Can Dogs Eat Chocolate, And What Happens If They Do?

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can dogs eat chocolate

Can dogs eat chocolate? No, chocolate is toxic for dogs. You should never give your dog chocolate as a treat, or as part of their diet.

Chocolate is one of the most common causes of accidental poisoning in pet dogs. So, keep chocolate off the counters and locked away where your dog can’t access it.

Death from chocolate poisoning in dogs can be avoided, as long as your dog gets veterinary treatment in time.

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs include vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures.

But now we know chocolate is bad for dogs, let’s find out more about why dogs can’t eat chocolate.

Can Dogs Eat Chocolate?

Chocolate is a well-loved snack and treat made from seeds from the Theobroma Cacao tree. These cacao beans contain the substances theobromine and caffeine, which both belong to the drug class methylxanthine.

Chocolate has higher levels of theobromine than caffeine. But, both of these chemicals contribute to the symptoms of chocolate poisoning in dogs.

When people first began consuming cocoa, they believed it could have medicinal qualities. But, it can be really damaging to dogs and other mammals.

One study looked into chocolate exposure in dogs and found that it increased at Easter and Christmas times.

So what is it about theobromine that is so dangerous to our dogs? Why can’t dogs eat chocolate? And can dogs die from eating chocolate?

Chocolate and Dogs

Both the caffeine and theobromine present in chocolate can contribute to the signs of chocolate toxicity in dogs. But, the concentration of theobromine in chocolate can be 3 to 10 times higher than that of caffeine, with a much longer half-life.

So why is the answer to ‘can dogs eat chocolate’ no? Dogs digest theobromine much more slowly than we do. So, it can actually stay in their bloodstream for up to 20 hours.

While it’s in your dog’s bloodstream, it affects some key organs and processes. These include the central nervous system, heart, and kidneys.

One study has suggested that the median lethal dose of caffeine and theobromine in dogs ranges from 100 – 500 mg. So, eating chocolate can kill your dog.

But, mild signs of poisoning can show from ingesting as little as 20 mg.

can dogs eat chocolate

When is Chocolate Bad For Dogs?

Can dogs eat chocolate at any time, or is it always bad for dogs?

You should never let your dog eat any type of chocolate. But, the worst type of chocolate for dogs is that with the highest levels of theobromine.

For instance, dark chocolate has much higher levels than milk chocolate. But we will look at this in more detail later on.

On top of this, chocolate contains a lot of sugar. Too much sugar can cause obesity, upset stomach, and dental problems in dogs.

You should take extra care at times when there is more chocolate in your house. Such as Valentine’s Day, Christmas, and Easter.

Is Chocolate Poisonous to Dogs?

Yes, chocolate is toxic to dogs if they consume too much.

The amount of chocolate needed to seriously harm your dog will depend on a few factors. These include:

  • Theobromine and caffeine levels
  • Size of your dog
  • Stomach Contents
  • Sensitivity of dog to chocolate

We’ve seen that a fatal dose can be as small as 100mg of theobromine. However, symptoms of chocolate poisoning will show at lower doses, and will vary depending on the above factors.

If your dog has already eaten chocolate, click here to find out what you need to do.

Is Chocolate Good For Dogs?

Can dogs eat chocolate for any other nutrients?

There are some foods that aren’t the best for our dogs, but have some redeeming nutrients. Unfortunately, chocolate is not one of them.

You should never give your dog chocolate, as it could be fatal. The cocoa beans contain two poisonous ingredients for dogs.

As we’ve seen, dogs can’t digest these two substances in the same way as humans. So their bodies react very differently.

There are lots of different types of chocolate. So, let’s take a look at how each of those can affect your dog.

Can Dogs Eat White Chocolate?

White chocolate has lower levels of theobromine than dark and milk chocolate. This is because it uses cocoa butter rather than cacao beans.

So can dogs eat white chocolate safely? White chocolate does still contain theobromine.

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Your dog would have to eat more of this type of chocolate to suffer chocolate poisoning.

But, it is still possible. So, it is best not to risk letting your dog eat any of this chocolate.

This chocolate also contains lots of sugar and cream, which are both ingredients that could risk upsetting your dog’s stomach.

Can Dogs Eat Milk Chocolate?

Milk chocolate has a higher level of theobromine than white chocolate. But, it is still lower than the amount in dark chocolates.

So, it is more toxic to dogs than white chocolate. They require less of it for a fatal dose.

It also has high levels of sugar.

You need to make sure your dog can’t access any milk chocolate.

Can Dogs Eat Dark Chocolate?

Dark chocolate has the highest levels of theobromine out of the three. So, it is the most toxic type of chocolate that your dog can ingest.

This means, it is the most dangerous for your dog to eat. It will take less dark chocolate to hurt or kill your dog than any other type of chocolate.

So, never let your dog have access to this type of chocolate.

What Should I Do If My Dog Eats Chocolate?

Chocolate poisoning isn’t always fatal for dogs. Particularly if you can catch it early, or your dog doesn’t eat too much.

The most important thing you can do if your dog has eaten chocolate is take him to your vet. Especially if he is showing any symptoms of being unwell.

If it happens at night, take him to the emergency vet. Do not wait until morning, otherwise it may be too late to help.

Treatments of this type of poisoning will vary depending on the state that your dog is in.

For instance, your vet may just need to induce vomiting in your dog. Or they may need to administer other medication to control symptoms like seizures.

Don’t try to cure these symptoms yourself without speaking to your vet first.

How Do I Know If My Dog Has Eaten Too Much Chocolate?

Your dog will display certain symptoms if he has eaten too much chocolate and is starting to experience levels of toxicity.

Here are some of the symptoms you need to watch out for. If you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate and shows any of these signs, make sure you call your vet straight away.

Early Symptoms

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased thirst
  • Bloating
  • Restlessness

Later Symptoms

  • Seizures
  • Uncontrollable urination
  • Internal bleeding
  • Heart attacks
  • Coma
  • Hyperthermia
  • Respiratory failure.

This is not a complete list of symptoms. So, if you think your dog has eaten chocolate, make sure to watch out for any abnormal behaviors.

Should I Give My Dog Chocolate?

The simple answer is, no. Dogs can’t eat chocolate, and you should never give your dog chocolate as part of his diet, or as a treat.

Too much chocolate can be fatal for your dog. And smaller dogs require a much smaller dose than larger dogs to experience negative symptoms.

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So, don’t risk it. Make sure your dog doesn’t get the chance to sneak any off the counter, especially at times of the year where this treat is more common in the house.

Alternatives to Chocolate for Dogs

Chocolate is not something we should ever give our dogs. Like any human food, you should always check before giving something to your dog.

So here are some other food guides that you might find useful:

Can Dogs Eat Chocolate Summary

So, can dogs eat chocolate? No, chocolate is not safe for dogs. It contains both theobromine and caffeine, both of which can really harm our pets.

It’s important to speak to your vet straight away if you think that your dog has managed to eat chocolate. Look out for any signs of strange behavior so you can catch the poisoning straight away.

Has your dog ever eaten chocolate? If so, you can share your experiences in the comments to help others!

References and Further Reading

The Labrador Site Founder

Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.

She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program 

Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website

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