Is my dog going to die from chocolate?

With the big chocolate holidays behind us, I figured now would be the time to tell you just how big of a bullet you just dodged. I will share this truth with you in three stories.

Back in the mid-nineties our family had a Newfoundland with the completely inappropriate name of Spike. Spike was a giant dog – read that as 200 pounds giant – and a bit of a counter surfer. I once watched him eat 6 T-Bone steaks in less than a minute. Bones and all. One Easter season, Spike ate not one but two bags of Hersey Kisses. Did we call the vet? Did we rush him to an emergency clinic? No, we did not. At that time, our veterinary relationship was adequate but we weren’t “A” listed veterinary clients and the thought to call the vet probably didn’t even register in anyone’s mind. We left it alone and he was fine, we laughed about all the foil in the sizable dog piles Spike left in the yard and life moved on.

Fast forward to current times. We now have a 70 pound mixed breed dog who eats everything. He is very appropriately named Angus. Last holiday season he ate an entire pound of mixed light and dark milk chocolate. My wife and I both being veterinarians, did the math and realized he was likely to experience a bit of diarrhea and maybe some vomiting. The only thing worse than having your dog wake you up in the middle of the night vomiting, is to wake up to diarrhea and vomiting. So we made him vomit and we went to bed. And nothing happened.

Around the same time one of my regular patients, a dog with owners that do maintain that “A” listing with our clinic called at the end of the day. This 15 pound dog had eaten about an ounce of chocolate. If you do the math and if you consider all chocolates equal, this dog should be fine. If you consider all chocolate to be equal I will trade you a Hersey’s Dark bar for a Scharffen Berger any day of the week. No, this dog ate a piece of 86% Cocoa chocolate. The good stuff. The potential complications included death. So he came in, I induced vomiting. His vomit smelled delicious. Then I gave him some activated charcoal. A medication to stop the vomiting and some intravenous fluids to dilute out any of the potentially dangerous compounds in the chocolate and encourage urine production. He was going to be boarding with us for a few days the following day anyway so I let him go home for the night where he did just fine. He almost died and the owner probably still has no idea. I have a tendency to downplay things a bit, especially when they turn out exactly as they should.

So there you have it, chocolate can kill your dog. Or it might do nothing. Between those ends of the spectrum is vomiting, diarrhea, tremors and seizures. A seizing dog having diarrhea is a nightmare. In case you were wondering.

If your dog gets into chocolate and you know how much it was and what kind, call the emergency clinic or your vet and run it by them. If you don’t know what kind or how much they got, we’re going to have to assume the worst. If you think you might downplay the amount of chocolate your dog got into so you don’t have to look stupid in front of the vet just picture yourself explaining to them that your dog died after coating your kitchen in chocolate scented vomit and diarrhea while having a seizure and go with the option you are most comfortable with.

And if you want to treat yourself (not your dog) to some chocolate: go for it.
Scharffen Berger

Thanks for reading.

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