Can Dogs Eat Chocolate? Definitely Not and Here's Why
Chocolate, the much-desired human treat, fills our homes in abundance, especially around Valentine's Day and Halloween. But can dogs eat chocolate?
The answer is no. A big no. Dogs eating chocolate can be poisoned. Here's what happens if a dog eats chocolate and what you should do if your dog got into that bit of tasty treat you left out.
Why Is Chocolate Bad for Dogs?
Chocolate is bad for dogs because it contains theobromine and caffeine, chemicals called methylxanthines, says Ahna Brutlag, DVM, MS, DABT, DABVT, and director of veterinary services at Pet Poison Helpline.
"These chemicals are stimulants that can lead to cardiovascular and neurological stimulation in dogs," she says. "It's very similar to a person taking too much caffeine."
A small amount of chocolate ingestion might produce only a bit of vomiting or diarrhea, but large amount can cause seizures and even death. Chocolate poisoning in dogs is serious.
Chocolate and Dogs: Which Kinds Are Most Dangerous?
Chocolate comes in many forms, and the degree of dangerous methylxanthines varies. The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more dangerous it is for dogs, Brutlag says. It contains more theobromine and caffeine than lighter, sweeter varieties.
"Baker's chocolate and dark chocolate pose the greatest risk for poisoning, while white chocolate carries the lowest risk," she says.
The degree of ill effects also varies according to how much chocolate a dog consumes and the dog's size. (Bigger dogs can consume chocolate and still be relatively fine while it only takes a smaller amount to endanger littler pups.)
Plus, chocolates often include other ingredients. Brutlag warns that those ingredients, such as macadamia nuts, raisins, coffee or espresso beans, and xylitol, might also be toxic to dogs.
According to Banfield Pet Hospital, the most dangerous types of chocolate for dogs in order from most harmful to least harmful include:
- Cocoa powder
- Baker's chocolate
- Semisweet chocolate
- Dark chocolate
- Instant cocoa powder mix
- Milk chocolate
- White chocolate
What Happens If a Dog Eats Chocolate?
If your dog eats chocolate, he'll likely show clear clinical signs. If you're you're unsure if your dog has gotten into chocolate, look for obvious signs. "Spontaneously vomiting up chocolate is a pretty tell-tale sign," Brutlag says. Other common signs of chocolate poisoning in dogs include:
- Increased thirst
- Elevated heart rate
- Elevated blood pressure (hypertension)
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Elevated body temperature (hyperthermia)
In large, especially toxic amounts, too much chocolate can be fatal.
What To Do If Your Dog Eats Chocolate
"I strongly recommend contacting Pet Poison Helpline or your veterinarian immediately," Brutlag says. "Doing so will allow these veterinary professionals to determine if the dog ingested a toxic dose of chocolate and, depending on how long it's been since ingestion and the dose ingested, may be able to offer suggestions for at-home care."
You can also use this dog chocolate toxicity calculator to get an idea of how your dog is doing.
An at-home care option might be to induce vomiting. "A note of caution—if you induce vomiting at home, make sure to remove the dog from the vomit or immediately pick it up. I've had many dogs ingest their own vomit and be back at the same point in which they started!" Brutlag says.
No matter what, contact your vet as quickly as possible after your dog eats chocolate. The length of time since the incident and other factors could make inducing vomiting dangerous. You may need to visit the vet immediately.
Of course, the best plan is to avoid chocolate poisoning in your dog. Keep all forms of chocolate away from your furry best friend's curious nose and mouth. But accidents happen. If your dog eats chocolate, call your vet.