My Dog Ate A Dark Chocolate Bar!

correct answerThe Short Answer is:

Chocolate is toxic to dogs because it contains a chemical called theobromine which is a stimulant like caffeine. Humans are primarily affected by this stimulant by providing a bit of a “buzz” but dogs are much more at risk from it. In the worst cases dogs also experience this buzz but because their systems cannot deal with it they are likely to suffer from tremors seizures and cardiac arrests.

The purpose of this research is to explain “My Dog Ate A Dark Chocolate Bar!“.

A dark chocolate bar was eaten by the dog. Is there anything I can do?

Take action quickly and think critically.

It is very dangerous for dogs to eat dark chocolate for reasons I explain below.

As soon as you feel a bit of panic coming on plan A is to:

Taking a deep breath

Estimate how much your dog has eaten of the chocolate bar

Determine the amount of cocoa in the bar from the wrapping

Consider the weight of your dog

Contact your veterinarian.

As a backup plan:

Taking a deep breath

Calculate the amount of chocolate the dog has eaten

You can find out how much cocoa is in the bar by looking at the wrapping

Think about how much your dog weighs

Call the pet poison helpline (which will cost about 70 dollars).

Another option if you are fairly level-headed is to use the online calculator to assess the risks to your dog which I describe in much more detail below.

You still have some time to work things out.

You cannot hide your head in the sand and do nothing. 

What are some of the most popular dark chocolate bars?

Why is chocolate poisonous?

Chocolate is toxic to dogs because it contains a chemical called theobromine which is a stimulant like caffeine.

Humans are primarily affected by this stimulant by providing a bit of a “buzz” but dogs are much more at risk from it.

In the worst cases dogs also experience this buzz but because their systems cannot deal with it they are likely to suffer from tremors seizures and cardiac arrests. 

How much theobromine is poisonous to dogs?

Theobromine levels between 100-200 mg per kg of body weight are responsible for about half of all dog deaths.

Chocolate poisoning can start showing symptoms in dogs as early as 20 mg of theobromine per kilogram of body weight. 

As theobromine is found in cocoa beans not all forms of chocolate have the same level of theobromine.

Darker chocolate contains a higher concentration of theobromine than lighter chocolate.

The health of a dog is far less threatened by milk and white chocolate.

What do I mean by dark chocolate?

You raise an interesting point. 

Having the same amount of theobromine in all dark chocolate would be very useful but it does not. 

It seems that dark chocolate comes in four main types: semisweet bittersweet solid and bakers chocolate. 

They are all defined by the amount of cocoa powder that they contain.

Cocoa powder determines how much theobromine is present in the product. 

Using these dark chocolates I have created a chart that compares all of these values and more. 

For all of these forms of chocolate 100 grams is the serving size. 

Type % cocoa Theobromine Caffeine
Bakers 99% 1297 mg 80 mg 
Solid 70- 85 802 mg 80 mg
Bittersweet 60- 69 632 mg 86 mg
Semi-sweet 45- 59 493 mg 43 mg
Milk  10- 20 205 mg 20 mg
White  0 0 0

In other words the higher the cocoa content the more theobromine and caffeine it contains. 

The information you just read is useful and helps you learn more about theobromine but it does not give you information about your dogs chances of being poisoned.

In order to do that you will need an online calculator. 

Online calculators

As long as you have your phone or a laptop close by it is best to use an online calculator if you are scratching your head thinking you will never be able to do that.

This calculator seems to be easy to use reliable and it has lots of different chocolate options which is helpful.

The different types of dark chocolate that are available have been explained.

I would not even get started on what defines a dark chocolate bar things can get even vaguer. 

There might be biscuits caramel or nuts in the center.

Heres how to use an online calculator

To use the calculator you will need to input three key pieces of information: the weight of your dog how much chocolate he ate and the type of dark chocolate he ate. 

As manufacturers like to boast about this kind of thing it needs to be clearly labeled on the packaging.

With this calculator I want to illustrate how the size of the dog affects its chances of becoming poisoned.  

The three dogs I used for my tests were: 

The 7 kg Mini Poodle (my mother-in-laws dog) named Henry

(I have a dog named Sylvie who weighs 30kg.) 

A 60 KG Great Dane named Buster (a figment of my imagination)

A bag of dark “72%” cocoa chocolate will be given to each dog. 

The following are the results:

Henry Sylvie Buster
Weight  7 kg 30 kg  60 kg
Theobromine  64.75 mg/kg 15.11 mg/kg 7.55 mg/kg
Caffeine 7.76 mg/kg 1.81 mg/kg .91 mg/kg
Total 72.51 mg/kg 16.92 mg/kg 8.46 mg/kg
Outcome Sickness & diarrhea Sickness & diarrhea Should be OK

Here it becomes clear how the weight and size of each dog influence the level of theobromine (and caffeine) and how this affects the result.

Even though both Henry and Sylvie should expect to vomit and suffer from diarrhea we can expect Henrys vomiting and diarrhea to be more severe because Henrys theobromine concentration is four times greater than Sylvies. 

Besides a dog of Busters size will just line up at the counter waiting for seconds!

How long does it take for a dog to show signs of chocolate poisoning?

Those in the know believe that dogs usually demonstrate symptoms of chocolate poisoning within six to twelve hours of eating chocolate.

In smaller dogs older dogs or dogs with underlying health conditions such as a weak heart the process may occur much sooner.

The amount of theobromine your dog has consumed also plays a crucial role in the time it will take.

Do not confuse this with how much chocolate they have eaten.

You’re most concerned about dark chocolate right?

When a dog eats a piece of dark chocolate it may experience symptoms sooner than if the chocolate contained more theobromine. 

The symptoms of theobromine poisoning are as follows:

You should watch out for quite a few symptoms.

Its possible for your dog to show just one symptom or a few.

If your dog suffers from chocolate poisoning the symptoms might change and become more severe over time.

To be on the lookout for are:

Sore stomach





Excessive thirst

Can I cure dark chocolate poisoning with a home remedy?

It is not possible to cure chocolate poisoning with a home remedy.

However you can help at home by doing three things.

First of all you need to act quickly. 

Secondly fill up your dogs water bowl with fresh water and wash it out.

In a third step call the vet and provide as much detail as possible. 

Thanks to your quick thinking and your veterinarians expertise your dog will soon be on the road to recovery. 

How can I stop my dog from eating dark chocolate bars?

Your dog probably ate part of a chocolate bar because he was scavenging and found it on the sofa or on the kitchen counter.

I think thats a better option than having your dog eat it because you gave it to him!

There are few human foods that should not be shared with our dogs no matter how tempting they are.

The problem is that we all live busy lives and forget to put things away or to tidy up after ourselves from time to time.

It is also difficult because young children love chocolate and dogs adore young children especially if they eat chocolate!

My guilt is no different than anyone elses.

My Golden Retriever Sylvie adores my grandson to bits and follows him everywhere when he visits.

Her nose could not be closer to his hand when he is eating a biscuit or chocolate. 

However we should exercise extreme caution when it comes to foods like chocolate.

If you want to read more about dog food tips read here: Dog Food Tips and Tricks.

My Dog Ate A Dark Chocolate Bar? (Watch Video)

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