What Does Chocolate Do to Dogs?

Everybody is fond of chocolates. Have you ever wondered what does chocolate do to dogs? Have you ever heard of chocolate toxicity in dogs? Yes, it is true your beloved pets cannot have chocolates. Chocolates cause illness and even death in dogs. The most common cause of dog poisoning is from eating chocolates.

What Does Chocolate Do to Dogs?

dog licking chocolate

Let us learn more about chocolates before knowing if chocolate is bad for dogs. Chocolates are derived from the roasted seeds of the Theobroma cacao. The ingredients of chocolates contain an alkaloid called theobromine. Methylxanthines theobromine (3,7-dimethylxanthine) and caffeine are the primary toxic principles in the chocolate. Effects of Theobromine is 3 - 10 times more than caffeine. Both caffeine and theobromine contribute to the clinical syndrome seen in chocolate toxicosis. Theobromine is a type of stimulant that belongs to caffeine family. Caffeine and theobromine are methylxanthines, these stimulate the cardiovascular system and central nervous system leading to a slight increase in blood pressure. An occasional chocolate chip within a cookie may not affect your pet. Less sweet and dark chocolate pose higher risks. Though, the quantity the dog can intake without any harm depends on the type of chocolate, and the age and size of the dog. Larger dogs can handle more theobromine without dying out. However, older dogs have more problems with side effects. If your dog is eating chocolates, keep the chocolates away from the reach of your pet, in order to ensure its safety.

Theobromine cannot be metabolized by dogs, horses, or cats as quickly as in humans. The slower rate of metabolism causes the above problem. Dogs show the unhealthy symptoms around 6 to 12 hours after consumption. If you have doubts regarding chocolate consumption, don’t wait for the symptoms to show up. You can approach your vet beforehand. However, symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Creaking
  • Hyperactivity
  • Lots of Energy
  • Dehydration
  • Rigidity
  • Vomiting
  • Inflammation of the Pancreas (pancreatitis)
  • Pacing
  • Abnormal Heart Rhythm
  • Panting
  • Ataxia
  • Excess Urination or Polyuria
  • Muscle Twitching
  • Digestive Problems
  • Tremors
  • Seizure and
  • Collapse

These symptoms last up to a few hours. However, in cases of extreme chocolate poisoning, the symptoms last up to 72 hours. Developing clinical symptoms takes 6 to 12 hours after ingestion. It lasts for few days as theobromine has a long half-life. The compound can be reabsorbed once again from the bladder. Therefore, frequent walks and aggressive IV fluids are necessary. You can call your vet or Pet Poison Helpline immediately. Early treatment helps your dog recover quickly and at lower costs. As mentioned earlier, dark chocolates pose a higher risk than others like white chocolates (contains less theobromine). Let us see the amount of theobromine present per ounce of chocolate:

  • Milk chocolate: 50 mg/oz
  • Baker’s chocolate (unsweetened): 450 mg/oz
  • Cocoa powder: 800 mg/oz and
  • Dark chocolate: 150 mg/oz

Now let us see the limitations on the type and quantity of chocolates that dogs have.

  • In the case of dark or semi-sweet chocolate, intake of more than 0.13 ounces per pound of the body causes poisoning.
  • Milk chocolate has less count of theobromine. Consuming more than 0.5 ounces per pound of a body may cause poisoning. That is that it would take about 200 pounds of white chocolate consumed within a 17 hour period to attain toxic levels of theobromine for a 16-pound dog. Milk chocolate is made from milk, sugar, and cocoa butter, but no cocoa solids are used. Hence, it contains less theobromine.
  • Be very careful about baker’s chocolate. Even small ingestions have a massive impact. It is better to completely avoid baker’s chocolate.
  • The large amount of fat present in chocolates may cause inflammation of the pancreas or pancreatitis. Avoid giving chocolates, even in small amounts.
  • Geriatric and young animals have a higher risk of poisoning than healthy adults. Young ones should be treated conservatively.

How to Treat a Dog Once It Has Eaten?

