Dogs and chocolate: two of our favorite things. Unfortunately, they don’t make a good duo, and should be kept separate whenever possible.
It can be tempting to share your treats with your dog—who wouldn’t want their furry best friend to share in their enjoyment? Whether you’re enjoying a multi-tier chocolate cake or a few chocolate chips, though, it’s best to keep them away from your canine no matter what.
Why Can’t Dogs Eat Chocolate?
Chocolate contains theobromine, which is very toxic for dogs. It speeds up the heart rate and stimulates the nervous system, and can also affect the kidneys and act as a diuretic. Unlike humans, dogs are unable to break down theobromine, and consumption can lead to serious health concerns.
The amount of toxic theobromine varies depending on the type of chocolate. Cocoa powder has the highest toxicity, followed by unsweetened baker’s chocolate, semisweet and dark chocolate, and finally, milk chocolate. Basically, the darker and more bitter the chocolate, the greater the risk.
This isn’t to say that milk chocolate, the least toxic out of the bunch, isn’t toxic at all. Approximately one ounce of milk chocolate per pound of body weight is still a concerning dose. A 50-pound dog could be poisoned by as little as 1 oz of baker’s chocolate, and 8 oz of milk chocolate.
It should be noted that while most white chocolate does not contain theobromine, it is still high in fat and sugar content and could result in an upset stomach. Basically, it’s best to keep your canine away from chocolate no matter what.
Help! My Dog Ate Chocolate!
Ideally, you would be able to keep your dog away from chocolate at all costs, but let’s face it: advice isn’t often appreciated when it’s already too late. Accidents happen, even to the most diligent dog owners.
Knowing when, how much, and what kind of chocolate your dog ate is crucial to understanding whether you have an emergency on your hands. PetMD’s Dog Chocolate Toxicity Meter can help to determine how serious the issue may be (although, of course, it does not replace the insight of an actual vet).
If you catch your canine in the act, remove all accessible chocolate from the area and try to retrieve it from his mouth to avoid further consumption. If all that’s left of your chocolate bar is the wrapper by the time you realize what’s happened, your best bet is to call your vet or the Pet Poison Helpline immediately.
Signs of Chocolate Poisoning
Signs of chocolate poisoning can appear within anywhere from 4-24 hours. Depending on the size of your canine and the amount of chocolate he consumed, some professionals may advise you to closely monitor your pup for several hours rather than bring him in immediately.
Signs of toxicity include:
- Restlessness/increased energy levels
- Frequent urination
- Increased body temperature
- Rapid heart rate
- Weakness, possibly collapse
In extreme cases, chocolate poisoning can also be fatal, especially to senior dogs and dogs with heart conditions.
Your vet or the Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661) will help you determine whether to bring your pup in immediately, or monitor him closely and call back later.
In some cases (often when the chocolate consumption happened within a few hours), the vet may induce vomiting to remove the toxic ingredients from your dog’s stomach. They may also treat him with activated charcoal, which absorbs and moves toxins out of the body.
In more extreme cases, treatment may require medication and IV fluids to help flush the stomach, and possibly an overnight vet stay with close monitoring.
Some professionals may recommend at-home remedies, such as inducing vomiting by putting hydrogen peroxide into a dropper or food bowl. Unless you have received clear instructions from a professional, do not resort to home remedies on your own.
Some prevention methods include:
Storing candy and chocolate baking ingredients out of reach, such as in a high cupboard or closed away in a pantry.
Reminding children and guests to keep chocolate away from the dog. This means cleaning up plates and candy that may otherwise be left sitting out on tables and counters.
Training your dog. The “leave it” command is a great option for teaching your dog to let something be and walk away.
- Crate training, which is a safe way to make sure your dog stays out of anything dangerous when you’re not around to supervise him. This can also provide a sense of security and even calm anxiety… for both you and your pooch!
You probably don’t need to panic over some crumbs of cake from the floor, but whenever possible, do your best to keep chocolate away from your pet. Even if a small amount could be okay, it’s really not worth the risk.
Dogs have sensitive stomachs, so it’s important to keep them healthy. Pet Honesty’s Digestive Support Chews, while not an emergency medical aid, are helpful when it comes to promoting healthy, regular digestion and intestinal health.