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Can Dogs Eat Chocolate? Toxicity Facts & Emergency Tips

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By Nicole Cosgrove

varieties of chocolate bar

Dogs cannot eat chocolate. Chocolate is poisonous for dogs. It is one of the most harmful human foods that they can get their paws on.

If you are like most people and like to have a bit of chocolate for a treat, then make sure to keep it well out of reach of your dog or cat. It is toxic for both.

Depending on how much they eat and how large they are, eating chocolate can cause serious medical emergencies.

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What Makes Chocolate Poisonous to Dogs?

There are chemicals in chocolate that makes it dangerous for dogs to eat. These chemicals include theobromine and caffeine. Both of these cause symptoms that involve speeding up the heart rate and stimulating a dog’s nervous system.

Humans can efficiently metabolize these, especially theobromine. Even for us, chocolate is toxic. But our system processes the harmful chemicals so quickly that the toxic levels aren’t allowed to build up.

Dogs, though, are not capable of this. Even those with a higher metabolism digest these chemicals slowly. The toxin builds up and begins to wreak damage before being effectively flushed out of their system.

Keep in mind that it isn’t just these toxins that make chocolate harmful to dogs. The fats and sugar included in the recipe are not easy for a dog’s body to handle. They have trouble digesting it, and it can quickly wreak havoc on their digestive system. It can cause issues like pancreatitis and diabetes.

chocolate bar
Image credit: Alexander Stein, Pixabay

How Much Chocolate Hurts a Dog?

Large dogs can consume more chocolate compared to their smaller counterparts before they fall seriously ill. However, it is still a must to watch out for the symptoms if you know that they have eaten chocolate.

Various kinds of chocolate contain different levels of theobromine. For example, cocoa, cooking chocolate, and dark chocolate have the highest level of the toxin because they are closer to the original form of chocolate, cacao. Baking chocolate contains 130-460 mg of theobromine per ounce, as do most dark chocolates.

The kinds of chocolate that have effectively been diluted contain lower amounts. These include milk chocolate and white chocolate. Dogs can eat more of these without suffering, although they shouldn’t. Milk chocolate only has about 44-58 mg per ounce, while white chocolate has even less, around .25 mg per ounce of chocolate.

It only takes a small amount of dark chocolate to poison a dog. At 44 pounds, a medium-sized dog needs to eat less than 1 ounce of dark chocolate to be poisoned.

It would take around 8 ounces of milk chocolate for the same dog to start showing symptoms of poisoning. White chocolate poses even less of toxic harm but can quickly cause pancreatitis.

Chocolate on plate
Image Credit: moritz320, Pixabay


What Happens to Dogs When They Eat Chocolate?

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning will typically show up within 6 to 12 hours after consumption. Keep an eye on your dog, though, since it can last for up to 72 hours.

The effect of theobromine and caffeine are similar to those when a human has had too much coffee. Your dog might start to shake and tremble, struggling to remain standing or feeling restless.

If it is more serious, you might see signs of increased urination, vomiting, and diarrhea. These are the body’s attempts to purge itself. If these don’t work, they move on to seizures, dramatically increased heart rate, and eventually, cardiac arrest and death.

If a small dog has quickly eaten quite a bit of chocolate, they won’t go through all the stages consecutively. They might go right into cardiac arrest if they aren’t discovered and treated immediately.

Sick Dachshund
Image credit: llaszlo, Shutterstock

What You Should Do If Your Dog Eats Chocolate

The best scenario if your dog eats chocolate is if you catch them in the act. Of course, take the chocolate away from them. Follow this up by immediately calling your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 213-6680. To be prepared for such a case, have the numbers on your phone or in a highly accessible area.

Once they hear details of the situation, including your dog’s size and the quantity of chocolate that they consumed, they will advise further. They might tell you to watch your dog carefully for any of the signs listed above.

In emergency cases, you need to bring your dog in, and the vet will induce vomiting or give them doses of activated charcoal to remove the toxins from the body.

In worse cases or if the dog has had to vomit out almost everything in their system, they may need an IV. In this case, expect your dog to stay overnight and be monitored for further symptoms.Divider 3

In Summary

The best way to help your pup is to prevent them from eating chocolate in the first place. Keep it away and completely inaccessible. If you have a taller dog or one that likes to get into drawers, keep it secure.

Another way to keep it from them is to teach them the command “leave it.” This way, if you are around when they are tempted to dive for the falling chocolate, they can be stopped.

If your dog does end up eating chocolate, especially dark chocolate, immediately phone your vet or the Poison Helpline. They can help determine the risk and next best steps. It is better to be overcautious in the case of chocolate and your fuzzy friend.

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

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