Dogs make pretty good vacuum cleaners... but there are a few things that dogs really shouldn't eat. Chocolate is one of the foods that most people have heard that their dogs shouldn't eat.
But is chocolate really bad for dogs? How bad is it?
Chocolate has a chemical called theobromine. Theobromine is a lot like caffeine, but it is much stronger, and dogs are very sensitive to it. Eating too much theobromine can cause agitation, drooling, and even vomiting and diarrhea. The good news for our dog owners is that most chocolate doesn't actually have very much theobromine in it.
How Much Theobromine is in Chocolate?
Different types of chocolate have different amounts of theobromine. White chocolate has almost none (0.25 milligrams of theobromine in one ounce of white chocolate).
Milk chocolate has more, up to 45-60 milligrams of theobromine are in one ounce of milk chocolate.
Good-quality dark chocolate and Baker's chocolate have even more theobromine - up to 450 milligrams in one ounce of Baker's chocolate.
Remember, theobromine is only in chocolate, not in any of the delicious stuff that is mixed with chocolate. So the dog that eats a couple of peanut butter cups ate mostly peanut butter and just a little bit of chocolate.
How Much Chocolate Is Too Much for a Dog?
Just like other toxins, the dose makes the poison. A big dog would have to eat a lot more chocolate to have trouble than a small dog. A 50-pound dog would have to eat about 8 ounces of milk chocolate to show signs of toxicity from the chocolate. But they probably aren't just eating chocolate - they are eating a bag of candy with nuts, or nougat, or peanut butter, or other kinds of sweets.
While the dog would have to eat a lot of actual chocolate to have trouble, all the fat and sugar they also ate isn't good for them, either. Too much fat and sugar at one time can cause some serious stomach problems like pancreatitis. While your dog might not need to see a veterinarian for eating too much chocolate, they might need to see your veterinarian for eating too many sweets.
What Will I See if My Dog Eats Too Much Chocolate?
It usually takes a few hours after your dog eats chocolate before you notice that anything is wrong. You might notice that he is drooling, restless, has a high heart rate, and is drinking and urinating more. He might start to vomit or have diarrhea (his saliva, vomit, or diarrhea may smell like chocolate).
If your dog has gotten into a lot of chocolate, you might notice muscle spasms or even seizures.
If your dog has heart disease, large amounts of chocolate may be fatal because of the way theobromine affects the heart.
How Is Chocolate Toxicity Treated?
If you think your dog has eaten chocolate, call us or your regular veterinarian right away. If you can't reach a veterinarian, you can call the Pet Poison Helpline.
Depending on when your dog ate the chocolate, your veterinarian might recommend that you make your dog vomit to keep any more of the chocolate from being digested. Your veterinarian may also give your dog activated charcoal to help bind theobromine in the intestines so it doesn't get absorbed into your dog's system.
Fluid therapy is an important part of treatment for chocolate toxicity. Theobromine is eliminated into the urine, so more fluids will help to get rid of the theobromine faster. Your veterinarian may also give your dog medicines to help stop any vomiting and diarrhea and to keep your dog's heart rate down.
Even with excellent supportive care, the signs of chocolate toxicity can last for days.
Chocolate poisoning can be treated, but the best treatment is really prevention. Make sure your whole family knows what foods are bad for dogs, and keep the good chocolate out of reach of nosy pets.
While chocolate poisoning is not very common, it can be very dangerous. If you think your dog has eaten chocolate, call us or your regular veterinarian. You can come in during our regular business hours, no appointment needed.
Are you wondering what other people foods dogs shouldn't be allowed to eat? Check out our list of the top 10 foods you should never feed your dogs.