My Dog Ate A Chocolate Orange

Photo by fsse8info on Flickr

While it is easy to panic in a situation like this, it is important to do your best to try to stay calm.

Remind yourself that accidents happen, and our furry friends can often create their own mischief.

Right now though, they need you to collect as much information as you can, to make sure they don’t get sick or worse. 

Why is chocolate dangerous for dogs?

Since this is an article, and not an emergency, let’s take a moment to understand why chocolate is so dangerous to dogs.

Chocolate is made from the leaves of the Cacao plant, which contain a chemical called theobromine.

While this chemical is harmless to many animals and humans, dogs cannot metabolize it. This means it’s absorbed into their bloodstream and can poison them.

When humans eat something that disagrees with us, different people have different reactions. Dogs are very similar, with a multitude of factors that can affect how they will react to eating chocolate. 

How much theobromine they ate

One of the largest factors is just how much theobromine they ingested.

There is a big difference between them eating a single slice of chocolate orange compared to an entire chocolate orange.

The more theobromine they ingest, the more likely they are to have a negative reaction. 

It’s also important to examine what kind of chocolate orange they ingested.

A dark chocolate orange has much more theobromine than a milk chocolate orange.

And in the next section, we shall find out why…

Why is a dark chocolate orange more dangerous than a milk chocolate orange?

When measured, a gram of dark chocolate has 5.5 milligrams of theobromine. Compare that with milk chocolate which only has 2.4 milligrams of theobromine per gram. 

There is a third, although admittedly less popular, type of chocolate that some people think is dog friendly, white chocolate.

White chocolate does not have any direct cocoa in it, it is instead made using cocoa butter.

This results in only .01 milligrams of theobromine per gram of white chocolate.

While most vets agree that white chocolate is unlikely to be toxic to dogs, they also reference chocolate’s high sugar and fat content which is still unhealthy for our furry friends. 

Why does the size of your dog matter?

Another important factor to consider when your dog ingests chocolate is their size. Simply put, the larger your dog, the less theobromine is likely to affect them.

Now, you may wonder, why does size matter? If dogs can’t metabolize theobromine shouldn’t large dogs and small dogs be affected the same?

Let’s look at how size can affect humans in the ingestion of alcohol.

Typically, a larger person can ingest large amounts of alcohol, with less side effects.

This is because a larger body mass allows the alcohol to be spread out more, making it less concentrated overall.

This is the same as dogs with theobromine. Larger dogs have more body mass to spread the toxicity of theobromine across, this results in lower concentrations, thus a less acute reaction to it. 

It is important to note that, like humans, there are exceptions to the rule.

There are some people of smaller stature that react to alcohol similarly to larger people.

This can happen in dogs. You may have heard stories about your friend’s three pound dog that ate an entire chocolate orange. and was fine.

These stories, while entertaining, are not expert advice for if your dog ingests a chocolate orange. On the other hand, if you have a larger dog, it is not safe to assume that they will be ok if they eat some of a chocolate orange.

There are some larger humans who have very acute reactions to alcohol, and your large dog may have an acute reaction to just a little of theobromine. 

What are the signs of chocolate toxicity?

Should your dog ingest a chocolate orange, in whole or in part, it’s important that you know the signs that they are having a negative reaction.

Typically, your dog will start to show a negative reaction to the theobromine in six to twelve hours, but they can show signs as soon as one hour. 

If you know your dog has ingested chocolate, you don’t need to wait until they start showing signs of toxicity to call your vet and let them know what happened. 

There may be times when you don’t know that your dog has ingested chocolate, or maybe it was just a little and you don’t know if they need to go to the vet yet.

Here are some of the most common signs your dog is experiencing toxicity from chocolate ingestion:

  • Agitation
  • Out-of- Personality Hyperactivity
  • Stomach is sore to touch
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Drinking more than normal
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Twitching
  • Panting
  • Seizures

If you notice several of these symptoms, it is probably time to call the vet and try to see them as soon as you can.

If you are still unsure of if you should call the vet, here is a handy tool that you can use to help try to determine toxicity your dog might be experiencing.

Heading to the Vet

Before you go

Before taking your dog to the vet, there is some information you should try to gather. The best thing you can do is find the packaging for the chocolate orange that they ate. If possible, try to find the nutritional information, a side-by-side comparison of milk (left) and dark (right) is shown below..

While there is a lot of information here, what is really important is the list of ingredients.

On packaging like this, the ingredients are listed in descending order.

As shown above, the key ingredient in the milk chocolate orange is sugar, compare this to the dark chocolate orange which is bittersweet chocolate.

This information is very important to your vet, because it can tell them more about what was ingested by your dog.

In this situation, the packaging will give an indication how much theobromine was in the product your dog ate.

You also want to make sure to tell the vet just how much of the chocolate orange they ate. This again, helps give them as much information as you can, so they can make informed decisions about your dog’s health when you get there. 

The last piece of information that your vet is going to need is any symptoms your dog is currently showing.

Now there is a slight caveat here, many people get caught up in the listed symptoms, for example, hyper-activity.

But, sometimes dogs, like humans, can have odd reactions, so maybe your dog is acting more sluggish, instead of hyper-active.

This could be a unique symptom to them eating a chocolate orange, or it could be something else. It is best to let your vet know anything your dog is doing out of the ordinary. 

At the Vet

Once you get to the vet, they will do an examination of your fur baby.

Typically, a vet will give a dog that has ingested chocolate medicine that will induce vomiting.

This is to get any undigested chocolate out of their stomach.

They can also feed them activated charcoal, which will absorb the theobromine in their stomach, preventing it from being absorbed into their bloodstream.

Depending on how much chocolate they ate, their size and other factors, they may determine it’s best to keep your dog overnight, administering the activated charcoal every six hours.

It is important to note that every case is different, and your vet will make the best determination with the facts on hand. 

After the Vet

Most dogs will recover quickly from eating chocolate oranges with little to no long-term health effects.

Once any theobromine that has been ingested has been expunged from their system they normally need a little rest before bouncing back to their normal selves in just a day or two. 

Are any other ingredients in chocolate orange oxic for dogs?

We looked earlier at the list of ingredients in chocolate.

While we know that cocoa contains the dangerous theobromine, what about the other ingredients?

There are many products out there that claim to be chocolate that is safe for dogs. Or, like we mentioned earlier, white chocolate is very low in theobromine and many people think it’s safe for dogs.

While there is nothing else specifically dangerous in the list of ingredients, it is still not recommended to give our dogs any chocolate.

Chocolates, like many other sweets, have exorbitant amounts of fats, sugars and cholesterol in high concentrations for dogs.

While this is unlikely to have any immediate negative effects on them, long-term weight and health issues can result from snacks high in sugars, fats and cholesterol. 

If you are really looking to give your dog a special treat that is like chocolate but safe, carob powder is a safe substitute.

There are many recipes available online to make homemade treats with carob powder, or you can buy pre-made snacks that will arrive at your door ready for our four-legged friends to chow down on.