So many questions have complicated answers that it’s a relief once in a while to encounter a simple yes/no answer …and that’s certainly the case with the question of “Can dogs eat chocolate?”
So here it is. No, dogs cannot eat chocolate. Chocolate is toxic to dogs.
What To Do If My Dog Ate Chocolate
If your dog has already eaten some chocolate, this toxicity calculator can help you work out how serious the situation might be.
The calculator is not intended as a substitute for medical advice but will tell you approximately how much of the toxic compounds known as methylxanthines (theobromine and caffeine) your pet has ingested, what symptoms to expect and whether an emergency vet visit is necessary.
This post is for general informational and educational purposes only. I encourage readers to see my full disclaimer here.
Why Can’t Dogs Eat Chocolate?
Chocolate contains two components that are toxic to dogs. The first and most toxic is the compound theobromine.
It’s in the beans (fruit) of the cacao tree, which are used to make chocolate and cocoa.
Theobromine is metabolised much more slowly by dogs than humans. In dogs it has a half-life of 17.5 hours compared to 6 to 10 hours for humans. That’s how long it takes for the substance to reduce to half its original level.
Chocolate also contains caffeine.
Both caffeine and theobromine belong to the class of drugs called methylxanthines.
How Much Chocolate Can A Dog Eat Without Serious Problems?
Determining toxicity is less about how much chocolate and more about which type of chocolate your dog has consumed.
According to the calculator, my 31kg boxer would likely have minimal to no reaction if he accidentally consumed less than 690g of milk chocolate.
However as little as 60g of cocoa powder would cause a moderate to severe reaction involving tremors, seizures, rapid or irregular heartbeat and the potential for collapse.
Which Type Of Chocolate Is Most Poisonous To Dogs?
Different types of chocolate contain wildly different concentrations of the toxic methylxanthines.
According to Mosman Vet in Sydney, Australia, who made the calculator above, white chocolate and then milk chocolate are the least toxic to dogs. Dark chocolate is the worst. Dry cocoa powder and cooking chocolate are more toxic again than even dark chocolate.
Your dog has to ingest large amounts of white or milk chocolate to be in serious danger. However, just a little bit of cocoa powder or unsweetened baker’s chocolate can be disastrous.
Keep in mind an individual dog’s reaction to chocolate will vary according to their size (small dogs are more likely to experience toxicity), how much food was in their stomach at the time and their particular sensitivity to the toxins.
What Are The Symptoms Of Chocolate Poisoning In A Dog?
Typically the symptoms of chocolate poisoning for dogs come on fast.
The first thing you might notice if your dog is having a minimal reaction is:
- abnormal behavior including hyperactivity
- possible diarrhea
On the mild end of the spectrum reactions include:
- upset stomach
Moderate to severe reactions involve:
- elevated heart rate
- increased urination
If your dog is having a potentially fatal reaction you might see:
- skin hot to the touch
- irregular heart beat or a racing heart
- breathing problems
- chance of sudden death
Treatment Of Chocolate Poisoning In Dogs
The first treatment for dogs with chocolate poisoning is to induce vomiting. This usually needs to happen within 4 hours to work.
Washing out the stomach with a warm water lavage is the next option.
Frequent urination helps the dog excrete the toxins. Sometimes a urinary catheter is used.
Supportive care invcludes IV fluids, muscle relaxants or anesthetics to control seizures and treatment of irregular heartbeat.
In this 2013 case study of chocolate poisoning in a 3-year-old pug in India, oral activated charcoal was also used for about three days.
Take special care if your dog is already on steroids like prednisone because corticosteroids and the antibiotic erythromycin are contraindicated in the treatment of chocolate poisoning.
Beware also the wrappers if your dog has stolen chocolates. Like any ingested foreign body, these can cause intestinal blockage which then requires surgery to remove.
In Conclusion: Dogs And Chocolate Don’t Mix
Chocolate and dogs are two things you need to keep apart. If you have a sweet tooth, make sure you don’t leave leftover chocolate blocks stuffed down the side of the couch or even on counters where dogs can reach them if they jump up.
All forms of chocolate are toxic to dogs but dogs and dark chocolate are the worst combination of all. Dark chocolate is far more poisonous than white and milk chocolate due to a higher concentration of the toxic compound theobromine and also caffeine.
What to do if you think your dog ate chocolate?
When deciding whether an emergency trip to the vet is warranted, consider how much and what kind of chocolate your dog consumed. If it’s safe to monitor your pup at home, watch for symptoms and encourage urination to expel the toxins.
As for the question “Can dogs eat candy?” Assume the answer is no. Confectionery has no place in a dog’s body.
With so many safe treat alternatives available, there is zero reason to offer dogs biologically inappropriate foods.
Want to give your dog a treat he will love and that won’t cause him problems? Give him a raw meaty bone. Lamb necks are perfect.