Can Dogs Eat Chocolate? Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs

No, dogs shouldn’t eat chocolate as it’s toxic to them. Chocolate contains certain substances that are dangerous to canines.

The level of toxicity depends on the type of chocolate, how much chocolate your pet consumes, and how big your dog is.

A Labrador Retriever puppy with dog food bowl
A Labrador Retriever pup eating

Keep reading to learn more about the risks of feeding chocolate to your dog, what to do if he accidentally eats chocolate, and how to prevent your pup from eating this sweet treat.

Why is Chocolate Poisonous to Dogs?

Chocolate is poisonous to dogs because it contains theobromine and caffeine.

These are both stimulants that can cause your dog’s heart rate speeds up and stimulates its nervous system beyond normal levels.

These chemicals are known as methylxanthines, often used medicinally as diuretics, stimulants, dilators, and relaxants. 

Methylxanthines can be dangerous to dogs because their bodies can’t process them as quickly as our bodies can.

Generally, it will take 10 to 17 hours for them to eliminate just half of these toxic chemicals.

Can Dogs Eat Chocolate In Certain Amounts?

A Wire Fox Terrier with dog food bowl
Freddie, a Wire Fox Terrier, asks for chocolate – Image source

While you shouldn’t give your dog chocolate, some paw parents report that their pets are okay after consuming a single piece of chocolate.

This is due to the amount of chocolate their dog consumed.

While a small piece of chocolate may not affect your dog, a whole chocolate bar might cause him to experience vomiting, diarrhea, panting, or restlessness.

He may also develop a racing or increased heart rate, a dangerous symptom that could lead to cardiac arrest.

Can chocolate kill dogs?

Yes, chocolate can be fatal for dogs. However, it depends on the amount and type of chocolate consumed and on your dog’s body weight.

If you know your pet has eaten chocolate, contact your vet immediately and monitor him for any signs of chocolate poisoning.

Fatalities due to chocolate ingestion usually occur when pet parents fail to get their dog a proper and timely vet treatment.

Some dogs with previous conditions, like heart disease, may also develop a more severe reaction to chocolate.

Can chocolate cause seizures in dogs?

Yes, dogs can experience seizures when they eat a large amount of chocolate.

Seizures and tremors are only usually triggered when your dog consumes more than 60 mg of chocolate per kg of their body weight.

How much chocolate can a dog eat?

Stack of chocolate bars
A stack of chocolate bars

While you shouldn’t feed your dog chocolate, knowing how much chocolate your dog can eat will help you determine if you are in an emergency or not. 

Mild chocolate poisoning symptoms start when dogs consume about 20 mg of methylxanthines per kilogram of their body weight.

This means a large German Shepherd can eat much more chocolate before symptoms of toxicity occur than a smaller dog, like a Chihuahua.

More severe symptoms of poisoning that affect the heart start when your dog’s consumption of chocolate reaches 40 to 50 mg/kg.

How much chocolate is toxic for large dogs?

Your dog’s body weight will affect how much chocolate he can safely eat without experiencing severe symptoms.

Large dog breeds weighing about 50 pounds would only need to consume 9 ounces of milk chocolate, or 1 ounce of baker’s chocolate, to show signs of toxicity. 

How much chocolate can small dog breeds eat?

Using the above figures, you can work out that a concerning dose of chocolate for your dog would be one ounce of milk chocolate per pound of body weight.

To put that into perspective, a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar is about 1.55 ounces, so even one bar of chocolate could have severe consequences, especially with small breeds.

What are the facts about chocolate and dogs?

Did you know that the darker and more bitter the chocolate is, the greater the danger it poses to your dog? Here are some quick facts you need to know about chocolate and dogs.

  1. Not all chocolates are the same. The toxicity depends on the type of chocolate and the amount of theobromine it contains.
  2. Severe symptoms of chocolate poisoning include tremors, seizures, heart failure, and in severe cases, death.
  3. Clinical signs of chocolate poisoning may take 6 to 12 hours to develop and may last several days.

What Happens If a Dog Eats Chocolate?