This is best treated by a vet rather than at home. Dogs are more sensitive to caffeine and theobromine than humans. More bitter the chocolate is, the more dangerous it is. As theobromine reaches the bloodstream of the dog, it becomes difficult to use home remedies. There are few general methods to stop the theobromine from reaching the bloodstream of the dog. These include:

  • Induce vomiting in your dog; that helps to remove the chocolate.
  • Keep your dog hydrated; make him or her drink excess water.
  • Give your dog a small amount of activated charcoal.Theobromine binds to charcoal and prevents it from entering the bloodstream.
  • Further, your vet uses certain drugs as anti-convulsants that help the dog if it is facing seizures. Before that, he performs a complete physical exam, together with a chemical blood profile, electrolyte panel, and a urinalysis. These tests will help to determine if caffeine overdose occurs. In the meantime, keep your dog cool, calm, and in a quiet environment.

An easy way to induce vomiting is by giving your dog 1 to 2 teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide. This shortly induces vomiting in dogs. In the case it is not happening, you can repeat the dosage every 15 minutes for a few times. Alternatively, use 2 to 3 teaspoons of Ipecac syrup, but this should not be repeated.

Note: Please do not try sticking your finger down their throat, as it may harm your pet.


Feed activated charcoal by mixing it with water thoroughly. This method works for other types of toxins also. In cases where cats and dogs consume herbicides, carbamate insecticides, and rodenticides.

Once the theobromine meets the dog’s bloodstream, the half-life is about 17.5 hours. If 24 hours after consuming chocolate the dog survives, then it’s probably out of danger.

Carob Similar to Chocolate

Carob looks similar to chocolate and it is easy to get confused between both. Carob is specially made in some dog bakeries. It is made out of a small amount of milk chocolate that has a small amount of theobromine and is less toxic to dogs. Dogs can have a safe chocolate treat. However, most of the vets discourage your dog consuming chocolates in any form. Further, Pet Poison Helpline is available as a poison control service based in Minneapolis. This service is available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Veterinary professionals and pet owners can approach the helpline if in need of emergency help.

Dogs that succumb to death due to chocolate toxicosis may have suffered from congestion of multiple organs, hyperemia, hemorrhages and/or agonal changes. In the case of severe arrhythmias, it results in pulmonary congestion or pulmonary edema. The hulls of cocoa beans or chocolate may be present in the alimentary canal during necropsy. Chances of premature ventricular contractions, tachypnea, tachycardia, cyanosis, hypertension, bradycardia, hyperthermia, hypotension, or coma may occur. Chocolate toxicosis does not cause any lesions on the body.


The primary goal of the treatment is to treat and bring down the chocolate toxicosis. For mild seizures or tremors, Methocarbamol or diazepam is used in prescribed quantities by the vet. Once the dog is stabilized, decontamination can be performed for animals that had shown signs of poisoning within one hour of ingestion. Treatment for symptomatic animals includes monitoring cardiac status via the electrocardiography, correcting acid-base and electrolyte abnormalities, placing a urinary catheter and maintaining thermoregulation. In severe cases, clinical symptoms stay for up to 72 hours.


Did You Know?

  • About 2/3 of the world’s total cocoa is produced in West Africa, chiefly by child labor.
  • Cocoa is the source of living for about 50 million people in the world.
  • Leaves of the tea plant and cola nut also contain cocoa.
  • The earliest documented case of the cocoa tree being cultivated is around 1100 BC in Central and South America.
  • Caffeine, when metabolized in the liver, about 10% is converted into theobromine. People consuming caffeine also have theobromine present in their body.
  • Unlike dogs, cats are not inclined to chocolates. As cats do not have “sweet” taste receptors.
  • A horse can consume more theobromine than dogs. Though it is toxic, due to their heavy body weight, despite being toxic they can tolerate it. On the other hand, theobromine is given to horses to boost their performance, and that’s the reason it is banned in horse racing.
  • In the case of human beings, theobromine metabolizes much faster than in dogs. However, sufficient quantities of this compound for a long period of time produces toxic effects similar to that in dogs. The toxic effects on human beings are rare, but it is evident sometimes in elderly people who have chocolates excessively on a daily basis.

I hope I have answered your question of what to do when a dog eats chocolate correctly. If you have found it useful and wish to express your response, please drop them in our comments section. Take care of your pets and keep them away from harmful intakes.


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