Can dogs eat chocolate?

When we enjoy something it’s natural to want to share that with our furry friends. From taking them on our favourite walks, letting them onto our bed and even sneaking them the odd scrap from our dinner plate; they quickly become part of our family that we treat as such. However chocolate is one such thing that brings humans a lot of happiness but can be incredibly dangerous and even fatal if consumed by dogs. Dogs can’t eat white, milk or dark chocolate under any circumstance but due to varying levels of toxin theobromine in each variety of chocolate then can effect your dog’s body differently. We’ll explore what steps to take if your dog does consume chocolate as well as how to prevent your dog from eating chocolate in the first place. 

Can dogs eat chocolate?

Under no circumstances should your dog ever eat chocolate. Chocolate contains theobromine: humans can easily metabolise this toxic substance before the toxic levels build up; however dogs take a much longer time to process theobromine and therefore the levels of this toxic substance build up and can become fatal. No dog should consume any amount of chocolate but bigger dogs can consume more chocolate than a smaller dog before suffering. Depending on your dog’s size, health and breed a small amount of chocolate may cause an upset stomach, vomiting and diarrhoea. Larger amounts of chocolate (and thus high levels of theobromine) can cause muscle tremors, seizures, an irregular heartbeat and even a heart attack. The first signs that your dog had consumed too high a level of theobromine is often severe hyperactivity. If your dog has consumed chocolate you are advised to take your dog to your vet so they can be monitored and cared for properly. 

Can Dogs Eat Chocolate

Different types of chocolate have different levels of theobromine and thus consumption of either white, milk or dark chocolate can have different effects: 

Can dogs eat white chocolate?

Out of all varieties, white chocolate contains the lowest levels of theobromine. Although the toxin is still present and other ingredients that wouldn’t benefit your dog, it is less likely to suffer from the toxic substance of they consume a small amount of white chocolate. 

Can dogs eat milk chocolate?

If your dog consumes milk chocolate, the most common of the three varieties, any more than 0.5 ounces of milk chocolate for every pound of body weight may put your dog at risk of poisoning. 

Can dogs eat dark chocolate?

Out of all varieties, dark chocolate contains the highest levels of theobromine.  As a result, it takes only a very small amount of dark chocolate to poison a dog. Less than an ounce of dark chocolate may be enough to poison a 44-pound dog.

What happens when dogs eat chocolate?

If your dog has consumed chocolate and is suffering from poisoning then the symptoms usually present themselves within 6 to 12 hours and can last up to 72 hours. Signs to look out for include: vomiting; diarrhoea; restlessness; increased urination; tremors; elevated heart rate and seizures. If you believe your dog has eaten chocolate, especially if they are displaying the above signs, then contact your vet immediately for advice. Based on your dog’s breed and size as well as the quantity and type of chocolate consumed, your bet may just advise that you monitor your dog closely. Alternatively, your vet may advise you to take your dog in to be monitored or treated. In some cases, vets may induce vomiting to help rid their body of the toxins. If the poisoning is more severe, your dog may have to have additional medicines and further observations to support their recovery. 

My dog has eaten some chocolate what can I do? 

If you know that your dog has eaten chocolate, you are advised to contact your vet as soon as possible. If your surgery is closed, don’t wait until the morning, contact an out of hours vet to get the best advice and care for your dog. They will likely ask the breed, weight and health of your dog; the amount and type of chocolate consumed; and any visible signs that your dog is suffering as a result of theobromine in their system. Providing this information will allow the medical expert to determine whether your dog has ingested a toxic level of theobromine and thus the best treatment for them. Don’t wait to see if the symptoms worsen and don’t assume that your dog will be able to handle it. Chocolate is poisonous to dogs and any consumption should be taken seriously. If the vet decides that no further medical treatment is needed they will advise you on the next steps to follow at home.

How to prevent dog eating chocolate

Firstly, keep chocolate out of the reach of your dog. Day to day keep chocolate in a higher cupboard, and out of their reach when consuming it. Be careful around the holidays if you are storing Easter eggs, Advent calendars etc as your inquisitive dogs may get through the packaging quicker than you’d imagine. Secondly, make sure everyone in contact with your dog understands that chocolate is harmful for your pet. When we enjoy something so much it can be natural to want to share it with our furry friends but if you and your family are aware of the dangers then they are less likely to feed chocolate to your dog. Finally, effective dog behaviour training can ensure that your dog doesn’t eat food that isn’t given directly to them. If your dog is trained to only eat treats and meals that are given to them then it will minimise the risk of your dog eating chocolate if it is lying around. 

Conclusion

As tasty as it may be to us, chocolate is poisonous to dogs and should not be consumed under any circumstance. Your dog’s weight and health will play their part in how much chocolate your dog can handle before it becomes fatal but even the biggest dogs would likely suffer a side effect if they consumed some chocolate. Contact your vet or an out of hours veterinary surgery if you believe your dog has consumed chocolate and follow their advice. Reduce the chances of your dog consuming chocolate by keeping it out of your dog’s reach, educating those around your dog of the dangers of chocolate consumption and train your dog to only consume food that is theirs.