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Hallowe'en Pet Safety & Chocolate Poisoning

Chocolate consumption can threaten your dog's life! How to know whether you have an emergency on your hands.

Most people know that chocolate is toxic to dogs, but how much and what type signals time to call vet? Do we need to be worried if the dog gets a few 'fun size' Kit Kats?

The toxic ingredients in chocolate that pose a risk to dogs are caffeine and theobromine. Both cause similar symptoms, though theobromine symptoms last much longer and are far more serious.


The first sign of trouble is increased thirst for no apparent reason. We are not talking about an extra trip to the water station...we are talking about drinking and drinking and drinking. It is a very notable change in behavior. Next comes panting, restlessness and possibly vomiting and diarrhea. In severe cases, symptoms can include muscle tremors, seizure and heart failure.


The toxic dose of theobromine starts at 9 mg per pound of body weight; this is enough to cause mild symptoms. Severe toxicity comes at 18 mg of theobromine per pound of body weight.

Dark chocolate contains far greater levels of theobromine and is far more dangerous than milk chocolate. Baker's chocolate is the most serious risk to dogs!! A dark chocolate bar (85%) has roughly 230 mg of theobromine per ounce. Milk chocolate contains no more than 60 mg per ounce and chocolate baked goods hold significantly lower risk (rarely a concern at all). A typical chocolate cake contains about 3/4 C of cocoa powder, which contains about 50 mg of theobromine. Even if it is covered in chocolate icing, that only adds about an extra 45 mg, so our 50 pound friend could eat an entire iced chocolate cake without risk of chocolate poisoning. But I'm sure he'd be plenty sick!!!

It's difficult to tell you exactly when to be worried when you discover that the dog has gotten into the goodies. If you know exactly what your dog consumed, you can do a quick calculation to determine the risk of theobromine toxicity. Multiply the dog's weight in pounds by 9 mg. Let's say the dog is 50 lbs; it would take 450 mg of theobromine to notice mild symptoms of toxicity. Severe toxicity would be seen at 18 mg; (50 x 18 mg) is an intake of 900 mg of theobromine - HIGHLY TOXIC.

Milk chocolate poses far less risk, as stated above. A standard milk chocolate/candy bar contains about 93 mg of where near the 450 mg that would cause mild symptoms. But that same size dark chocolate/candy bar contains roughly 357 mg of theobromine, which is now dangerous. The same amount of Baker's chocolate contains just under 700 mg of toxic theobromine.

PREVENTION IS KEY! Keep your dog safe at Halloween (and all times of the year) but keeping chocolate out of reach to even the most mischievous dog. Never doubt their ability to get into a pantry...keep it on the top shelf. Keep kid's Halloween (Christmas, Easter) hauls locked away behind a door, and again, up high. All it would take is for the kids to accidentally leave the door open and BOOM your furry opportunist is at risk.


If you know exactly what your dog consumed, and you can calculate the risk of theobromine toxicity and, if it's low, then you can feel fairly comfortable riding it out at home...but you MUST be certain about what the dog consumed.

Some say that you can induce your dog to vomit at home by using 3% hydrogen peroxide, though this is not recommended. If you live far very from an emergency vet and your calculation is high, it is better to induce vomiting, than to do nothing. But beware, peroxide can cause burns to the mouth and throat/esophagus of the dog. It can sometime do more harm that good. If you need to dose with 3% peroxide at home, the dose is small: 1 teaspoon per 5 pounds of body weight, with a maximum dose of 3 tablespoons, regardless of weight. Dogs 45 lbs and over, maximum dose is 3 tablespoons. You should see your dog vomit within 2-5 minutes and expect to see a lot of liquid chocolate...stay off the carpets! You want to see an amount of vomit that appears similar to the amount consumed. Provided you do, he is almost certainly going to be okay. If the peroxide dose is not successful, time to call the vet.


  • If your dog consumed a toxic amount of chocolate and does not successfully bring it back up

  • If your dog ate a large amount, or an unknown amount of Baker's or 85% dark chocolate. Don't risk it - go

  • If your dog shows any signs of chocolate toxicity: extreme thirst, agitation, unwarranted panting, tremors, seizures, vomiting or diarrhea. BREAK ALL TRAFIC LAWS....GO!

Quick Reference Chart for Toxic Doses of Theobromine in Chocolate

Dog's Weight (lbs)

mg theobromine for mild symptoms

mg theobromine for severe symptoms


45 mg

90 mg


90 mg

180 mg


180 mg

360 mg


270 mg

540 mg


360 mg

720 mg


450 mg

900 mg


540 mg

1,080 mg


630 mg

1,260 mg


720 mg

1,440 mg


810 mg

1,620 mg


900 mg

1,800 mg

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