Dog Eating Chocolate Symptoms

Whether or not you see your dog eating chocolate, certain clinical signs can indicate that he’s suffering from chocolate poisoning, which can become very seriously very quickly. By knowing what to look for and by taking precautions to keep chocolate away from your dog, you can help prevent a serious health crisis in your pet.

Chocolate Poisoning Signs to Look for

The type and severity of signs your dog shows after eating chocolate may depend on the amount of chocolate he’s consumed. Mild cases of chocolate poisoning will usually cause stomach problems, such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. In these cases, your dog’s digestive system is unable to effectively process the fat found in the chocolate. Monitor your dog’s condition for four to six hours after the onset of these signs. If he isn’t improving, contact your veterinarian’s office for further instructions on chocolate poisoning.

In cases where a dog has consumed a larger amount of chocolate, clinical signs can include a faster heartbeat, muscle spasms, restlessness that borders on hyperactivity and increased urination. If left untreated, chocolate poisoning can lead to seizures, heart attack and even death.

What to Do for Your Dog

Immediate veterinary care is required in moderate to severe cases of chocolate poisoning. Your dog has the best chance for recovery if he’s treated within four to six hours of consuming chocolate, and he may feel the effects of the poison for up to 36 hours afterward.

Your veterinarian may induce vomiting to prevent your dog’s body from digesting the chocolate, or your dog may receive activated charcoal to help absorb the poison in his digestive system. In some cases, your dog’s stomach may need to be pumped to remove the chocolate from his system. Your veterinarian may also use medications, intravenous fluids and other therapeutic measures to help your dog recover from the effects of the chocolate.

Why Chocolate Is Poisonous to Dogs

Chocolate contains high levels of fat and some caffeine, neither of which are good for dogs, but the most harmful ingredient found in chocolate from your dog's point of view is an alkaloid called theobromine. Humans can easily metabolize this substance, but dogs and other pets cannot. Because a dog’s body cannot process the chemical as quickly as ours can, theobromine can accumulate in your dog’s bloodstream, which can cause his cardiovascular and nervous systems to become overstimulated.

The level of chocolate that a dog needs to eat to become poisoned depends on the size of the dog and the type of chocolate. White chocolate contains the lowest theobromine level, followed by milk chocolate and then dark chocolate. Baking chocolate contains the highest theobromine levels.

A toxic level of theobromine for dogs is between 100 and 150 mg/kg, so a 10-pound dog would have to consume 28 pounds of white chocolate to become poisoned. That same dog would have to eat only about a half-pound of milk chocolate or about 3 ounces of dark chocolate to be poisoned. One ounce, or one square, of baking chocolate would be enough to poison a 10-pound dog.