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What is Chocolate Poisoning?

Chocolate is derived from the roasted, ground seeds of the cacao tree and contains the methylxanthine theobromine – a chemical similar to caffeine. Theobromine acts as a diuretic, heart stimulant, blood vessel dilator and smooth muscle relaxant in animals and humans. Dogs metabolize theobromine very slowly, thereby enhancing the effects and toxicity to these pets. Chocolate ingestion is one of the most common causes of canine poisoning and can lead to illness and death. Contact a veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pet has eaten chocolate.Chocolate is toxic as it contains the methylxanthine theobromine. Theobromine is similar to caffeine and is used medicinally as a diuretic, heart stimulant, blood vessel dilator, and a smooth muscle relaxant. Theobromine can be poisonous and result in severe clinical signs, especially if untreated.

Chocolate Poisoning Average Cost

From 272 quotes ranging from $300 - $6,500

Average Cost

$2,500

Symptoms of Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs

Symptoms do not appear until 6-12 hours after chocolate ingestion. Symptoms that your pet may have chocolate toxicity include:

  • Vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Diarrhea
  • Extreme thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Hyperactivity
  • Pacing
  • Panting
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures
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Causes of Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs

The type and amount of chocolate ingested by your pet will determine the level of severity. The more concentrated the level of theobromine in the chocolate, the more toxic the dose.

0.2 ounces of baker’s chocolate is sufficient to cause symptoms of toxicity in a 10-pound dog. 1.6 ounces of milk chocolate is sufficient to cause symptoms of toxicity in a 10-pound dog.

Concentrations of theobromine in various forms of chocolate (generalizations):

  • White chocolate – 1mg/ounce
  • Milk chocolate – 60mg/ounce
  • Semi-sweet chocolate – 260mg/ounce
  • Dark chocolate – 300mg/ounce
  • Baking chocolate – 450mg/ounce
  • Cocoa shell yard mulch – 300-1200mg/ounce

Though white chocolate and milk chocolate have lower levels of theobromine, the sugar and fat content can cause potentially life-threatening pancreatitis.

Theobromine levels and effect on the body:

  • 20mg theobromine per kg body weight - mild gastrointestinal symptoms

  • Greater than 40mg/kg - heart arrhythmias
  • Greater than 60mg/kg – muscle tremors, seizures
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Diagnosis of Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs

If you suspect your pet has eaten chocolate, treatment is initiated immediately without waiting for official diagnosis. Try to calculate how much the pet has eaten (how many candy bars, brownies, cake) and note the type and brand of chocolate (have the packaging available if possible). Be sure when scheduling a veterinarian appointment to tell her how much your pet weighs, describe when you think your pet ate the chocolate, how much, and of what type.

If the pet has not eaten a toxic amount of chocolate, a veterinarian may ask you to induce vomiting at home and/or carefully monitor your pet for symptoms over the next 4-6 hours.

If the pet has eaten a potentially toxic amount of chocolate in the last 1-2 hours, your vet will ask you to induce vomiting at home or bring the pet to the clinic to induce vomiting. The goal is to induce vomiting as quickly as possible. After 2 hours, the toxin has already entered the bloodstream and it may be too late for vomiting to aid in treating toxicity.

Your veterinarian will take a thorough history to determine whether your pet has gotten into trash, cocoa shell yard mulch, or other toxic substances or whether another underlying cause of symptoms is present. A complete physical exam will help in diagnosis.

Blood analysis (complete blood cell count and chemistry) and urinalysis will aid in detection of disease or organ failure. Electrocardiography (EKG) can detect heart arrhythmias and abnormalities. Radiographs may aid in ruling out other causes for symptoms.

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Treatment of Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs

By the time symptoms of chocolate poisoning appear, supportive therapy is the only treatment. There is no antidote for chocolate toxicity.

Inducing vomiting

Induction of vomiting must be done within 2 hours of chocolate ingestion to be effective. If you are too far from the veterinary clinic, your vet may ask that you induce vomiting at home. Follow the instructions given by your veterinarian carefully. You may want to go outdoors or have a large bowl nearby. By mouth, give your pet one-half tablespoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide (the usual household concentration) for every 10 pounds of body weight. You can use a syringe without a needle, a turkey baster, or a medicine dropper. The pet should vomit within 10 minutes. If the pet does not vomit, call your vet who may suggest bringing it to the clinic or giving additional hydrogen peroxide.

If you decide to take your pet to the clinic to induce vomiting, the veterinarian may use a drug like apomorphine to induce vomiting right away.

Activated charcoal absorption

In cases of chocolate ingestion, the veterinarian will often give a solution of activated charcoal orally to absorb any remaining theobromine from the gastrointestinal tract.

After vomiting induction and/or charcoal treatment, your pet will need to be monitored for symptoms for 4-6 hours. If symptoms occur, supportive therapy will be required to keep your pet safe and stable until toxicity wears off. This can take up to 72 hours.

Supportive therapy

Intravenous fluid administration can help to dilute theobromine levels in the bloodstream and promote excretion. Benzodiazepines (valium) may be administered to control seizures and muscle tremors. Anti-arrhythmic medications can aid in controlling heart arrhythmias.

