contains more, the chemical is very high in bitter or dark chocolate, and cocoa powder is the most harmful to dogs because of the cocoa solids.

What To Do If Your Dog Eats Chocolate

It can take six to eight hours for clinical signs of poisoning from chocolate to show up, so it's best to get veterinary advice as soon as possible.

Call your vet's emergency line or contact Animal PoisonLine (APL), the UK's only pet poison helpline, on 01202 509000. Each call to the 24-hour expert service costs £35 (between Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm, and £45 at all other times, including bank holidays).

The good news is that seven out of ten owners who call don't need to take their pets to their veterinary clinic for treatment, subsequently.

However, if your dog is already showing signs of toxicity (see below), go straight to the vet for immediate treatment.

When you get in touch, you'll need to have as much information available as possible for them to help you best. It's a good idea to have these details for the vet, too, if you're heading straight there.

  • Your pet’s details: name, breed, age and weight.
  • The specific brand and chocolate product(s) that your dog has eaten.
  • An estimate of how many minutes or hours ago your dog ate the chocolate.
  • An estimate of how much of it they've eaten.
  • Whether this is the first time your dog has eaten chocolate. (There can be long-term implications if this happens repeatedly.)

Symptoms of Chocolate Poisoning

As we've said, the toxic amount of chocolate varies depending on things like the weight of your dog and the type of chocolate treat they've eaten.

Smaller dogs who eat a big chunk of darker chocolate are likely to experience much more toxic effects than large dogs who hoover up a white piece of chocolate or a small amount of milk chocolate.

You might not see any symptoms straight away, but signs of chocolate ingestion you're looking out for are:

  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • thirstiness
  • restlessness
  • racing heart
  • panting
  • weeing more than usual

More severe signs could include your dog having seizures, a fever, muscle tremors or heart failure.

Remember that the sooner you start treatment, the better your dog's prognosis.

Treatment for Chocolate Poisoning

Treatment options vary again depending on your dog's size and how much theobromine they've ingested.

Your vet might make your dog vomit with activated charcoal to get some of the theobromine out of their body quickly. Otherwise, it can last a long time in your dog's bloodstream, and the effects can last for days.

The vet may also give intravenous fluids and have you take your pet on lots of walks for extra wees to flush the chemical out of their system.

Your dog might also need medication to deal with any associated agitation and other symptoms.

Better Safe Than Sorry

This is one of those times where we really do urge you, as responsible pet owners, to be aware of the toxicity of chocolate and the devastating effects it can have.

Even white chocolate isn't a good idea for dogs. The theobromine might be minimal, but the sugar and fat content can still cause real health issues for dogs. And some products contain xylitol, which is also harmful.

So please be careful with your treats. If you have kids at home, teach them the importance of keeping chocolate away from pets and be mindful of what they're eating and where. Even a little chocolate dropped on the floor can cause big problems for a small dog.

Remember to be particularly vigilant at special events and birthdays, Christmas, Easter and Halloween, when chocolate is often available at every turn. You're likely well aware of how fast dogs can move when food's involved!

Dog dressed as ghost with Halloween chocolate in front

And if there's any chance someone will send you chocolates (lucky you!), make sure parcels are delivered somewhere your pup can't get to them.

As a reminder, chocolate is also contained in other foodstuffs, not just actual bars of the stuff. For example:

  • chocolate cake
  • brownies
  • chocolate chip cookies
  • baking mixes
  • ​drinking cocoa

While we're here, we'll take a moment to remind you that these common human foods are also toxic to dogs:

  • avocado
  • xylitol
  • onions
  • garlic
  • macadamia nuts
  • raisins and grapes
  • chives

If you'd like any more information about this topic, feel free to chat with us at either our Matlock or Duffield store.

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