My Dog Ate A Brownie

Photo by Tom Page on Flickr

If your dog eats a brownie, you should take the following steps immediately:

Chocolate contains substances known as methylxanthines that can speed up a dog’s heart rate in addition to increasing its nervous system activity.

The risk of your dog becoming ill after eating chocolate is dependent on the type and amount consumed, with smaller breeds being more susceptible to severe effects than larger ones.

Try to determine how much they ate

Knowing the type of chocolate and how much of it your dog ate can help you determine if there is an emergency.

Generally, mild symptoms occur when a pet consumes 20 mg of methylxanthines per kilogram of body weight.

Cardiac symptoms happen around 40-50 mg/kg, while seizures can occur at dosages greater than 60mg/kg.

A very concerning dose is approximately 1 ounce of milk chocolate per pound of body weight in layman’s terms.

Since an average Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar contains about one and a half ounces, consuming even just the smallest piece could have severe consequences for small dogs like pugs or dachshunds.

The simplest way to gauge the severity of the problem is by using a chocolate toxicity calculator.

And I will explain how this calculator works in a later section.

Know the signs of chocolate poisoning

The signs of chocolate poisoning in dogs can take a while to manifest, and in general, include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Restlessness
  • Increased urination
  • Tremors
  • Elevated or abnormal heart rate
  • Seizures
  • Collapse and death

Act immediately

If you think your dog ate a brownie containing chocolate, call the vet or Pet Poison Helpline immediately to get advice.

Based on how much and what kind they consumed, your veterinarian may recommend monitoring them for signs of illness listed above and calling back if anything worsens.

In more severe cases, veterinary intervention may be needed to provide additional treatments such as medicines or IV fluids to resolve the after-effects of poisoning.

The vet may induce vomiting and give him several doses of activated charcoal.

If your dog is suffering from seizures, they will need monitoring at the clinic overnight until symptoms subside and the treatments begin to help.

Be proactive going forward

Make sure to store all chocolate items where the dog cannot reach them, including cocoa powder and hot chocolate mix.

Make children and guests aware that they should not leave these foods out on tables or countertops for dogs to get a hold of during Halloween, Easter, Valentine’s Day, Christmas – any holiday treat with chocolate can be deadly!

How dangerous is chocolate to dogs, and why?

Chocolate contains both theobromine and caffeine, two substances known as methylxanthines that can speed up a dog’s heart rate in addition to increasing their nervous system activity.

The chances of your dog becoming sick from ingesting chocolate is dependent on the type and amount consumed.

A dog’s weight can also play a role in how badly they’re affected by it, with smaller breeds being more susceptible to severe effects than larger ones.

The concentrations of toxic substances can vary among different types of chocolates, and not all chocolate contains high levels of them. The list below is ranked according to the amount and type:

1) Cocoa powder (most toxic) 

2) Unsweetened baker’s chocolate 

3). Semisweet chocolate 

4). Dark Chocolate

5). Milk Chocolate

Regardless of the type consumed, most all chocolates contain toxin levels considered dangerous for dogs.

Although cocoa powder is regarded as the most dangerous type of chocolate for dogs because toxins are more concentrated in this form than any other, this doesn’t mean that high amounts of semisweet or dark chocolates are safe.

Any chocolate consumption by your dog should be considered potentially fatal and reacted to accordingly.

Which chocolate is most dangerous and why?

Cocoa powder is the most dangerous type of chocolate for a dog to ingest because it has the highest concentration of canine toxic substances like theobromine and caffeine.

This is why you should securely store any form of cocoa powder in your house if you have a dog to avoid accidental ingestion.

Even a tiny amount of cocoa can cause illness and symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea.

Semisweet and milk chocolates are less risky because they contain lower concentrations of these compounds, but nearly all types of chocolates have them.

This is why ANY amount of chocolate ingestion of any kind should be considered potentially harmful to your dog and addressed immediately.

Why are small dogs at greater risk?

