The Truth about Chocolate

The Truth about Chocolate

Chocolate is bad for dogs, you can read that everywhere. Most dog owners will freak out when they find out their dog has eaten chocolate, and that is understandable. But is it necessary? Is chocolate really that bad? I have contacted some vets to find out the truth.

Photo by John Loo

Why is chocolate so harmful for my dog?
Chocolate contains theobromine. Dogs metabolize theobromine more slowly than humans do, which can lead to theobromine poisoning (which is basically a chocolate-overdose). Theobromine has a stimulating effect on the nerve system and heart muscle, it widens the veins and increases urine production.

What are the effects of my dog eating chocolate?
In most cases your dog will show a lot of effects after he has eaten chocolate, such as:
– vomiting
– abdominal tenderness
– restlessness and hyperactivity
– excessive thirst
– an increase in the production of urine and/or urinary incontinence
– problems with muscle control
– faster heart rate
– diarrhoea
– rapid breathing
In extreme cases a chocolate-overdose can lead to death. Keep in mind that not every dog will show signs of theobromine poisoning even though the dog did consume chocolate.

When will I see the effects of my dog eating chocolate?
The onset of effects is generally within 24 hours, usually within 4 hours and the duration of the effects can last up to 72 hours.

How much chocolate is too much chocolate?
The darker the chocolate is the more theobromine it contains. Because theobromine is so bad for your dog, it is really important that your dog consumes as little of it as possible.
Just like humans all dogs are different. This means that there is no general rule about how much chocolate will kill or seriously harm your dog. But there are of course guidelines.
In the table below you can see an indication of how much theobromine different kinds of chocolate contain:

Kind of chocolate Amount of theobromine per gram
White chocolate 2mg
Milk chocolate 3mg
Pure chocolate 15mg
Cocoa powder 20mg

You can see that pure chocolate is 3 times as dangerous as milk chocolate, and that white chocolate can do little to no harm. With this calculator, you can calculate the expected toxicity level of the amount and kind of chocolate your dog has eaten.

Click here for the calculator

If you are not sure how much your dachshund weighs, no problem. Just check the image below.
If you own another kind of dog, check out this website to find out how much your dog will weigh approximately.

Is it necessary to take my dog to the vet after he has eaten chocolate?
It is always recommended to go to the vet after your dog has eaten chocolate. Better be safe than sorry. But sometimes it is not that simple to just go to the vet; the vet can be too far away, the clinic can be closed or you cannot afford to pay for the vet bills afterwards. In that case it is good to use the calculator above and decide if you think visiting the vet will be worth it.

There are examples of big dogs dying from a little bit of chocolate, but also of small dogs surviving eating a whole chocolate bar. You can never be sure, so that is why visiting the vet is always the best option.

What will happen when I take my dog to the vet?
The sooner you visit the vet, the better he or she can help your dog. The vet will most likely make your dog vomit, so that the chocolate can get out of his body. But in some cases that is not enough and stomach pumping is necessary.
After the vomiting and/or stomach pumping the vet will decide what should happen next. When the chocolate is still having an effect on your dog’s body, the vet will most likely take further actions to get it out of your dog’s system. But in most cases your dog will be ready to go home.

Please keep the chocolate away from me!

To say that chocolate in general is bad, is wrong. It really depends on the type of chocolate your dog has eaten: the darker the chocolate the more dangerous it is. Dark chocolate contains a lot of theobromine which dogs metabolize more slowly than humans do. Your dog will show signs of theobromine overdose within approximately 4 hours.

I always recommend going to the vet if you are not sure!

I want to thank the animal clinics below for answering my questions and provide information about chocolate and dogs:


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