A German Shepherd dog being examined by a veterinarian
A German Shepherd dog at the vet

Dogs’ bodies react differently to eating chocolate. He may have no reaction at all or he may experience signs of chocolate toxicity within hours of consuming this sweet treat.

Just like humans, dogs can also develop an allergy to chocolate.

However, fur parents should be more concerned about chocolate toxicity than allergy, as too much theobromine can be fatal to dogs if left untreated immediately.

What to do if your dog eats chocolate?

If you suspect your pet has accidentally consumed chocolate or you see him eating chocolate, don’t wait to see if they develop any signs of toxicity.

Contact your vet or Pet Poison Helpline immediately to seek medical attention for your dog.

There isn’t a specific antidote for chocolate toxicity.

Still, your vet might try to induce vomiting and administer activated charcoal to get the theobromine out of your dog’s system and provide medical treatment for any symptoms. 

What are the symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs?

The symptoms of chocolate poisoning can take a while for your dog to experience because his body processes caffeine and theobromine slowly.

While there is no specific timeline, chocolate poisoning in canines usually occurs within 6 to 12 hours after consuming it.

  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Panting
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Arrhythmia or an abnormal heart rhythm
  • High blood pressure
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Lethargy
  • Restless or anxious behavior
  • Increased body temperature
  • Advanced signs such as seizure, collapse, coma, or death

With the right treatment, most dogs get over the symptoms of chocolate toxicity within three to four days.

How to treat dogs with chocolate poisoning?

A Jack Russell Terrier being carried by a veterinarian
A Jack Russell Terrier with a vet

Chocolate poisoning in dogs is a serious condition that can be fatal if left untreated. Do not try to treat the problem yourself. Instead, take your dog to the vet as soon as possible.

With prompt treatment, most dogs recover from chocolate poisoning without any lasting effects. 

Depending on the amount and type of chocolate eaten and clinical signs, the following are treatment methods for chocolate poisoning.

  1. Some vets may encourage induced vomiting for your dog. And if this will be done at home, make sure to follow their instructions.
  2. Another treatment method includes administering activated charcoal to your dog. This is to prevent his body from absorbing theobromine further.
  3. In severe cases, such as when your dog consumes a relatively high amount of theobromine from chocolates, your dog may benefit from intravenous fluid therapy to help excrete the chemical from his system.
  4. In some cases, medications might be necessary. Your veterinarian may prescribe heart medications and anticonvulsants to prevent heart complications and seizures.

What is the pet poison helpline for chocolate poisoning?

If you think your dog has consumed a piece of chocolate, get in touch with your veterinarian immediately. 

You can also call the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661. Their team of veterinarians is available to answer questions and provide treatment recommendations 24/7.

In emergency cases, they can direct you to the nearest animal hospital.

Another point of contact is ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) at 1-888-426-4435. They are also available 24/7. 

Pet Poison Helpline charges an incident fee of $75. ASPCA, on the other hand, imposes a consultation fee of $95.

Fortunately, up to 90% of the latter may be covered if your pet is enrolled in ASPCA’s Pet Health Insurance plan.

Do dogs like the taste of chocolate?

Unfortunately, some dogs do like the taste of chocolate.

Just like you love the delicious taste of chocolate, so does your dog, and they may consume this tasty treat without ever knowing how dangerous it is for them to do so. 

You may be interested to note that cats don’t like the taste of chocolate like your sweet-toothed pooch. That’s why you don’t hear about chocolate poisoning in felines.

How to keep chocolate away from a dog?

Chocolate is a common household treat, and to keep your dog safe, store it out of his reach. The refrigerator or the upper side of your pantry are good ideas.

Also, avoid giving your pooch any chocolate-based treats. Ensure your family members, including kids and your staff, are aware of this rule.

What are dog-safe chocolates?

There are some chocolate-looking treats that are made specifically for dogs; however, these are unlikely to contain chocolate.

Instead, they’re more likely to contain carob, a chocolate alternative from carob trees.

What are the recipes for dog-safe chocolates?

