Hidden Valley Animal Clinic

100 Oakhurst Drive
McMurray, PA 15317

(724)941-3900

hiddenvalleyac.com

Chocolate Toxicity

Why Is Chocolate Bad?

Sometimes we eat chocolate plain. Sometimes we eat it baked into cakes, mixed into ice cream, etc. The first problem with these sweets is the fat. A sudden high fat meal (such as demolishing a bag of chocolate bars left accessible at Halloween time) can create a lethal metabolic disease in pets called pancreatitis. Vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain are just the beginning of this disaster. Remember, in the case of pancreatitis, it is the fat that causes the problem more than the chocolate itself.

The fat and sugar in the chocolate can create an unpleasant but temporary upset stomach. This is what happens in most chocolate ingestion cases.

Chocolate is, however, directly toxic because of the theobromine. The more chocolate liquor there is in a product, the more theobromine is present. This makes baking chocolate the worst for pets, followed by semisweet and dark chocolate, followed by milk chocolate, followed by chocolate flavored cakes or cookies. Theobromine causes:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hyperactivity
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Racing heart rhythm progressing to abnormal rhythms
  • Death in severe cases

Toxic doses of theobromine are 9 mg per pound of dog for mild signs, up to 18 mg per pound of dog for severe signs. Milk chocolate contains 44 mg / ounce of theobromine while semisweet chocolate contains 150 mg per ounce, and baking chocolate contains 390 mg per ounce.

It takes nearly 4 days for the effects of chocolate to work its way out of a dog’s system. If the chocolate was only just eaten, it is possible to induce vomiting; otherwise, hospitalization and support are needed until the chocolate has worked its way out of the system.


Number of OUNCES of CHOCOLATE a Pet Would Need to Ingest for TOXICITY
 

Weight of Pet
in Pounds

5

10

15

20

25

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

100

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Milk Chocolate
(ounces)

2

4

6

8.2

10.2

12.3

16.4

20.5

24.5

28.6

32.7

36.8

41

Dark Chocolate
(ounces)

0.7

1.4

2.1

2.8

3.5

4.2

5.5

6.9

8.3

9.7

11

12.5

13.8

Baking Chocolate
(ounces)

0.23

0.5

0.7

0.9

1.2

1.4

1.9

2.3

2.8

3.2

3.7

4.1

4.6


If you suspect your dog has eaten a large quantity of chocolate within the last few hours, you should try to induce vomiting (see how to induce vomiting) and then seek immediate medical attention.

Chocolate ingestion in smaller quantities will often cause vomiting and diarrhea 12-24 hours after ingestion and may require medical treatment at that time.