Can Dogs Eat Chocolate?

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Introduction

You probably found this article after searching, 'Help! My dog ate chocolate ice cream!' or, 'What should I do if my dog ate chocolate brownies?' You may suspect that your furry bestie has gobbled up some sweet goodness, and are worried about the myth that chocolate is unsafe for dogs. While a lot of our articles are pretty tail-waggin' and jolly, this is an important topic we want to be very clear on - it's a fact that chocolate is poisonous to dogs! 

In certain amounts, chocolate and cocoa products can harm and potentially kill your dog due to their toxic chemicals which pups simply can't process. There are a lot of factors that go into how your dog will be affected by chocolate, like their size, the amount of chocolate eaten, and the type of chocolate. If you suspect that your dog has ingested chocolate, take him to the dogtor immediately! For more info about how and why chocolate affects dogs, read on!

Introduction of Can Dogs Eat Chocolate?

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Signs That Your Pooch May Have Eaten Chocolate

If you're suspicious that your pup has gotten into chocolate, but you're not quite positive, make sure you're looking out for the tell-tale signs of poisoning. While dogs can't tell you whether or not they're suffering from chocolate ingestion, they will be able to give you a few signs with their body language and behavior to let you know that something is wrong.

For starters, keep an eye out for crumbs all over the floor, empty wrappers, and missing chocolate - that's your first hint. 

Sometimes pups will show direct symptoms of chocolate poisoning, so keep an eye out for digestive irregularities like vomiting, diarrhea, and loose stool. Other dogs might be excessively thirsty and unable to stop drinking water. Unusual behaviors that aren't normal for your dog can be clear signs that something is wrong. If your dog is very hyperactive or agitated, is excessively panting or has very rigid muscles, keep a close eye on them. Pacing and other odd behaviors can also occur. In worst cases, dogs can experience seizures after chocolate ingestion, so be sure to take these tell-tale signs of a problem seriously.

Body Language

If you think your dog's eaten chocolate, make sure you're watching out for some of these body language cues from your pup:
  • Whining
  • Shaking
  • Panting
  • Weakness

Other Signs

Those aren't all the signs you should be on the look out for. There are other body language cues, as well, including:
  • Severe hyperactivity
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Vomiting
  • Nauseau
  • Diarrhea
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Heart attack
  • Seizures

The History of Chocolate and Dogs

History of Can Dogs Eat Chocolate?
In ages past, dogs didn't have easy access to chocolate. Native to Mesoamerica, cacao seeds were made into a fermented chocolate beverage by the Aztecs as early as 450 A.D., but both the seeds and the beverage were bitter and not tasty to most animals. Chocolate wasn't available worldwide until the Middle Ages when the Spanish explorers brought it back with them to Europe. Sweetener was added to the beverage, but it was a rare treat enjoyed only by royalty or the wealthy for a long time. While some dogs may have stolen a taste back then, we have little information about any problems that may have occurred. 

Today, we know from various case studies conducted during the past few decades that cacao seeds are toxic for canines. Researchers have found that chocolate is a poison for dogs which can cause severe pain and complications, and even death. Many of those studies found that dogs were unable to digest an alkaloid found in chocolate called theobromine. According to vets, the stimulant caffeine in chocolate is also harmful to pups. 

One study examined a 4-year-old Labrador who had eaten Easter chocolates. The dog vomited a small amount of brown liquid, was visibly shaking, and was restless with rigid muscles. Vets discovered that these were all symptoms of chocolate toxicity and were able to diagnose and remedy the problem, all while proving that chocolate is a toxic substance for pups.

Why is Chocolate Bad For Dogs?

Science of Can Dogs Eat Chocolate?
There are a lot of things you can share with your dog off your plate. You may wonder if dogs can even eat chocolate cake with you for dessert too. But while humans are able to digest the complex chemicals found in chocolate, dogs' systems simply aren't set up to handle those chemicals. 

So why is chocolate bad for dogs? The answer lies in two specific chemicals, the alkaloid theobromine and the stimulant caffeine. Theobromine is too hard for dogs to metabolize, making digestion a slow process that allows time for toxic levels of the chemical to build up in their system. This overwhelms a dog's body and causes the symptoms we see. Additionally, caffeine could make your dog's heart race and cause seizures.

The situation can be further confusing for those owners who have seen their dogs eat a small amount of chocolate and have no problems, while other pups have life-threatening symptoms. Are some dogs allergic to chocolate? The truth is that all dogs can be poisoned by eating chocolate, regardless of individual immune systems. 

How much chocolate is toxic for dogs is all dependent on the size of the dog, and the type and amount of chocolate they consume. Different kinds of chocolate contain varying amounts of theobromine, with dark chocolate being the highest. A giant dog can generally handle a touch of milk chocolate, but tiny dogs can be poisoned from small amounts of any kind of chocolate. If this info has led you to think that dogs can eat chocolate sometimes, know that any chocolate consumption can pose a serious threat to your pupper's well-being. All in all, make sure you take your pup to the vet, or give them a call if you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate, no matter the kind of chocolate or dog.

How to Train Yourself to Keep Chocolate From Your Dog

Training of Can Dogs Eat Chocolate?
It's hard to train dogs to stay away from food Eating is pretty natural for them, and with their constant hunger, it's hard to keep them away. And chocolate today tastes fabulous! But there are things you can do to make sure your dog avoids chocolate, and ways you can train yourself to help keep it out of their mouth! 

First and foremost, make sure you're always keeping chocolate away from your dog's reach. Any place your dog can get to is a place that chocolate shouldn't be, so keep it up high, and off of any surfaces or floors. Seal it up in containers, or keep it out of sight in cabinets and refrigerators. Keep these tips especially in mind around the holidays when the treats are aplenty. 

You can also teach your dog the commands, "Leave It" or "Drop It." If your pup accidentally does get some chocolate in their mouth, you can tell them to drop it and leave it alone, something that's been proven to save dogs' lives.

Another helpful training tip is to crate train your dog to ensure that they can calmly wait in their crate and doesn't get into anything harmful while you're away. This is pawfect for those mischievous pups!

How to React if Your Dog Has Eaten Chocolate

  • Call your vet immediately to see what you can do
  • Consult with vet about peroxide and charcoal methods
  • Keep an eye on your dog
  • If advised by your vet, induce vomiting
  • Rush your dog to the vet