Four Lakes Veterinary Clinic

How much is too much?

1 cup (6.2 oz) of semi-sweet chocolate chips eaten by a 70# dog: vomiting & diarrhea, but 2 cups could be fatal!

If a 10# dog at 5 dark chocolate Hershey's kisses or 10 milk chocolate kisses: vomiting & diarrhea.

A whole bag of snack sized Hershey milk chocolate bars?  Vomiting and diarrhea in your Labrador, death in your Shih Tzu.

Why is Chocolate Bad For Dogs?

With the holiday season soon upon us, it is important to remember that chocolate is not good for dogs (or cats) to eat. While there are people who purposely share their candy and baked goods with their dogs (you know who you are!), most of the chocolate consumption by dogs is done on the sly.  That bowl of Halloween candy waiting by the door for the trick-or-treaters?  Very tempting!  Those green and red M&Ms on the coffee table?  You are just asking for trouble!

So why can we enjoy chocolate while our dogs cannot?  It is all because of an ingredient in the chocolate "liquor" called theobromine.  The cacao tree produces a fruit, called a cacao pod.  Inside the sweet fruit are the bitter seeds, which are used to make the chocolate we know and love.  These seeds are packed with theobromine and its cousin, caffeine.  Chocolate liquor is the liquid that results from grinding hulled cacao beans.  Cocoa powder is the solid stuff remaining after the liquor and the cocoa butter (fat) is removed. Theobromine is similar to caffeine and will cause similar effects on the nervous system. Dogs (and cats) metabolize theobromine much slower than humans.  But if a person ate a lot of chocolate at one time, they could also develop chocolate toxicity.

Chocolate liquor is not sweet.  Unsweetened baking chocolate is pretty much all chocolate liquor containing about 50% cocoa butter.  Dark chocolate or semisweet chocolate contains about 35% chocolate liquor. Milk chocolate is at least 10% chocolate liquor.  The sweeter chocolates also contain sugar, fat, and other ingredients. The more chocolate liquor a product contains, the higher the risk of chocolate toxicity in dogs, so it doesn't take much baking cocoa and dark chocolate to make a dog really sick.

The fat content in chocolate and baked goods is also a problem.  A sudden high fat meal (like eating that bowl of Halloween snack-sized candy bars) can lead to a potentially lethal disease called pancreatitis.  (High fat snacks like bacon, bacon grease, oils, pizza, potato chips, etc. can also cause pancreatitis).  A dog with pancreatitis will have vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.  Severe cases of pancreatitis can lead to death.

But if you bake with unsweetened chocolate, use semi-sweet chocolate chips in your cookies, or enjoy the antioxidants in dark chocolate candy bars, keep them well away from your dog.  Chocolate toxicity is due to high doses of theobromine .  If your dog ate a lot of chocolate, you may see:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hyperactivity
  • Tremors/shaking
  • Seizures
  • Racing heart rhythm progressing to abnormal rhythms
  • Death

Ideally, your dog wouldn't eat any chocolate.  But if he does, the best option is to call your veterinarian and then induce vomiting (if your dog ate the chocolate within the last hour or so).  The dose of 3% hydrogen peroxide is 1 ml/pound body weight of your dog, with a maximum of 45 ml.   Be sure to use fresh 3% hydrogen peroxide - if your dog doesn't mind the taste, it probably isn't fresh enough!  You can squirt or pour the peroxide directly into your dog's mouth, or put it on some bread to eat (but don't be surprised if your dog won't eat that bread!)  Wait 10-15 minutes for your dog to start vomiting.  If no vomiting occurs after 15 minutes, give another dose of the peroxide.  If still no vomiting, take your dog to the veterinarian!

If you don't know when your dog ate the chocolate, it is worth trying to make him vomit.  But it is also very important to try and figure out how much she ate and what type of chocolate it was.  Then call your veterinarian who can determine what clinical signs your dog may have and what type of treatment is needed.

It takes almost 4 days for the effects of chocolate to work out of a dog's system.  If there was a toxic dose consumed, your dog will likely need to be hospitalized for fluids and other supportive care.  Don't wait to take your dog in until he is showing clinical signs of pancreatitis or toxicity!

Dog'sWeight (pounds)
Amount of 3% hydrogen peroxide
5 lbs
1 teaspoon
15 lbs
1 tablespoon
30 lbs
2 tablespoons
45+ lbs
3 tablespoons

Do not give hydrogen peroxide to cats!  If your cat eats chocolate, please contact your veterinarian!

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