Dog-safe chocolates are generally made using carob powder. These dog-safe chocolate alternatives are pretty simple to make at home, and your pet will love them. 

  1. Canine carob cookies
  2. Homemade Peanut Butter Cups for Dogs
  3. Carob Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

What Types of Chocolates are Toxic for Dogs?

A Yorkshire Terrier lying down on the floor
Snuggles, a Yorkie, asks her hooman if they can buy some chocolates – Image source

Not all types of chocolate are created equal.

If your dog does get into your chocolate cupboard, it’s important to save the packaging so that you can show your vet exactly what your pet has consumed.

The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is for your dog, as dark chocolate contains more of the chemical theobromine. 

1. White Chocolate

This type of chocolate contains 0.25 mg of theobromine per oz.

While white chocolate contains very little theobromine, it still shouldn’t be given to your dog as there is still some risk. It also has a high fat and sugar content which is bad for your pet.

2. Dark Chocolate

Semi-sweet or sweet dark chocolate is more toxic for dogs than milk or white chocolate due to the high theobromine content. Dark chocolate contains about 135 mg of theobromine per oz.

3. Ruby Chocolate

Ruby chocolate is a new form of chocolate made from ruby cacao beans. It is named for its beautiful pink color.

Like white chocolate, ruby chocolate contains only trace amounts of the toxic theobromine but contains cocoa butter, sugar, and milk and should not be fed to your dog.

4. Cocoa Chocolate

Unsweetened cocoa chocolate, baking chocolate, and cocoa powder are the most dangerous forms of chocolate that your dog can consume.

Unsweetened baking chocolate contains about 390-450 mg of theobromine per ounce, while cocoa powder has 400-737 mg of theobromine per oz.

5. Milk Chocolate

Thankfully milk chocolate, the most popular form of chocolate sold, is not as dangerous for dogs as dark chocolate.

That is because milk chocolate contains only 44-60 mg of theobromine per oz.

6. Chocolate Liquor

Pairing chocolate with liquor, like whiskey, is particularly bad for dogs. Not only can your dog get chocolate poisoning in this instance, but also alcohol poisoning. 

Why is Carob Safe for Dogs to Consume?

A Glen of Imaal Terrier Mix with carob treat
A Glen of Imaal Terrier Mix receives a carob treat on Easter – Image source

Carob is safe for dogs as it does not contain theobromine and caffeine. It is also high in fiber and low in fat, making it a healthy choice for your pet.

Carob is also good for diabetic dogs as it has a low glycemic index and will not cause a spike in blood sugar levels if consumed moderately.

What are the carob treats?

Carob treats are made from carob powder. This powder is made from ground-down pulp and seeds from the carob tree.

This dried and roasted powder has a sweet taste that some people describe as chocolate-like. 

How can carob replace chocolate in a dog’s daily diet?

Many gourmet dog treats use carob in their recipes as it’s natural and healthy for dogs.

Carob powder tastes almost the same as cocoa powder, making it a great pet-friendly alternative to chocolate. 

Are there any benefits of chocolate for dogs?

There are no benefits of chocolate for dogs.

The risk of chocolate poisoning far outweighs any potential benefits that dark chocolate could offer as it does for humans and thus should never be fed to your pet.

Is there any nutritional value for dogs in chocolate?

Even if chocolate wasn’t poisonous for dogs, it contains such high amounts of fat and sugar that alone could make your dog sick.

While some gourmet bakeries may include small amounts of milk chocolate in their treats to try and encourage picky eaters to consume them, this is advised against by most vets.

So, Can My Dog Eat chocolate?

As discussed, your dog cannot consume chocolate. While chocolate is your favorite dessert, it can cause significant harm to your dog’s health. 

If your pet has got into your chocolate stash, it’s recommended to call your vet immediately to seek advice.

Your vet can help determine if the amount of chocolate ingested is toxic to your dog and what’s the best course of action you need to do.

Do you have any experience with your pet accidentally eating chocolate? Kindly share your stories in the comments below. By doing so, you might even save another doggo!

Further reading: Other Foods that are Bad for Dogs

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