Dogs love chocolate just as much as we do! However, chocolate ingestion is the most common type of poisoning reported to the VPIS (Veterinary Poisons Information Service). Whether your dog needs treatment depends on how much has been eaten, the size of dog, and whether the chocolate contained raisins.
The toxic component of chocolate is a substance called theobromine; the darker the chocolate, the more theobromine it tends to contain
If your dog has eaten chocolate, work out how much and what type it is, then contact your vet quickly
Your vet will need to know how much time has passed since your dog age the chocolate
The symptoms of chocolate toxicity can be quite dramatic, but most dogs make a good recovery with timely treatment
Why should I worry about my dog eating chocolate?
I know, chocolate is delicious, and you want your dog to enjoy food with you. But for dogs, chocolate can have some nasty side effects.
Dogs can’t metabolise theobromine in chocolate. Theobromine is a bit like caffeine, and it affects the heart, nervous system, guts and kidneys. The smaller your dog, the smaller the amount of chocolate needed to cause problems. The darker the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains, and therefore the more likely it is to cause problems.
And unfortunately it’s not just chocolate bars - cocoa powder is highly toxic, and even chocolate cake or chocolate cereal can be problematic to smaller dogs.
How much chocolate is too much?
As a general rule, if your dog has eaten 3.5g of dark chocolate per kg of their body weight, or 14g of milk chocolate per kg of bodyweight, you should consult your vet. It only takes a few grams of cocoa powder to cause fits in a 10kg dog.
Sometimes it can be difficult to know exactly how much chocolate your dog has eaten. In this case, we would always advise contacting your vet to check. You can also contact the Animal Poison Line 01202 509000 (please note there is a charge for this service).
How will I know if my dog has eaten too much chocolate?
If you have just seen your dog eat chocolate, contact your vet right away. They can tell you if your dog has eaten too much.
Often we do not see our dogs eat chocolate but find the empty wrappers. Sometimes, it’s not until they develop symptoms of chocolate poison that we realise they’ve eaten it. Dogs can develop symptoms of chocolate toxicity within 4 to 24 hours.
The symptoms you might see include:
Rapid heart rate
How is chocolate toxicity treated?
When you speak to your vet, they will ask you what sort of chocolate and how much your dog has eaten, how long ago you think it was eaten, and how big your dog is. From this, your vet will work out whether your dog has eaten a toxic amount.
If your dog has eaten a toxic amount, you will be asked to take them into the veterinary practice. If the chocolate was eaten less than 2 hours ago, your vet may make your dog vomit it back up. Thay may also give them something to soak up the theobromine.
If it has been over 4 hours and your dog is showing symptoms it will be too late to make your dog vomit because the chocolate will have left the stomach and passed into the intestines. Your dog may need to be kept in for treatment. A drip (intravenous fluids) can help to flush out the toxins, and medicines can be given to reduce sickness, protect the stomach, bring the heart rate down, and treat any fits.
How serious is chocolate toxicity?
Although it can make dogs very sick, fortunately very few dogs die from chocolate toxicity. If treated quickly, the outcome is usually good.