Chocolate is toxic to dogs and can lead to symptoms of poisoning. While a tiny amount may not be harmful, too much can be fatal. While a tiny amount may not be harmful, too much can be fatal and its important to be able to spot symptoms of chocolate poisoning
The toxic part of chocolate is theobromine, and whilst we humans are able to quickly metabolise that chemical, dogs take much longer. Consequently, dogs can build up potentially dangerous levels of theobromine in their system, leading to various discomforts, ranging from the relatively minor upset stomach to potential heart attacks.
If your dog eats chocolate, they will likely show symptoms of other similarly toxic substances. Theobromine poisoning signs typically include an upset stomach which can lead to diarrhoea and vomiting. More worrisome indicators include tremors, seizures and an irregular heartbeat. In extreme cases, this can lead to a coma or death. Some dogs may exhibit hyperactivity caused by the caffeine in the chocolate. The more active your dog, the greater the risk of symptoms like heart irregularities. So, if you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate, try to keep him or her calm. If your dog is showing any worrying symptoms or if you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate, even if they are not showing symptoms then it is always recommended to seek Veterinary advice immediately.
Symptoms of poisoning typically appear between 6 and 12 hours after consuming chocolate, although they can appear sooner if your dog has consumed large amounts. While symptoms appear relatively quickly, it can take up to 72 hours for them to disappear completely; which is one of the reasons chocolate poisoning is so dangerous to dogs. Do not wait for your dog to show symptoms if you know they have consumed chocolate. Seek Veterinary advice immediately.
How much a dog can eat before they get sick depends on the type of chocolate they ate and their size. The darker the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains. So, if your dog ate milk or white chocolate, your dog will likely have a higher tolerance. Conversely, an ounce of dark chocolate (or less) could be enough to poison a 15-kilogram dog. Larger dogs could potentially cope with more chocolate than a smaller dog because the concentration of theobromine in their body is much less. With just a couple of pieces of chocolate, a small dog could end up with a poorly stomach. However, just because your dog is larger than others, you should still be vigilant. Every dog is different and some are better able to deal with theobromine than others. Unfortunately, we cannot know how our dogs will handle chocolate until they have already eaten it, and it is not worth the risk to their health.
If your dog has consumed some chocolate, you should consult your vet as soon as possible. They will likely try to induce vomiting to purge the theobromine from the body, as well as begin a fluid treatment to flush it out of the system. We don’t recommend trying to do this yourself unless you are unable to get your dog to the vet and your vet has advised you over the phone.
Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives on the market which your canine companion will love just as much as chocolate. For example, doggy chocolate doesn’t contain theobromine because it is made using cocoa alternatives, like carob beans.