The answer to this question is a quick and definite no! You might love the delicious taste of melt-in-your-mouth chocolate (I know I do), but this delectable treat can be harmful to your dog. How harmful depends on the size of your dog and how much chocolate your sweet-toothed friend has eaten.
So if you have a big dog that takes a small nibble, you don’t need to panic. But depending on the situation, you may need to seek medical help. Here’s what you should know about chocolate poisoning and what to do if it happens to your dog.
Why is chocolate harmful for dogs?
Chocolate is made from cacao beans, which contain caffeine and theobromine. These substances belong to a group of chemicals called methylxanthines (try saying that word 10 times fast!), and they can both be harmful to dogs. Like caffeine, theobromine is a stimulant, which can cause all sorts of issues for your dog from a rapid heartbeat to tremors.
The darker the chocolate, the more theobromine it will contain making it more dangerous to dogs.”
The darker the chocolate, the more theobromine it will contain making it more dangerous to dogs. While the amount of theobromine varies based on the particular chocolate, this is a general list ranked from least to most harmful:
- White Chocolate – has very little, if any, theobromine
- Milk Chocolate
- Semi-sweet or Sweet Dark Chocolate – getting more hazardous
- Unsweetened or Baking Chocolate
- Dry Cocoa Powder – peak of danger for dogs
Also, keep in mind that it’s not just candy bars, bags of minis, or heart-shaped boxes of chocolate you have to watch out for when it comes to your dog. Chocolate can be baked into goodies, like chocolate chip cookies, M&M candy cookies, cake with fudge filling, brownies, and other desserts.
Check out this infographic for more details on how much milk chocolate is too much for small, medium, and big size breeds:
What does chocolate do to dogs?
The symptoms of chocolate poisoning can take awhile to show up—up to 6 to 12 hours in some cases. That means there might not be any immediate clues that your dog downed something harmful, except maybe for the empty wrapper or ripped up candy bag on the floor.
Common signs of chocolate poisoning in dogs can include:
- Excessive thirst
- Racing heartbeat
- High blood pressure
In rare cases, chocolate poisoning can be fatal. Such fatalities are usually the result of large ingestions where a dog did not receive necessary veterinary treatment. Dogs with health problems, like heart disease, are more likely to develop serious clinical signs. The symptoms of chocolate poisoning can last for two days in most cases with appropriate treatment.
Here’s what to do if your dog eats chocolate:
First off, don’t panic. You should always try to keep your cool when your dog is hurt or sick. By staying calm, you can think more clearly and better focus on helping your dog. Also, if you’re upset, your dog might get more anxious and scared. In any case, be careful handling your dog. Even the friendliest of dogs can act out when they’re feeling sick or stressed.
If you suspect your dog ate chocolate, even if you’re not sure your dog needs medical care, it’s best to call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) immediately. The APCC is available at 1-888-426-4435 around the clock, 365 days a year. A $65 consultation fee may apply, but a portion of that charge may be covered if you have an ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan.
The APCC is staffed with experts who have extensive experience with pet poison emergencies. They also have access to a database that can help them diagnose the problem and recommend treatment quickly. If your dog needs hands-on medical attention, the APCC may be able to continue to help your dog after your call by working with your veterinarian or the doctors at the emergency animal hospital. Learn more about the APCC at the ASPCA’s website.
Aren’t some dog treats made with chocolate?
If they’re safe for dogs, those chocolate looking treats probably don’t have any of the real stuff in them. They’re likely made with carob, which is a common chocolate substitute that comes from carob trees. These trees grow pods containing pulp and seeds that are dried, roasted, and ground down to make carob powder.
Carob powder has a sweet, mild, and chocolate-like taste. Exactly how much it tastes like chocolate can be debated, but it’s free of theobromine and caffeine so it won’t harm your dog. It’s also low in fat and high in fiber making it a healthy alternative to chocolate. (That’s something to keep in mind if you’re trying to eat better but can’t bear the thought of ditching those chocolate desserts!)
Canine Carob Cookies
You can whip up a yummy chocolate-tasting treat for your dog using carob powder. It’s pretty simple to do and your dog will eat them up.
- 1/2 C. Carob Powder
- 1 C. White Rice Flour
- 1 t. Vanilla Extract
- 3/4 C. Water
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and knead them into a smooth dough. You can add a little more water if it seems too dry.
- Sprinkle a clean counter with flour and roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick.
- Use a cookie cutter, maybe a star or heart, to cut out cute shapes. If you don’t have a cookie cutter, you can use a drinking glass and press down gently to make circles.
- Place the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- When the baking sheet is full, pop it in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes.
When they’re done, take them out and cool them off. Then give your dog a tasty “chocolate” treat!
A Nose for Chocolate and Whiskey
While treats made with carob powder are safe for dogs, dark chocolate is most certainly not, as one of our ASPCA Pet Health Insurance customers found out. Pair it with whiskey and the outcome can be even worse.
“I came home from work to find that my dog Stella and another canine friend had gotten into a bottle of bourbon whiskey and several large bars of dark chocolate. We thought we had placed it all high enough for this not to happen, but we were wrong.
We called poison control and induced vomiting, but just foam came up. The next morning, Stella was still vomiting, and we took her to the veterinarian for a thorough check-up. Thankfully, she was all right.
As the lighter of the two dogs, the situation could have become very serious for her if she would have eaten a large amount of the chocolate. Instead, she must have been suffering from a hangover of sorts. Both pets are fine now.” - Marianna G., White Plains, NY
We were happy to hear that Stella and her doggie friend got through their chocolate-eating, whiskey-drinking day! We were also glad we could be there to help Stella’s dog parent manage the costs of care. Interested in learning more about coverage for your dog? Here’s what you should know before you buy.