Question: My Dog Just Ate Chocolate! Should I Be Worried?

My 60-pound female shepherd mix just ate about a half bar (standard size) of dark chocolate. What are the consequences and is there anything I should do?

–Mike Wagner

My dog ate chocolate!

Answer:

Dear Mike,

Dogs seem to love chocolate almost as much as we humans do. In fact, ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center listed it as the 5th most common toxin people called about in 2017.

The chemicals in chocolate that are toxic to dogs are theobromine and caffeine. When eaten in large quantities, these chemicals can cause anxiety, hyperactivity, increased thirst and urination, vomiting, diarrhea, fast heartbeat, and seizures. Dogs are much more sensitive to these chemicals than humans are.

Most people have heard that eating chocolate can cause problems for dogs, but how much does it take to be dangerous?

It depends on the dog and the chocolate. The more chocolate a dog eats, the more likely it is to cause problems. The darker the chocolate (i.e. more pure chocolate and less milk, sugar and other ingredients), the more toxic it is at lower dosages.

Standard sized chocolate bars can vary from 0.5 ounces up to 3.0 ounces, so check the package to find out exactly how much your dog ate. Look to see if the package describes the type of chocolate as milk chocolate, 70% cacao, dark chocolate, etc.

Milk chocolate has only about 58 mg of theobromine and 6 mg of caffeine per ounce. On the other hand, unsweetened baker’s chocolate has around 393 mg of theobromine and 37 mg of caffeine per ounce. Dark chocolate candy bars would be somewhere in between.

A good rule of thumb is that it takes about 0.5 ounces of MILK chocolate per pound of body weight to cause moderate to severe symptoms. At lower doses, you might see milder symptoms including restlessness, vomiting, and diarrhea. It takes less of a darker chocolate to cause severe symptoms.

Let’s assume your 60-pound dog ate a 1.55-ounce milk chocolate candy bar like a Hershey’s bar. That’s a dose of about 0.03 ounces per pound of body weight. We would expect to see a minimal reaction to this dose of milk chocolate.

If your dog ever ingests chocolate again, you can use this simple chocolate calculator to help you decide if you need to seek emergency veterinary care.

You can also call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 and speak with a veterinarian 24 hours a day for a small fee. They will quickly evaluate the case, instruct you what to do at home and tell you whether you need to take your dog to a vet clinic.

Regards,

TB Thompson, DVM

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