Chocolate is a favorite human treat, but chocolate can hurt dogs. Chocolate can be harmful to dogs’ digestive systems. Theobromine is a chemical in chocolate that can harm dogs.
One of the most dangerous foods to dogs is chocolate, and even in small doses, poisoning can occur.
Dogs can have white chocolate but only in moderation. Milk, dark, and baker’s chocolate are especially harmful to dogs.
Monitor for dog poisoning clinical signs if you suspect they consumed chocolate.
What causes chocolate poisoning in dogs?
Chocolate contains theobromine, a chemical which if ingested can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and restlessness.
More severe side effects include seizures, abnormal heart palpitations, and rarely, death. Secondary health issues that can occur from your pet getting their paws on your candy collection include pancreatitis due to the high sugar and fat content, or possible intestinal obstructions due to the wrappers. Stomach or intestinal obstructions may even occur for smaller dogs that feed on candy wrappers.
How Chocolate Affects Your Dog
The darker a chocolate is, the higher theobromine concentration, and the more harmful it is to your dog.
While minimal chocolate consumption is unlikely to affect pets too much, here are some guidelines to keep in mind:
- Ingesting more than 0.5 ounces of milk chocolate per pound of body weight may put dogs at risk for chocolate poisoning.
- Eating more than 0.13 ounces per pound of dark or semi-sweet chocolate may cause poisoning to dogs.
- If your pet has ingested any amount of baker’s chocolate, seek emergency treatment as chocolate poisoning is likely.
- Young animals, pets with underlying diseases, and older pets are at an increased risk for chocolate poisoning and must be treated more conservatively
- Some pets may develop pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) after eating chocolate or baked goods containing chocolate due to the high fat content.
Keep in Mind
The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is!
Darker chocolates have higher concentrations of theobromine. This means baker’s chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, gourmet dark chocolate candies, and cocoa powder are more poisonous than milk or white chocolate.
What are the signs of chocolate poisoning?
Small amounts of chocolate may cause diarrhea and mild vomiting.
Larger amounts may cause restlessness, abnormal heart rhythms or elevated heart rates, seizures and collapses, and tremors.
If your dog has consumed chocolate or is experiencing any changes in behavior, seek treatment right away.
If your dog has consumed chocolate, call your veterinarian immediately. The first step is to induce vomiting, from there medical grade activated charcoal may be administered to minimize toxin absorption. To increase theobromine excretion, IV fluids may be given.
In more severe cases, additional steps will be taken including the administration of heart medications (to reduce heart rate and blood pressure), anti-convulsant for seizures, and antacids (such as Pepcid) for stomach upset and diarrhea.