Chocolate Toxicity In Dogs Explained by Our Veterinarian in Rancho Cucamonga, CA

We’ve all heard it, “Don’t give your dog chocolate it will kill him”. We’ll how true is it you’re probably wondering. Do I have to rush him to an emergency vet if he ate one of my M&M’s? Chocolate contains theobromine that is toxic to dogs in sufficient quantities. This is a xanthine compound in the same family of caffeine, and theophylline.

How Much Chocolate is Too Much for A Dog?

The good news is that it takes, on average, a fairly large amount of theobromine 100-150 mg/kg to cause a toxic reaction. Although there are variables to consider like the individual sensitivity, animal size and chocolate concentration.

The following table lists the amount of theobromine in different chocolates and the amount needed to harm your pet. Doses below those listed may cause some symptoms but are not likely to be very harmful.

Type of ChocolateTheobromine ConcentrationToxic amount per pound body wt.Amt to harm a 20 pound dogAmt to harm a 50 pound dog
Milk Chocolate44 mg/ oz1 oz per pound20 oz50oz
Semi-Sweet150 mg/oz1 oz per 3 pounds7 oz17 oz
Baker’s Dark390 mg/oz1 ounce per 9 pound2 oz5 oz

Clinical Signs of Chocolate Digestion

Xanthines affect the nervous system, cardiovascular system and peripheral nerves. It has a diuretic effect as well. Clinical signs:

  • Hyper excitability
  • Hyper irritability
  • Increased heart rate
  • Restlessness
  • Increased urination
  • Muscle tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Once absorbed, theobromine takes about 30 hours to be eliminated from the body. If we know that the pet has ingested a significant amount of the toxin based on the chart above then we will often attempt to induce vomiting, pump the stomach and administer activated charcoal to help absorb the toxin in the gastrointestinal tract.

There is no specific antidote for this poisoning. However, supportive therapy with our veterinarians in Rancho Cucamonga, including intravenous fluids, oxygen therapy, sedation and possibly anticonvulsants might be indicated if neurological signs are present and need to be controlled.

Milk chocolate will often cause diarrhea 12-24 hours after ingestion. This can be treated symptomatically (fluids, etc..) to prevent dehydration.

Call Our Animal Hospital in Rancho Cucamonga to Get Help

If you suspect your pet has ingested chocolate contact our vets in Rancho Cucamonga immediately! They can help you determine the proper treatment for your pet.