Understanding chocolate poisoning in dogs

Time to read: 8 mins

Why is chocolate poisonous to dogs?

Most people know that chocolate is extremely toxic to dogs and should be avoided at all costs. It is a molecule known as theobromine which is prominent in cocoa, and this is the source of the problems for dogs.

Due to theobromine existing in cocoa, the darker the chocolate the more toxic to dogs it will be.

Types of chocolate and their seriousness

Depending upon the size and weight of your dog, the amount and type of chocolate eaten depends upon the potential risks to your pet.

Dark chocolate

As a general rule, if your pet has ingested cocoa powder or dark chocolate then you should seek immediate veterinary help – even relatively small amounts of dark chocolate can cause serious effects.

Milk chocolate

Milk chocolate has a lower percentage of theobromine, but if your dog has eaten this then it is still recommended to contact your vet immediately to discuss the quantity and whether that poses a risk. Remember – as a member – you can use the Scratch & Patch Careline to speak to qualified vet nurses 24/7.

White chocolate

White chocolate poses the least risk to your dog if eaten, but that’s not to say it should be encouraged. Aside from the potential risk from poisoning, white chocolate is very fatty so doesn’t represent a good treat for your dog either.

Signs to look out for if you think your dog may have eaten chocolate

If you know or suspect that your dog has ingested chocolate then there are some signs to look out for. Theobromine can act as both a stimulant for the heart as well as diuretic and muscle relaxant. This can lead to a number of different symptoms. Look out for:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Heart problems or increased heart rate
  • Hyperactivity
  • Seizures
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration

If you are able to catch things quickly then vets will usually use activated charcoal to reduce the absorption rate and typically keep the dog there to be monitored and assessed.

If symptoms are already evident then typically IV fluids and anti-arrhythmia medication are standard ways of managing the symptoms and recovery from them.

Happily, most cases don’t result in long term problems with the vast majority of pets making a full recovery, but speed is of the essence – as left for too long it can prove to be fatal.

Cost and prevention

Treatment for chocolate poisoning can cost hundreds of pounds (depending on the treatment needed). We can and do cover chocolate poisoning in dogs, so consider an insurance policy in case the worst should happen.

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