Dark chocolate as seen above contains more theobromine and is
more toxic to dogs than milk chocolate

Most folks know that chocolate is bad for dogs and can cause significant problems; cats usually don’t eat chocolate, so this article focuses on dogs and what signs of chocolate toxicity look like and what you should do if you think or know your dog ate chocolate.

What to Watch For

The active ingredient in chocolate that causes problems with dogs is called theobromine, which is related to caffeine. 

Some of the signs are caused by excitation to the nervous system, like a caffeine overdose.  Look for:

  • Nervousness/restlessness
  • Twitching
  • Panting
  • Seizures in severe cases

Just ingesting chocolate, which most dogs don’t typically eat every day, can cause an upset stomach. In these cases, you can see:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lack of appetite

The type of chocolate your dog eats affects the severity of symptoms. Milk chocolate has less theobromine than baker’s chocolate or dark chocolate. The size of your dog also affects the severity of the ingestion. For instance a 5-pound chihuahua that eats 5oz of dark chocolate has just ingested a potentially lethal amount of theobromine and requires immediate veterinary attention whereas a 70-pound lab that eats 5oz of milk chocolate should be just fine.

Because it’s hard to know how much is too much, if your dog is known to have eaten chocolate or is suspected of it, call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Poison Control (number at end of article) and see if treatment is needed.

That said, if you notice any symptoms after your dog eats chocolate, it’s best to have them evaluated by a veterinarian or emergency clinic quickly. Theobromine can cause a dangerously rapid heart rate and high blood pressure, both of which require treatment.

What to Do

Again, a large animal that eats a small amount of milk chocolate, like the amount found in a chocolate chip cookie, is not a problem. But for larger, recent exposures, it’s best to call your veterinarian, emergency veterinary hospital or ASPCA Poison Control and see if you need immediate treatment. 

All these resources can help you decide if your pet needs to be seen. In cases where a dog is showing signs of chocolate toxicity, a veterinarian can also start treatment and contact the ASPCA animal poison control center for guidance. 

Animal poison control (fees apply) can be reached at:

ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center: 888-426 4435

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