The Treatment of Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs

Treating chocolate poisoning in dogs requires close attention. While tiny amounts of chocolate may not harm your dog, certain chocolates have higher levels of the toxin that affects dogs. It's always best to keep chocolate well out of your dog's reach, but accidents can occur. If your dog ingests chocolate, take immediate note of what kind of chocolate and how much was eaten.

The Toxin Behind Chocolate Poisoning

Theobromine is found in the cacao bean and other common items like guarana berries, tea leaves and kola nuts. It's an alkaline directly related to the bitterness in your chocolate. Milk chocolate has less theobromine than bittersweet.

Cocoa powder can have up to 10 percent theobromine. It's all dependent on how dark the chocolate is, where the cacao beans are grown and the brand. According to Hershey's, the theobromine content for their different types of chocolate is as follows.

  • 1½ ounce Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bar - 74 milligrams
  • 1½ ounce Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Bar - 184 milligrams
  • 1½ ounce semi-sweet chocolate chips - 165 milligrams
  • 1½ ounce unsweetened baking chocolate - 466 milligrams
  • 1 Hershey's Kiss - 8.2 milligrams
  • 2 tbsp chocolate syrup - 70 milligrams

Cocoa mulch is growing in popularity but can be equally dangerous. The mulch is the ground shell from the cacao bean. It also contains theobromine. Because of its chocolate scent, dogs are likely to ingest the mulch. Avoid using this mulch if your dog is allowed to be outside unsupervised.

Even carob contains theobromine, though the levels in carob are extremely low, usually less than 14 milligrams per ounce. However, you should note that even with carob there can be theobromine present.

Effects of Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs

Theobromine is digested and metabolized very slowly in dogs. The alkaline substance increases the heart rate and slows blood pressure. It also increases urination, causing dehydration. In addition, many digestive problems can occur. Symptoms to watch for generally occur in the first 12 hours. They include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Excitability
  • Increased urination
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tremors
  • Rapid pulse
  • Restlessness
  • Vomiting

Left untreated, the dog can develop seizures and die from ingesting too much chocolate. This is where it is important to know exactly how much your dog has eaten.

Treatment of Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs

It's important to contact your veterinarian if your dog eats chocolate. In mild cases, you'll be advised to induce vomiting within the first two hours and then watch for signs of chocolate poisoning. If anything alarming occurs, seek veterinary care immediately.

If veterinary care is necessary, charcoal is used to absorb as much theobromine as possible. The stomach may be pumped to remove additional chocolate before it digests. The heart is closely monitored and arrhythmias will be treated if they occur. IV fluids may be ordered to prevent dehydration. Seizures will be treated with medications.

Chocolate Quantities that Dogs Can Handle

Your dog's weight and type of chocolate ingested are critical to knowing when to call your vet. According to the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center, ingesting 20 milligrams of theobromine can cause mild poisoning. Ingesting 60 milligrams can lead to seizures. A lot of this depends on the dog's size.