The Hidden Dangers of Chocolate

While most people have heard that chocolate is in fact a danger to dogs (and it is), the questions remain: WHY!? Exactly how dangerous is it? What do I do if my dog eats chocolate?

We recently received a user comment from a user named “Willy Wonka,” who while impersonating the great candy maker – asked us “why dogs can’t eat chocolate?” He might not be the real Willy Wonka, but this is a great question!

Let’s take a look:

Chocolate (cocoa) is dangerous for dogs because it contains high amounts of methylxanthines, specifically one called theobromine which is toxic to dogs. As a general rule the darker the chocolate (higher percentage of cocoa), the more theobromine it will contain.

Why is it toxic?

Theobromine is found in products of the cocoa tree. It affects humans similarly to a light dose of caffeine and is metabolized by the body to half levels within 6-10 hours.

Dogs and other domestic animals are not able to metabolize theobromine as quickly as humans meaning it can put greater strain on the animal’s nervous system and kidneys.

How dangerous is chocolate for my dog?

Chocolate in any form is extremely dangerous for dogs and the results of eating it can be life threatening.  

The size of your dog in combination with the type of chocolate (dark, milk, white) as well as the quality (amount/strength of cocoa) of chocolate consumed, can greatly affect how much your dog can eat without side effects. If you believe chocolate has been consumed in any amount, it is best to take action and get your dog medical attention.

How can I tell if my dog has been poisoned by chocolate?

Signs of theobromine poisoning in dogs can start with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle tremors, and possibly incontinence and can become as serious as cardiac arrhythmias and seizures.

What can I do if my dog eats chocolate?

If chocolate has been consumed, call your veterinarian immediately. It will be important to make your dog throw up to remove the toxins from the body as quickly as possible.  

You can make your dog throw up by giving him teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide.  Your veterinarian can provide further instructions regarding the correct amount for your dog and can assist with additional methods such decontamination with charcoal or stomach flushing.

Is white chocolate dangerous for my dog?

White chocolate is technically not “chocolate,” but can still be dangerous to your dog if consumed in large quantities. Made with cocoa butter rather than cocoa solids (like dark or milk chocolate) it does not contain the same dangerous levels of theobromin. It does contain a higher amount of sugar and fat than other types of chocolate however, making it detrimental to a dog’s pancreas.

I really want to share my love of chocolate with my dog- is there anything that is safe?

Carob is a safe alternative as it looks like chocolate, but does not contain any theobromine and is low in sugar and fat. Bakeries that specialize in dog goodies will often use this as an alternative.

There are also many “white chocolate” look-a-likes that do not contain any chocolate at all. Often known as “coatings,” these can be safe for dogs in small quantities.

If you are unsure about the ingredients or what will be safe to feed your dogs- it is always best to check with your veterinarian.

In conclusion

People love chocolate and well, if dogs ate chocolate – they would probably like it too. But until the Umpa Lumpas can create chocolate that is safe for dogs – PAWS OFF!

For more information on chocolate and other dog toxins check out these great articles:

Quick Tips: Dogs and Chocolate

Forbidden Chocolate Video

Responding to a Dog’s Medical Emergency Quiz

5 Dog Toxins You May Not Know About



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