A small dog, for example, a Jack Russell Terrier, is more likely to experience side effects than the average adult Labrador retriever.

This is because smaller dogs have less body mass and are therefore affected more severely by the quantities of chocolate per serving size.

Just like when a child ingests something harmful, the effects are more severe than they would be when an adult does.

The risk to smaller dogs is also dependent on the type of chocolate they consumed. White chocolate is slightly less harmful to dogs than dark, milk, or unsweetened cocoa.

Cocoa powder has much more concentrated caffeine and theobromine – two substances that can be toxic to dogs when ingested and will affect smaller breeds proportionally.

However, because the overall risk is more significant for smaller dogs, you should not waste time trying to determine if the type of chocolate consumed is more harmful or less.

If you suspect that your small breed dog has ingested chocolate, regardless of the type, begin taking steps to address the situation immediately.

How much chocolate is in a brownie?

A standard brownie recipe consists of:

  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder

This means a regular-sized brownie will have about 200mg or 0.25 ounces of chocolate, which is approaching the lethal dosage for dogs, meaning a small dog could die after eating several brownies! 

Any level of brownie consumption should be considered harmful, if not potentially fatal in dogs, especially the smaller breeds. 

Using a chocolate toxicity calculator

One great tool to have bookmarked in case your dog eats chocolate is a chocolate toxicity calculator, such as the one found here.

The calculator works by assessing your dog’s weight, the type of chocolate consumed, and the approximate amount you believe they consumed.

It will then diagnose the severity of the situation, recommended actions to take, and signs and symptoms to watch for.

For example, if a small breed dog (5-12kg) consumes half a chocolate bar containing cocoa, the calculator will classify this as a severe emergency and recommend immediate veterinary intervention.

However, if a large breed dog (25-40kg) consumes the same amount of chocolate, this is only classified as mild to moderate, advising you to watch for symptoms in your dog and see a vet if necessary.

In all instances, the calculator recommends watching for the following symptoms in your dog:

  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Rapid breathing
  • Restlessness or hyperactivity
  • Tremors or incoordination
  • Increased heart rate

How long do symptoms of sickness take to appear after eating chocolate?

It can take anything from two hours to a day, but it’s usually around 24-36 hours.

Some signs of chocolate poisoning your dog may show include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rate and/or breathing rates, panting, drooling, and a fever.

If your dog has consumed chocolate, call the Pet Poison Helpline (855-213-6680) for advice. Based on their size and how much they consumed, it might be necessary to immediately bring them to the vet to prevent serious health consequences that can include seizures or death from a heart attack.

Your veterinarian will probably induce vomiting and give them activated charcoal to help move toxins out of their body.

For more severe cases, veterinary intervention may include medications or IV fluids if necessary.

How might the other ingredients in a brownie affect a dog?

In addition to chocolate, brownies contain other ingredients that may potentially be harmful to dogs. For example, just like humans, some dogs can have an allergy to wheat flour.

Wheat allergies can develop over time with continued exposure. This means that food containing wheat may not cause problems initially, but the allergy can manifest later after prolonged exposure.

The symptoms of such an allergy are typically very uncomfortable for your pet. They can lead to itching skin or gastrointestinal upsets like diarrhea or vomiting if they eat gluten foods.

Sugar is similarly bad for dogs.

We’ve all heard the warnings about how too much sugar can make humans overweight and lead to diabetes, but we seldom think of our furry canine friends when thinking about such things.

Diabetes is bad enough for us; what does this mean for an animal with a shorter lifespan than people?

Bottom line, there are several ingredients in brownies besides chocolate that should be considered harmful to dogs.

The safest course of action is not letting them consume brownies ever. Ensure that all chocolate items, including cocoa powder and hot chocolate mix, are stored where the dog cannot reach them.

Remind your children and guests not to leave any chocolates on countertops or tables near dogs.

This also includes trick-or-treat bags and gifts from Easter baskets to Christmas stockings during the holiday time of year.