Health Alert: Dangers of Chocolate and Dogs

March 25th, 2008 by Dee

With this being Easter season, I was sitting around with my family as we were all devouring our chocolate bunnies. It occurred to me as Khepri came into the room, nosing each of us wanting a bite, that many people forget the toxicity of chocolate and it’s effect on dogs. Specifically the theobromine in chocolate is what is toxic to our four legged canine family members. Theobromine is in the same family of caffeine and theophylline.

2355997262_6f074f2edd.jpgPhoto: MNicoleM

What you should know:
It takes, on average, a fairly large amount of theobromine 100-150 mg/kg to cause a toxic reaction. However there are a few variables to consider. First individual sensitivity each dog has a different threshold for the toxin. Next is the size of your canine and the chocolate concentration.

Different types of chocolate contain varying levels of theobromine:

Chocolate Concentration
Type Theobromine in milligrams per ounce
Milk chocolate – 44mg/oz.
Semisweet chocolate – 150mg/oz.
Baker’s chocolate – 390mg/oz.

A toxic dose of theobromine is generally 100mg/kg, this roughly works out as:

Toxicity 1 oz. Chocolate to x/lb Bodyweight
Amount of Chocolate x/lb Bodyweight – Chocolate type
1 ounce Per 1 pound of Dog – Milk chocolate
1 ounce Per 3 pounds of Dog – Semisweet chocolate
1 ounce Per 9 pounds of Dog – Baker’s chocolate

Example: 2oz. of Baker’s chocolate can be a grave risk to a 15 pound dog, where as 2oz. of milk chocolate, while not good for any canine, usually will only cause digestive problems.

Xanthines affect the nervous system, cardiovascular system and peripheral nerves. Xanthines as a diuretic effect as well.

Clinical Signs of theobromine Poisoning

Hyper excitability
Hyper irritability
Increased heart rate
Increased urination
Muscle tremors


There is no specific antidote for this poisoning. And the half life of the toxin is 17.5 hours in dogs. Induce vomiting in the first 1-2 hours if the quantity is unknown. Administering activated charcoal may inhibit absorption of the toxin. An anticonvulsant might be indicated if neurological signs are present and needs to be controlled. Oxygen therapy, intravenous medications, and fluids might be needed to protect the heart.
Milk chocolate will often cause diarrhea 12-24 hours after ingestion. This should be treated symptomatically (fluids, etc.) to prevent dehydration.
If you suspect your pet has ingested chocolate contact your Vet immediately! They can determine the proper treatment for your pet.
Cute Basset Hound with Easter Bunny Ears Photo: lesleyworld

One Response to “Health Alert: Dangers of Chocolate and Dogs”

  1. Forbidden Foods List for Dogs | Dog Reflections Says:

    [...] Chocolate, tea, coffee. These foods contain caffeine and theobromine or theophylline, which can affect the nervous system and heart. [...]

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