What if my dog eats Christmas chocolate?

When do I need to talk to a vet?

The risk depends on the weight of your dog, the type of chocolate, and the amount they have eaten.  A vet can assess the risk for each individual case.

Dark chocolate

Seek urgent vet help if your dog has eaten dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is the most dangerous because it contains a higher level of theobromine, a chemical that’s toxic to dogs, but not to humans.

Dogs could become ill if they have eaten over 3.5g of plain dark chocolate per kilogram of their body weight. As an example, if your dog weighs 10kg, then they would be most at risk if they ate 35g of plain dark chocolate or more. Be sure to check the chocolate wrapper to find out the weight of the product.

Important: Cocoa powder is seven times more dangerous to your pet than dark chocolate. So, if your dog has consumed this, then you’ll need to speak to your vet straight away.

Milk chocolate

Call your vet immediately if your dog has eaten over 14g of solid milk chocolate per kilogram of their body weight.

If your dog weighs 10kg then they would likely be at risk if they ate 140g of solid milk chocolate or more. Be sure to check the chocolate wrapper to find out the weight of the product.

White chocolate

This is not a risk to your dog because it contains a very low level of the chemical which causes the toxic effects, and therefore treatment is not required. However, it is still very fatty and full of sugar, so is not a good treat for your pet.

Caution: Remember that these calculations can be tricky and are guidelines, each dog is different. It’s important that your vet knows the type of chocolate, amount, and content. If you are using the above calculations to work out toxicity levels, please ensure that you know your dog’s weight accurately. An incorrect calculation could be fatal, so be sure to speak to your vet if you are unsure.

Chocolate with fillings

It isn’t always straightforward to work out how much chocolate has been eaten, especially when your dog has eaten a box of chocolates, for example.  Animal poison centers have a list of the percentage of chocolate in products that contain fillings, which helps with the decision as to whether treatment is required or not.

Chocolate may also contain other ingredients that are harmful to dogs, such as certain nuts, raisins, and alcohol. Therefore, even if the levels of chocolate your dog has consumed are below those listed above, you will need to contact your vet or Animal PoisonLine immediately if they have consumed another toxic substance to find out if treatment is required.

Why is chocolate dangerous to dogs?

Chocolate contains a chemical called ‘theobromine’, which is toxic to dogs.

Even small amounts of it can cause:

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • hyperactivity
  • tremors
  • seizures (or fits)
  • heart problems
  • death, in severe cases

The darker the chocolate, the higher the level of theobromine, and therefore the more toxic it is.

White chocolate, although it doesn’t contain enough theobromine to cause toxicity, is fatty and full of sugar and can pose a potential risk of pancreatitis.

Even without the danger of toxicity, chocolate is not a healthy snack for dogs, causing obesity and poor health, and is therefore best avoided.