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Chocolate poisoning in dogs

Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, a stimulant (like caffeine) that is poisonous to dogs.

Unlike humans, dogs cannot metabolise (break down) theobromine and so it can quickly reach toxic levels in their blood.

What are the signs of chocolate poisoning in dogs?

The effects and symptoms vary depending on the dog’s size and how much they ate. Theobromine affects the heart, nervous system and kidneys. Signs include:

  • Vomiting and diarrhoea

  • Rapid breathing

  • Increased heart rate

  • Hyperactivity and restlessness

  • Muscle twitching and incoordination

  • Seizures/fits

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning typically come on within 4-24 hours of ingestion.

Is all chocolate toxic to dogs?

The darker the chocolate, the higher the levels of theobromine, meaning that eating even small amounts can result in toxicity. Cocoa powder and baking chocolate also contain very high levels of theobromine, but it is found in milk chocolate too.

My dog has eaten chocolate - what should I do?

Contact your vet as soon as possible. They will want to know the amount and sort of chocolate the dog ate, so if possible, keep the wrapper. The vet will use this information to calculate if the dose the dog ate is toxic.

It can be hard to know exactly how much chocolate your dog has eaten. If in doubt, err on the side of caution and if you’re at all concerned, contact your vet for advice. Don’t wait to see what happens. By the time your dog starts to show symptoms, the toxicity has already occurred.

What will the vet do?

Your vet will give your dog medication to make them vomit and bring back the chocolate they’ve eaten. However, this is only effective if carried out within a couple of hours of ingestion.

The vet will likely also feed your dog activated charcoal to absorb any theobromine left in their intestines, and reduce the amount entering their bloodstream.

Your dog may need to stay at the vets on an intravenous drip to help flush the toxin out of their body. Other medication will depend on the dog’s symptoms.

Will the dog recover?

The severity of the effects of chocolate poisoning vary depending on the size of the dog, type and amount of chocolate eaten. In rare cases, toxicity can be fatal. However, provided they receive prompt veterinary treatment, most dogs make a full recovery within a couple of days.

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