Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs

By Renee Schmid, DVM, DABT, DABVT for Pet Poison Helpline; Ahna Brutlag, DVM, MS, DABT, DABVT

Is chocolate toxic to dogs?

Yes, chocolate is toxic to dogs. Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, which are similar compounds and cause similar clinical signs such as an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, agitation, tremors, and seizures.

While rarely fatal, chocolate ingestion can result in significant illness. Dogs metabolize theobromine and caffeine differently than people, making them more sensitive to the chemicals’ effects.

How much chocolate is poisonous to a dog?

The amount of theobromine in chocolate varies with the type of chocolate, so the dose of theobromine is calculated using the amount and type of chocolate ingested. The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more dangerous it is to dogs. Cocoa beans have the most theobromine, followed by unsweetened cocoa powder, then, in order from most to least, baked unsweetened dark/baking chocolate, semisweet chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate with the least theobromine.

Even if the dose of theobromine is not toxic, dogs can still develop vomiting, diarrhea, or pancreatitis from the fat and sugar in chocolate.

What are the clinical signs of chocolate poisoning?

Clinical signs depend on the dose of theobromine ingested. For many dogs, the most common clinical signs are vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, panting or restlessness, excessive urination, and racing heart rate. In severe cases, symptoms can include cardiac arrhythmias, muscle tremors, and seizures. Complications such as aspiration pneumonia from vomiting or prolonged clinical signs can make the prognosis for chocolate poisoning worse. Clinical signs of chocolate poisoning can take several hours to develop and signs can last for several days.

What should I do if my dog eats chocolate?

Contact your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680 to see if a poisonous amount of chocolate has been ingested. If a toxic amount was ingested, immediate evaluation by a veterinarian will be recommended. The sooner treatment begins, the better your dog's prognosis and the less costly the treatment.

What is the treatment for chocolate poisoning?

Treatment depends on the dose of theobromine ingested. Treatment recommendations may include decontamination, gastrointestinal (GI) support, fluid support, heart rate monitoring, and blood pressure monitoring. If clinical signs occur, treatment is supportive and symptomatic.

I saw a treat for dogs that contains chocolate. Isn't this dangerous?

Many gourmet dog treats use carob as a chocolate substitute. Carob looks like chocolate and the two are often confused. Some specialty dog bakeries will use a small amount of milk chocolate in treats. Since the amount of theobromine is typically low, this may be safe for most dogs. However, most veterinarians recommend that you avoid giving your dog chocolate in any form.

Pet Poison Helpline, an animal poison control center based out of Minneapolis, MN, is available 24/7 for pet owners and veterinary professionals that require assistance treating a potentially poisoned pet. The staff provides treatment advice for poisoning cases of all species, including dogs, cats, birds, small mammals, large animals, and exotic species. As the most cost-effective option for animal poison control care, Pet Poison Helpline’s per-incident fee includes follow-up consultations for the duration of the poison case. Pet Poison Helpline is available in North America by calling 800-213-6680. Additional information can be found online at 

Related Articles