Is Chocolate Harmful to Dogs?

Many of us humans love chocolate, it’s most people’s favorite treat! However, chocolate can be very dangerous for our furry friends, especially dogs. Chocolate contains high levels of theobromine, which is easy for us humans to digest but very difficult for dogs to process. This difficulty for dogs to process theobromine allows it to build up to toxic levels quickly. The amount of chocolate your dog can have before it harms them depends on their size and individual metabolism. In addition, dark chocolate contains higher levels of theobromine than milk chocolate and therefore would harm a dog quicker. If you are worried because your dog has gotten ahold of chocolate, contact your vet immediately!

Why Is Chocolate So Dangerous?

As mentioned above, chocolate contains theobromine, which is difficult for dogs to metabolize. In addition, chocolate contains caffeine. Both of these chemicals stimulate the nervous system and can speed the heart rate much too high. Caffeine itself can lead to health problems for dogs, add in theobromine and the dangers increase. In addition to theobromine stimulating the nervous system, it also acts as a diuretic. This can quickly lead to dehydration and more problems.

How Much Is Too Much Chocolate?

If your dog has gotten ahold of chocolate, you are probably wondering how much chocolate is too much chocolate for your pup? This is determined by the type of chocolate and the size of your pup. Chocolates containing high amounts of theobromine include cocoa, cooking chocolate, and dark chocolate. White chocolate and milk chocolate contain lower amounts of theobromine. 

For milk chocolate, ingesting more than 0.5 ounces per pound of body weight or 14g per kilogram of body weight is enough to require treatment. With dark chocolate, only 0.13 ounces per pound of body weight or 3.5kg per kilogram of bodyweight can even cause poisoning! The best bet when your dog ingests any dark chocolate or other chocolate with higher amounts of theobromine (mentioned above) is to contact your vet immediately to err on the side of caution! A smaller amount may still cause your dog an upset stomach, including vomiting or diarrhea, but this can still put your pup at risk of dehydration.

Is Cocoa Butter Dangerous?

Knowing how dangerous chocolate of all varieties can be for dogs often leads people to wonder if cocoa butter is a threat as well. Cocoa butter is naturally extracted from chocolate liquor at the nib of a plant. It contains very little theobromine, so cocoa butter itself is much less of a threat to your dog than chocolate. However, owners should still be cautious with using lotions and body balms, as many have other dangerous ingredients that can give pups problems. When using cocoa butter lotion or balm, you should wash your hands before petting your dog and try to avoid them licking where you applied the lotion.

Signs of Chocolate Toxicity

One of the first signs you will notice of chocolate toxicity is vomiting and diarrhea. Sometimes, this may be the only sign as your dog’s body will realize the bad substance and rid itself of it. Some dogs may also have increased thirst and urination while trying to work the diuretic through their kidneys.

Other signs you may notice that are more severe and should lead you to contact the veterinarian immediately are:

  • Muscle tremors
  • High heart rate
  • Seizures
  • Increased restlessness
  • Severe hyperactivity

If you are noticing these signs, you should contact your vet immediately. The usual treatment for chocolate ingestion is to induce vomiting within two hours of eating it. Sometimes symptoms may not show for 6-8 hours and in these cases, your best bet would be to contact the veterinarian. If you have any other concerns after your pup has ingested chocolate or other dangerous foods, do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian as they can give you the best advice for your pet.