Print this page

Theobromine (Chocolate) Poisoning

Theobromine poisoning occurs when a dog consumes chocolate resulting in the chemical theobromine building up to toxic levels in the dog's system.  Read about chocolate poisoning in dogs.

About Theobromine (Chocolate) Poisoning

Theobromine is a stimulant found in cocoa beans used to make chocolate that has some similar effects to caffeine.  Theobromine is also present in chocolate powder, cola and tea.  Humans metabolize theobromine easily but dogs metabolize much more slowly causing it to build up to toxic levels in their system that can result in illness, and even death.  The amount of theobromine contained in chocolate varies in the different types of chocolate - the darker the chocolate, the higher the concentration of theobromine and the more dangerous it is to dogs, whilst white chocolate contains minimal amounts of theobromine.  Dry cocoa powder contains even higher levels of theobromine than dark chocolate.  The lethal dosage of theobromine is directly related to the body weight of dog so whilst a small dog can be killed by as little as 50g of strong dark chocolate, the same amount of chocolate would not be sufficient to kill a much larger dog. 

Symptoms Of Theobromine (Chocolate) Poisoning

Theobromine poisoning in dogs can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, restlessness, rapid breathing, hyperactivity, muscle tremors, seizures, coma, stimulation of the central nervous system, increased or irregular heart rate which can lead to a heart attack.  Symptoms normally occur within 4-24 hours and the onset of theobromine poisoning is usually marked by severe hyperactivity.  In mild cases the dog may only suffer an upset stomach resulting in vomiting and diarrhoea, whilst more severe cases can be fatal. 

Treatment Of Theobromine (Chocolate) Poisoning

If a dog has eaten a large amount of chocolate, particularly dark chocolate or dry cocoa powder, the dog should be made to vomit and veterinary treatment should be sought immediately.  The vet will usually ask about the amount and type of chocolate consumed by the dog.  A vet will cause the dog to vomit, but in severe cases the dog may also require intravenous fluids, washing out of the stomach with charcoal to absorb any theobromine left in the intestine and medication to control heart rate, blood pressure and seizures. With prompt treatment the prognosis for dogs showing mild signs of theobromine poisoning is usually good, whilst the prognosis for dogs showing more severe signs such as seizures, collapse and abnormal heart rate the prognosis can be poor.

Prevention Of Theobromine (Chocolate) Poisoning

The prevention of theobromine (chocolate) poisoning is simply to ensure that a dog does not consume chocolate, cocoa beans, chocolate drinks, cocoa powder, cola or tea at all and ensure that all members of the family are aware that these foods are hazardous to dogs.  In addition to not deliberately feeding a dog these foods or foods containing chocolate (eg chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake, etc), keep such foods out of a dog's reach including avoid hanging chocolates on Christmas trees where a dog may be able to access to these foods if left unsupervised. 

Related items