Dog Chocolate Poisoning: Symptoms, Timeline and Treatment
A vet inspects a Labrador pup (Photo: Adobe Stock)
Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles
Updated on April 11, 2019
Expert Content

All chocolate is poisonous to dogs.

If you think your dog may have eaten some chocolate, call or bring your canine to your nearest veterinarian immediately.

The severity of the chocolate poisoning can depend on the amount of chocolate eaten, the type of chocolate and the size of the dog.

Chocolate poisoning can kill dogs, especially if the dog is a small breed that has eaten even a small amount of cooking or 70% chocolate.

If you’re a dog owner, you should be aware of the symptoms of chocolate poisoning, which include diarrhoea, vomiting and seizures.

In this article, we ask renowned English vet Marc Abraham about how long it takes for chocolate to affect a dog, the symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs and what to do if your dog eats chocolate.

Can dogs eat chocolate?

Chocolate is poisonous to dogs. The toxic component of chocolate is cocoa, which contains theobromine. Dogs are unable to metabolize theobromine and it can remain in their bloodstream for a number of days. Humans are able to process theobromine much more easily than dogs, hence why most of us don’t suffer from chocolate poisoning when we munch through a chocolate bar in one sitting. Dogs, on the other, require much longer to process theobromine, which can result the high levels of the toxin in their system.

Marc Abraham says: The golden rule is the darker chocolate, the more poisonous. However all chocolate is potentially poisonous to dogs, cooking chocolate and the dark chocolate bars being the most dangerous, and should always be carefully stored well away from your dog./em>

How much chocolate can kill a dog?

Chocolate is poisonous to dogs (Photo: Adobe)
Chocolate is poisonous to dogs (Photo: Adobe)

Large dogs can inadvertently ingest more chocolate than smaller dogs before being placed in a life threatening situation. The smaller the dog, the higher the risk, although like we said above, all chocolate is poisonous to canines, no matter the breed or size. The type of chocolate has a role to play too.

Marc Abraham says: One thing to always consider is the size of the dog. The smaller the dog, the greater the risk and severity of potential effects. If you have a Chihuahua that eats a piece of cooking or dark chocolate chocolate, the Chihuahua can die and it’ll be a pretty horrible death. They’ll most likely suffer seizures and it’ll be nasty, not to mention very expensive to treat.

What to do if your dog eats chocolate?

If you suspect that your dog has eaten chocolate, you should immediately call your local/regular vet. Don’t wait for symptoms to appear, the safest course of action is make an appointment with your veterinarian.

Marc Abraham says: Chocolate is very poisonous to dogs. You should assume any amount is poisonous to any dog. If your dog does eat it, we’ll receive the classic phone call, the owner says the dog has eaten all the Easter eggs. You need to get your dog to the vet as soon as possible. Vets can give an injection that makes the dog throw up. Remember all vet clinics will provide an emergency service of some kind, so there’s no reason not to get your dog seen ASAP, even at night or on the weekend.

Why is it important to get your dog to the vet asap?

It really is important that you call the vet as soon as possible.

Marc Abraham says: It [the injection] only really works within two or three hours of consumption. After that chocolate will leave the stomach and move into the small intestine. It starts getting absorbed much quicker there. Don’t wait and see what happens. Just get that dog to the vet.

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs

Dog owners should make themselves aware of symptoms of chocolate poisoning (Photo: Adobe)
Dog owners should make themselves aware of symptoms of chocolate poisoning (Photo: Adobe)

As a dog owner, it’s a good idea to know the symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs. They can range diarrhoea to vomiting. Here’s Marc Abraham to explain more.

Marc Abraham says: The symptoms to look out for include vomiting, twitching, diarrhoea, excitement, trembling. It can also increase heart rate and blood pressure. It’s usually pretty obvious that your dog is ill, as well as evidence of empty chocolate wrappers lying around!

Are there any other things to consider?

Marc Abraham says: The other thing is chocolate, or anything sweet or high in fat, can also potentially cause a disease called pancreatitis. It is another painful condition, with some dogs more susceptible than others, which is really hard and often expensive to treat. It can end up hospitalising your dog for days.

Pancreatitis is a condition which results in the pancreas becoming inflamed. It occurs when digestive enzymes become active in the pancreas rather than the small intestine, resulting in acute pain and swelling.

Is there dog friendly chocolate?

Marc Abraham says: Carob is the big thing –it has been for years. It’s so funny, people are dying to give their dog an Easter egg. So seek out carob eggs and other dog-friendly, chocolate-free alternatives – you can still find dog-friendly Easter eggs [only].

What is Carob?

Carob looks like chocolate but is totally safe for dogs. That’s because it doesn’t contain theobromine (or caffeine). In fact, Carob contains a lot of healthy nutrients for your dog, including vitamin A, B and D, as well as calcium, magnesium and fibre.

Carob is extracted from the carob bean and ground into a powder. The process replicates that of cocoa from the cocoa bean. The roasted flavour differs from the cocoa bean.

Marc the Vet

Marc Abraham, or ‘Marc the Vet’ as he is more commonly known, is a practicing veterinary surgeon, author, and animal welfare campaigner based in Brighton, England. In 2009, Marc set up PupAid, a national puppy farming awareness campaign and is responsible for one of the most popular pet welfare petitions of all time, called Lucy’s Law, which is set to become law in England in 2019.