Can Dogs Eat Chocolate?

Chocolate Labrador Retriever puppies near plate with cookies indoors

Chocolate is an extremely popular dessert, but if you're thinking about sharing your treats with your pet, this one may be better left to humans only. Whether you already knew that chocolate was bad for dogs or had heard the news but didn't understand why — and maybe thought just a little bit was OK — this guide answers the question "Can dogs eat chocolate?" It also explains the science behind the answer and provides alternative options when you want to let your dog indulge.

Can Dogs Eat Chocolate?

While this is a very common question, the definitive answer is no. Dogs cannot eat chocolate of any kind in any amount safely. However, it's true that some types of chocolate are worse for dogs than others. Chocolate types with higher levels of theobromine are the most dangerous. This includes baking chocolate, dark chocolate and cocoa powder, but even milk chocolate and white chocolate still have enough theobromine to pose a serious health risk.

For reference, it takes less than one ounce of dark chocolate to poison a dog weighing just 19kg. However, this doesn't mean if your dog weighs more or ate less that he's safe. Every dog's metabolism is different, which means there's no way to tell for sure how much chocolate it will take to make your dog sick. Anytime you suspect your dog has eaten any amount of any type of chocolate, it warrants an immediate call and trip to the vet.

Why Is Chocolate Bad for Dogs?

In humans, lots of chocolate is bad because of the sugar and fat content, but in dogs, it's actually the theobromine compound that is the issue. People can metabolize theobromine without issue, but dogs aren't able to metabolize it properly. This means that when they eat chocolate, it builds up in their bodies to toxic levels

What Are the Symptoms of Chocolate Poisoning?

If you've caught your dog in the act or you see empty wrappers or chocolate on their face, you should go ahead and assume that they've eaten enough to be poisoned and immediately call the vet. But sometimes, you can't be sure if your dog actually consumed the chocolate. In these cases, it's still best to call the vet and let them know what is going on so they can advise whether to bring your dog in or do observation at home. In the latter case, you'll be looking for any of the following symptoms to appear within 24 hours of eating the chocolate:

  • Increased breath rate
  • Restlessness
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased heart rate
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures

In addition to these signs, any significant change in behaviour after a likely chocolate poisoning should be considered a possible symptom. In some cases, dogs will vomit the chocolate back up fairly quickly, which can reduce the chances of further symptoms. But this isn't always the case, and even if your dog does vomit, there may be enough chocolate still in his system to cause poisoning.

What Should You Do If Your Dog Eats Chocolate?

Knowing what to do if your dog eats chocolate can ensure you're able to react quickly, which could possibly save your dog's life. Here are the steps to take if your dog eats chocolate.

1. Gather as Much Information as Possible

If you know that your dog ate chocolate, try to find out anything you can about the type of chocolate and quantity of chocolate that your dog ate. If he left wrappers behind or didn't eat the entire stash, check there. You may be able to find vital information like the percentage of cacao and the size of a normal portion, which can help you estimate how much your dog may have eaten.

2. Contact Your Veterinarian

Once you have the information from step one, or even if you can't find that information, it's time to call the vet. Relay as much as you can, including how long ago your dog ate the chocolate and whether he is showing any symptoms. It's also a good idea to ensure that your vet has the most up-to-date weight estimation for your dog, as this will help determine how significant the poisoning is.

3. Take Your Dog to the Vet

When you call them, your vet will likely tell you to bring your dog into the office or take it to an emergency vet if they don't have any appointment slots or it's after hours. If it's been less than two hours since the suspected poisoning, the vet may try to induce vomiting to try to get most of the chocolate out of your dog's system. If your dog is already showing signs of poisoning, your vet may begin treatment measures such as IV fluids and antiarrhythmic drugs.

4. Ensure All Chocolate Is Out of Your Dog's Reach

Once your dog is receiving treatment or has recovered, remember to do a sweep through the house to make sure all chocolate products are out of your dog's reach. Your dog's train of thought often doesn't extend past "that tasted good," and even dealing with the bad side effects of eating it may not deter your dog from trying to help himself again.

Chocolate Alternatives for Dogs

While your dog should definitely steer clear of chocolate, there are many treats that are dog-friendly. Treats like Beggin' Dog Treats are designed specifically with dogs in mind and let you make your dog's day extra special without putting them at risk. There are also some people foods like carrots and strawberries that are fine for your dog in moderation.

If you're looking for more information on which foods are OK for dogs and which are bad news, our pet care and behaviour hub can provide more answers and tips.

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