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Recovery of Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs

A pet that has been treated for symptoms of chocolate poisoning will need to be monitored until symptoms reside. Recovery from chocolate toxicity depends on the severity and how soon treatment was administered. Recovery can be complete and prognosis good if caught and treated early (within 2 hours of ingestion).

Chocolate poisoning can be lethal at high doses. Always keep chocolate out of reach of your pet. Hiding chocolate is not sufficient since chocolate has a strong smell and a pet can find it. Keep chocolate where a pet cannot get to it (high up and in a sealed container).

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Chocolate Poisoning Average Cost

From 272 quotes ranging from $300 - $6,500

Average Cost

$2,500

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Chocolate Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Pit Bull

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One Year

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Unknown severity

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None

I just came home to find out my pitbull at 78 lbs ate half a box of milk duds. Maybe 2 hours ago. A full box in 5 oz so between 2 and 3 oz. What should i look for and check. He is just relaxing and no symptoms. How harmful could it be? Should i call emergency vet

July 15, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. The chocolate content in that candy is not at a toxic dose for a dog his size, thankfully. He may have some stomach upset from the sugar and fat, and if he is showing any signs of vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy or a lack of appetite, then it would be best to have him seen by your veterinarian. I hope that he shows no signs and is doing well!

July 15, 2020

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Dachshund

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Five Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

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Ate Chocolate

My Dog ate a big amount of chocolate. The vet made him vomit 3 times. Then monitored him a couple of hours then call so I could pick him up. But later I got a call that his liver was in bad shape. What’s the chocolate the reason for his liver being in bad shape?

July 14, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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Hello Chocolate ingestion does not typically cause issues with the liver. He could have elevated liver enzymes prior to the ingestion but he was not showing any signs of liver disease, etc. Chocolate toxicity can cause pancreatitis, seizures or an increased heart rate. Hope your pet feels better soon.

July 14, 2020

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Cockapoo

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Six Years

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Unknown severity

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Vomiting, Diarrhea, Panting

He ate a little less than 3 oz of milk chocolate about 12 hours ago. He weighs 18 lbs. He was fine until now. What can I give him so he can feel better or should I take him to the vet?

July 10, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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Hello, It would be best to take him to your vet. There is very little if anything to give him at home that will help. Your vet can start him on medication to treat this toxicity.

July 11, 2020

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Chihuahua/Yorkie

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Three Years

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Unknown severity

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Shaking

My nephew gave my dog a piece of a HyVee cookie and I cannot verify if it was just a small piece or not. Whiskey's leg was shaking and he did not want to move. I don't know what to do and its been more than 2 hours since consumption.

July 10, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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Hello It is recommended that you take your pet to see a veterinarian right away. He may not be tolerating the cookie well and it has upset his stomach. Good luck.

July 10, 2020

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German Shepard husky mix

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9 month

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Vomiting Diarrhea Not Eating Has No Energy

He has been throwing up for 3 days he won’t eat but he does drink I have been giving her water chicken broth and Gatorade.... and children’s ibuprofen.. but he doesn’t seem to be getting better... I’m worried but don’t reall have $300 for a vet visit right now

July 9, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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I"m sorry that your puppy is sick. Puppies are prone to parasites and infectious diseases, and if she isn't improving, she probably does need to be seen by a veterinarian. Ibuprofen can cause stomach ulcers in dogs, and it would be best to stop giving her that for now, as it may be making things worse. Most veterinarians do take Care Credit and Scratch Pay as forms of payment for unexpected illnesses, which may help. I hope that she is okay.

July 9, 2020

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Mikky

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Shih Tzu

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7 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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Muscle Tremors

My shih tzu ate 4 bars of knick knacks chocolate. I searched for the ingredients and it contains cocoa. After 2 hrs while we are playing, my dog keeps on limping and cannot walk properly. What should i do? Please answer me asap. I am so worried

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rocky

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Beagle

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3 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

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He Was Feeling Weak Vomiting

My 27 pound beagle ate 3 pieces of chocolate i called vet and we indused vomiting he voimed all 2 times then. he didnt eat but hors later he did will he be ok or should i still take him to see vet now he is more active

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Duchess

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German Shepherd

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10 Years

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Mild severity

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My 71 lb. German Shepherd ate about 7 m&m cookies and 12-15 chocolate chip cookies (semi-sweet), that was over 16 hours ago...she was fine through the night...but has had diarrhea 5-6 times and is panting, she did eat about 1/2 her dogfood breakfast this morning and was begging for bacon. Do I need to do anything else besides monitor her symptoms? Should I give her charcoal?

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Leia

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Husky

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1 Year

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

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Not Eating
Drinking Excessivly

My 40lbs husky ate about 20 chocolate chip cookies. She is drinking lots of water and doesn't want to eat which is unusual for her. Do I need to take her to the vet.

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Max

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Labrador Retriever

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4 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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Diarrhea
Gas

My 78lb dog got into a 40oz bag of chocolate (mixed Reese's and Kit Kats). The only issue he has had so far is diarrhea and he is also very gassy, it's been more than 12 hours. How long should I be keeping an eye on symptoms?

Chocolate Poisoning Average Cost

From 272 quotes ranging from $300 - $6,500

Average Cost

$2,500

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