By Aurus Sy
Published: 03/14/2023, edited: 03/15/2023
Reviewed by a licensed veterinary professional: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS
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Mmm, chocolate! Enjoyed around the world, chocolate is great both on its own and as an ingredient in other desserts such as ice cream, cookies, and cake. Everyone loves this ubiquitous sweet, and that includes our canine companions. But is chocolate safe for dogs to eat?
No, chocolate is not safe for our canine pals. Chocolate is toxic to dogs because it contains theobromine and caffeine, two chemicals which have very similar structures that are used medicinally in humans as heart stimulants, diuretics, blood vessel dilators, and smooth muscle relaxants. Dogs cannot metabolize theobromine and caffeine as well as people can, however, and are thus more sensitive to their effects.
Depending on the type and amount of chocolate consumed, a dog may experience symptoms ranging from mild to life-threatening. Keep reading to learn how much chocolate is poisonous to dogs and what to do if your dog eats chocolate.
How much chocolate is toxic to a dog?
You’re making chocolate chip cookies and accidentally spill a couple of chips on the floor. Before you can clean them up, your pooch swoops in and inhales them. Oh no! Is your pup in danger?
You may have heard the phrase, “the dose makes the poison.” When it comes to chocolate toxicity in dogs, the type of chocolate and your pup’s size matter. Theobromine content varies with the type of chocolate; generally, the darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more theobromine it has. Cocoa powder, for instance, is more toxic than milk chocolate.
According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC), mild signs of theobromine poisoning can be seen at 20 mg/kg, severe signs begin at 40 mg/kg, and seizures can occur at 60 mg/kg. Note that these doses refer to per kilogram of body weight, so an amount that wouldn’t hurt a Labrador Retriever could potentially land a Chihuahua in the emergency clinic.
Regardless of their size, dogs should never be fed chocolate, and all chocolate products should be kept out of their reach.
What should I do if my dog eats chocolate?
Signs of chocolate poisoning usually appear within 6 to 12 hours of ingestion. If your dog consumed a large amount, their symptoms may last for days due to the long half-life of theobromine, meaning it stays in the bloodstream for a longer period. Theobromine may be reabsorbed from the bladder as well.
Common signs of chocolate poisoning in dogs include:
- Panting and restlessness
- Increased thirst and urination
- Elevated or abnormal heart rate
- Heart failure
Dogs may also develop aspiration pneumonia from vomiting or pancreatitis due to the high fat content of many chocolate products. Additionally, dogs with heart conditions and senior dogs are more at risk of sudden death from chocolate poisoning.
Here’s what you should do if you believe your pup has eaten chocolate:
Call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline for advice. Getting your pet help immediately increases their chance of surviving a chocolate poisoning.
Collect any remaining packaging to help your vet or helpline staff determine how much and what type of chocolate was ingested. Note if the product has other ingredients that are also toxic to dogs such as raisins, macadamia nuts, or xylitol.
Based on the information you provide and if your dog is not showing any symptoms, you may be advised to monitor your dog and call back if their condition worsens.
If your dog is exhibiting symptoms, ate an unknown or toxic amount, is pregnant, or has other health conditions, bring them to the vet right away. While symptoms may not develop until hours after ingestion, the sooner treatment begins, the better the outcome will be.
5. Treatment of chocolate toxicity tends to include vomit induction, provision of activated charcoal and starting the patient on an IV fluid drip. When treated promptly, the prognosis is very good.
Always follow the advice of a professional and do not try to induce vomiting on your own.
Do dogs like chocolate?
Dogs like chocolate, as evidenced by the fact that numerous canines are treated for ingesting the sweet treat every year. In fact, chocolate is consistently on the APCC’s list of top pet toxins each year.
Our canine pals have 1,700 taste buds and have the ability to detect sweet, sour, salty, and bitter tastes. So yes, dogs can have a sweet tooth too, which is why it’s especially important to store any chocolate products out of their reach.
Can dogs eat chocolate cake?
No. Chocolate cake contains ingredients that are bad for dogs, including cocoa powder and sugar. Cocoa powder has high levels of theobromine and is very toxic to dogs.
Can dogs eat chocolate ice cream?
No. Ice cream that contains chocolate in any form, be it flavoring, chunks, chips, or swirl, is a no-no for dogs. Ice cream is also full of sugar and fat which are bad for dogs. Moreover, most dogs are lactose intolerant and could get an upset stomach from eating ice cream.
Can dogs drink chocolate milk?
No, dogs should not consume chocolate milk to prevent the poisoning effects of chocolate, as well as dietary issues from the milk itself.
Is white chocolate safe for dogs?
Although white chocolate contains almost no theobromine, dogs can still get sick from its high fat and sugar content. Sugar and fat can lead to stomach upset or even pancreatitis in severe cases. So, while there may not be any cocoa in a piece of white chocolate, you should still keep it out of reach of your dog.
Dogs have a sweet tooth and a penchant for getting into things they shouldn’t. Storing chocolate products out of their reach is the best way to keep them safe and healthy. While chocolate poisoning is not always fatal, it’s definitely not worth the risk.
The symptoms of chocolate poisoning can be expensive to treat. To avoid high vet care expenses, secure pet health insurance today.