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Is chocolate really bad for dogs and how much is too much?

It is important to understand the dangers of chocolate toxicity in dogs. Cocoa, the basic ingredient in all chocolates, contains the active compound theobromine. Theobromine is a close relative of caffeine and is responsible for the symptoms of chocolate toxicity including vomiting, diarrhea , heart arrhythmias and brain stimulation (excitability, seizures). Like all toxicities, the most important predictor of risk is how much of the active ingredient your dog gets and how big your dog is. The chocolates with the most theobromine are cocoa powder, unsweetened baking chocolate and dark chocolates. Milk chocolates contain much less theobromine and white chocolates are even lower. Thankfully most Halloween candy contains only milk chocolate but if a smaller dog eats enough milk chocolate it can still become toxic.

So what should you do? If your dog has gotten into the chocolate candy within the last 2-3 hours and it is still mentally alert and getting around (albeit a bit hyper) then induce vomiting with 3% hydrogen peroxide at 1 tablespoon per 20 lbs of bodyweight. Just pour it onto the back of its tongue and wait. If it hasn’t vomited within 10 minutes you can repeat it once but if that doesn’t work then get your dog into your veterinarian. If it has been more than 3 hours, vomiting will be substantially less effective and it is time to seek veterinary care where they will likely give oral activated charcoal and treat any serious symptoms that develop.

Cats rarely get into chocolate, but if yours does do not try to induce vomiting as peroxide doesn’t work in cats. Seek veterinary care immediately.

Another source of chocolate toxicity in dogs is cocoa bean mulch. I do not recommend using this product anywhere that your pet can get into it.

For more information on this and other toxicities I strongly recommend the website www.petpoisonhelpline.com. We are lucky to have some of the best pet poison experts in the country right here in the Twin Cities. You can reach them any time 24/7 at 1-800-213-6680. There is a one time incident charge for their help but my personal experience with these experts has been nothing but excellent.

If you suspect your animal has gotten into something potentially poisonous please call the number below. There is a $35 charge for this call.

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