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Mar 18, 2016

The Curious Incident of the Dog

It’s widely known that chocolate and dogs don’t mix, but it doesn’t seem all that important until it happens to you. This past Thanksgiving, I had a close call with my dog that I wanted to share in hopes that it can help others in my situation.

To set the context, this is my dog Samson:


Samson looking sneaky.

We got him about two years ago from English Springer Rescue America of Salt Lake City. Samson had been found in the woods with a bite on his neck and had been stitched back to health. Genetic testing revealed that he’s not actually an English Springer (he’s 75% Brittany, 25% pointer) but he’s pretty sneaky. So we’re happy he snuck in to the rescue group.

fudge truffle

This past Thanksgiving-eve happened to be my birthday. As per Dandelion tradition, everyone gets a birthday treat on their special day. In my case, I had requested a recreation of the tunnel of fudge bundt cake — one of my childhood favorites — but reimagined with good chocolate. This was particularly challenging because the cake of  my childhood came from a box, and included a full-on fudge tunnel. In the original version, the molten tunnel was created by a soufflé-like baking effect that left the middle gooey.

Annie and Dana slaved away secretly for days to create the Dandelion version of this cake — and it was not light on the chocolate. They actually made two cakes, and by my calculations, each had about 10 bars worth of chocolate in it.

That day, we gathered around the table and sang Happy Birthday. The cakes were so decadent that we only got through one. I packed up the second cake to bring home as a bonus Thanksgiving treat for our guests.

Later that night, Elaine took me out to dinner and we left the cake in the middle of the kitchen table, packaged up neatly on its cake stand. We had already set up for Thanksgiving with an extra, double-wide table, which means the cake was in the middle of an 8 x 8-foot table. There was no reason to think that our (normally super sweet) dog would, or even could, climb on the table to eat the cake.

Two hours later we arrived home and something was amiss. Nothing was out of place except a tiny section of wrapping missing from the cake stand. The paper dome covering the pedestal still retained its bundt shape, but the cake itself had disappeared. We searched high and low and came to the conclusion that our dog — who was looking a tad bit fatter — had pilfered the cake.

Thoughts of betrayal and sadness were immediately pushed aside when we realized, that that was one super chocolatey cake! Made from 70%, beans-and-sugar-only, super pure chocolate, this was something for us to worry about.

I did some quick research and we called the 24-hour pet hospital who told us they would pump his stomach if we brought him in right away. We rushed Samson over — luckily it was right down the street. Samson was shaking and vomited a few times along the way. The receptionist checked us in, took Samson, and then we waited. And waited. About an hour later, the vet called us in. She told us that Samson was perfectly fine and things were all clear.

“Great!” we exclaimed and then started to ask — “how much came out when you pumped his stomach? What was the treatment?” Umm… She confessed that they hadn’t pumped his stomach — in fact they hadn’t done anything at all. She had done a quick search online, found some general rules, and since Samson didn’t look too distressed, she proclaimed him to be just fine.

We realized that Samson wasn’t showing symptoms because the cake had been eaten fairly recently, but the hour that had just passed by was not making things better. I explained to the vet that 1) I am an owner of a chocolate factory, 2) that was a super chocolate-y cake, and 3) our chocolate is not like normal industrial chocolate (that often has very little cacao in it).


Luckily I had the lab report and calculated that he had consumed something like 4,000mg of Theobromine. For his weight, that worked out to about 150mg/kg. Sources online seemed to indicate that at around 300 mg/kg, 50% of dogs will die, though other sites indicated it was closer to 100mg/kg. Either way we didn’t want to take the risk. Happily, we were pretty sure the cake was made mostly with Maya Mountain chocolate which has a relatively low percentage of theobromine. If it had been Camino Verde, Ecuador (CV in the chart), it would have had double the dosage.

The vet quickly decided a new round of treatment was in order. Over the next hour, they pumped his stomach. She showed me the giant garbage bag of food that came out. “Yeah, he really did eat a lot of chocolate cake!” They also gave him activated charcoal which slowed down the absorption of the chocolate still in his system.

The charcoal made him very thirsty, but he was forbidden to drink for the rest of the night for fear he might vomit it up. So the poor dog was so thirsty he howled through the night and pawed at the bathroom door. We wished we could have explained to him that this was for his own good.

Needless to say, we were a bit exhausted come Thanksgiving morning, but thankful that we still had Samson with us.

How to calculate if your dog has eaten too much chocolate:
* You can see for our type of chocolate, there is about 10-24mg of theobromine for each gram of cocoa liquor (ground nibs).
* Since we are making 70% chocolate, you can discount this to 7-17mg of theobromine per gram.
* Therefore, a 56g bar of our chocolate has about 392-952mg of Theobromine.
* At 300mg/kg of the dog’s weight, 50% of dogs will die.
* So one bar of Dandelion Chocolate will put dogs who weigh around 2-7 lbs at severe risk.
* Certainly there is more risk the more chocolate a dog eats or the less it weighs.
* And keep in mind, these numbers are for fatal doses; you probably want to be concerned at much lower levels.


  1. Karen J Sanders

    So, now you two have a Chocolate Brittany/Pointer, huh? Glad he’s okay.

  2. Elaine

    Hi Karen! He’s the perfect dog in so many ways. But 1% of the time he’s a little too smart for his own good. I’m still not sure how he managed to eat the entire cake without disturbing the parchment paper. There was just an egg-shaped hole in a hollow paper dome. Everything else was pristine, even the tablecloths. We searched high and low to see if there was any other possibility before reaching the conclusion that the cake was likely inside the dog. I’m glad he’s okay too.


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