Fact or falsehood: Chocolate can seriously hurt or even be fatal to dogs. Truth be told, as yummy as chocolate is for us humans, chocolate is poisonous and even deadly to our furry friends. Because cocoa has such a sweet smell, dogs are inevitably attracted to it. Dogs can find the flavor of theobromine, the main ingredient in chocolate, very addictive.
Even if your dog can eat small amounts of chocolate without any side effects, don’t encourage a taste for chocolate because your pup will try to sniff out chocolate at every chance. The bottom line is, dogs cannot eat chocolate! Read on to find out why.
Signs Your Dog Has Eaten Chocolate
If you're not sure whether your furry friend got into your secret chocolate stash, be on the lookout for signs of poisoning. You can identify food or chocolate poisoning by observing body language and behavior that signifies something ain't right.
For starters, keep your eyes open for crumbs and wrappers. The symptoms of poisoning usually begin to show within 24 hours, so be on the lookout for vomiting, diarrhea, and loose stool. Some dogs might exhibit signs of being excessively thirsty while others may experience other symptoms like muscle rigidity, agitation, hyperactive behavior, excessive panting, pacing, seizures, and other odd behaviors.
Even if your pup only gets to a small amount, there may be signs of poisoning due to the high fat and sugar content of the chocolate.
Earlier symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive thirst. As time goes on, and your dog absorbs more of the active ingredients into it's digestive system, symptoms will become more severe, such as lack of coordination, muscle twitching, of hyperactivity. Make sure you immediately bring your dog to the veterinarian, as going untreated can can lead on to seizures, comas, and even death .
The Science Behind Dogs Not Being Able to Eat Chocolate
It's wild that something so yummy and soothing for humans can be so harmful and deadly to man's best friend. So why is it that chocolate is toxic to our furry friends?
The cocoa tree consists of both theobromine and caffeine – both of which can be deadly to dogs. Cocoa beans tend to contain theobromine at a very high concentration. Even further, dogs metabolize theobromine very slowly. Because of this, theobromine can tend to stay in your dog’s body for up to 20 hours. This long period of time enables theobromine to affect your pup's body functioning by interfering with the central nervous system, ultimately affecting the heart and kidneys.
Researchers believe that the lethal dose for theobromine is between 100mg to 200mg per kg of body weight. However, it is important to understand that doses of theobromine that are much lower can still pose serious health risks. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Animal Poison Control Center states that mild signs of poisoning can occur with only 20 mg of theobromine per kg of body weight.
The level of theobromine and caffeine in chocolate varies between the type of chocolate, the brand, and the fact that the natural occurrence of these substances in cocoa beans is variable.
- White chocolate contains around 1.1 mg of theobromine and caffeine per ounce
- Milk chocolate contains around 64 mg of theobromine and caffeine per ounce
- Dark, sweet chocolate contains about 150 mg of theobromine and caffeine per ounce
- Instant cocoa powder contains about 151 mg of theobromine and caffeine per ounce
- Unsweetened baking chocolate contains around 440 mg of theobromine and caffeine per ounce
- Dry cocoa powder contains around 808 mg of theobromine and caffeine per ounce
Ultimately, how your dog reacts to chocolate digestion depends on your pup's size, health, and the quality of chocolate digested.
Treatment for Dogs Eating Chocolate
The usual treatment for chocolate poisoning is to induce vomiting within at least two hours of ingestion. However, it is best if you call your veterinarian immediately. If you have a smaller dog that has gotten into a box of chocolates, you need to call and go to your veterinarian right away. You can also call the Pet Poison Helpline (855-213-6680) for advice.
Based on your dog’s size and the amount and type of chocolate ingested, it may be recommended that you monitor your pup for the signs of poisoning. But when in doubt, just take your dog to the vet. It is not worth the risk.
In some cases, your veterinarian may ask you to bring your dog into the clinic. Your veterinarian may induce vomiting and give your pup activated charcoal. Activated charcoal helps purify the system and move toxins out of the body without being absorbed into the bloodstream. If your pup's case is more severe, treatment such as medications, IV fluids, and overnight monitoring may be necessary.
These extra steps can be used to monitor heart rate, blood pressure, and seizure activity. With active and efficient intervention, the likelihood of survival is usually high — even for those pup's who have eaten large amounts.
For preventative measures, training is always beneficial. The command “leave it” has been shown to be extremely effective in preventing dogs from eating everything within reach. It may also be helpful to crate train your pooch. Finding a crate that is large and comfortable enough for your dog is a great safe place for your pup to retreat to when you can't be around.
By Olivia Gerth
Published: 04/11/2018, edited: 04/06/2020