Why Shouldn’t Dogs Eat Chocolate?

Discover the reasons why you should never give chocolate to your dog, and what to do if they were to ingest some.

May 20, 2024By Donna Hobson
why shouldnt dogs eat chocolate

We all love a square of chocolate as we relax in front of Netflix in the evening; still, you've probably heard how dangerous this is for your canine. It turns out that what you've heard is true; chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, which are both hazardous substances for dogs.

Continue reading to discover why these compounds are poisonous to dogs and what to do if your canine steals a piece of chocolate when your back is turned.

Why Shouldn’t Dogs Eat Chocolate?

dog eating food kibble
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We see article after article telling us that chocolate is poisonous for dogs, yet when our canine companions sneak a square, nothing terrible seems to happen. So why shouldn’t we allow our dogs the occasional bite of this delicious treat?

Well, the truth is that, like everything else, the toxicity of chocolate depends on how much your dog consumes; just because they don’t display any signs of poisoning does not mean that you should allow them to eat more.

The two main components that make chocolate toxic to dogs are theobromine and caffeine, which are almost identical to each other structurally and belong to the methylxanthine family of chemicals. The biggest problem with this chemical group is the amount of time it takes your dog to process them.

With caffeine, dogs reach peak serum levels after 30 to 60 minutes and can eliminate half of the total dose after four and a half hours. Meanwhile, theobromine takes ten hours to reach peak serum levels and seventeen and a half hours to eliminate half the total dose.

What Happens If My Dog Eats Chocolate?

dog resting tired
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If you ask a dog owner to name the foods their canine can’t eat, you’ll no doubt find chocolate included in the list, along with grapes and onion. Still, thanks to a dog’s sheer determination, they often end up having a nibble of anything we leave out, which may include the odd bar of chocolate.

A canine who takes a bite of chocolate while your back is turned is unlikely to experience too many health issues in the aftermath. In contrast, a dog who eats an entire bar of chocolate when your back is turned is likely to require medical assistance to avoid long-term repercussions from chocolate poisoning.

Among the most common side effects are nausea and vomiting. These are standard responses and should subside within 24 to 48 hours. However, if your pet shows signs of an increased heart rate or hyperactive behavior, you need to seek medical treatment immediately.

And, if the dose is high enough, your dog might experience tremors, seizures, and in a worst-case scenario, death. Therefore, immediately contacting your vet or the pet poison helpline is vital if you think your dog could have chocolate poisoning.

How Much Chocolate Is Too Much Chocolate?

chocolate bar portions squares
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Researchers conclude that dogs may experience mild cases of theobromine poisoning at a dose of 20mg per kilogram of bodyweight. Severe cases begin around 40 mg per kilogram of body weight and seizures at doses of 60mg or more per kilo of bodyweight.

The median lethal dose refers to that which would kill at least 50% of a population sample and is a common way to measure the toxicity levels of poisonous substances. For dogs, the median lethal dose of theobromine is 100-200mg per kilogram of bodyweight.

The concentration of theobromine depends on the chocolate type. Dark chocolates and baking chocolates contain around 130-450 mg per ounce, while standard milk chocolate has 44-58mg per ounce and white chocolate has 0.25mg per ounce.

Considering that one ounce is equal to around one square of chocolate, we can better determine how much chocolate is too much for your canine. If you have a medium-breed dog weighing 15kg, it will show mild symptoms after ingesting 300 mg of theobromine (equivalent to one to two squares of chocolate).

White chocolate is far more unlikely to cause toxic poisoning in your puppy; still, it doesn’t offer any health benefits and is best left to human consumption.

What Is Chocolate Toxicity?

dark chocolate
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Chocolate toxicity occurs when your canine consumes too much of a product that contains methylxanthines. In severe cases, this can result in life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias. You can work out a rough level of toxicity using a calculator.

Common symptoms of chocolate poisoning include:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Raised temperature
  • Rigid muscles
  • Rapid breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Seizures

If your dog displays any of these, it’s essential to contact a professional immediately. They are the best people to remove this toxic substance from your dog’s body. Importantly, you should never induce vomiting yourself unless a medical professional instructs you to do so.

When you’re stressed and anxious, it’s easy to follow the wrong advice - and the internet contains that in abundance. Attempting a makeshift solution to induce vomiting could exacerbate your dog’s condition, especially if they’re experiencing breathing difficulties.

The easiest way to prevent chocolate toxicity in dogs is to keep this foodstuff out of the reach of your canine; even in small amounts, this is not an appropriate treat. If your dog consumes some, don’t panic but call your vet immediately for the best advice.

Donna Hobson
By Donna Hobson

Donna believes that keeping a pet is the key to a happy life. Over the years, many creatures have passed through her home - Sooty the cat, Millie the rabbit, Stuart (Little) the guinea pig, and Trixie the tortoise, alongside her pet goldfish, Zippy, who lived to the grand old age of 24 years! She currently resides with her black kitten Jinx and an aquarium full of fish and snails to entrance them both. When she is not looking after her pets, Donna enjoys researching and writing the answers to all your pet-related wonders.