Why Is Chocolate Toxic For Dogs?
10 October, 2017
chocolate to to dogs

It’s pretty well known among dog owners that chocolate is toxic for dogs (and cats) too.  While it is rarely fatal, eating chocolate can cause your dogs to become extremely ill.   Chocolate is toxic for  dogs because it contains a chemical called theobromine. Theobromine is the predominant toxin in chocolate and is very similar to caffeine which is very hard for dogs to metabolize.

Dogs are more prone to chocolate toxicity than cats

Dogs have a sweet tooth and a nose that makes them skilled at finding chocolate. Cats and other pets are also susceptible to the toxic effects of chocolate.  But cats are less likely to eat a large portion of chocolate because they are unable to taste sweetness.  And, when do cats really pig out on anything?

Chocolate is really toxic to dogs because it takes time for them to digest it

The reason chocolate is not toxic for humans but is for dogs is due to the lengthy time it takes dogs to metabolize one of the components of chocolate—theobromine, which is a diuretic, heart stimulant and vasodilator.   Dogs and other animals metabolize theobromine much more slowly than we do and are much smaller.  Therefore, a dog that eats a generous portion of chocolate can become a victim of theobromine poisoning, which can be fatal if left untreated.

Symptoms if your dog ate too much chocolate

If you know or suspect your dog has eaten any chocolate, watch for these symptoms. If they appear, call your vet immediately:

Nausea and vomiting, Diarrhea, Increased urination

If the theobromine poisoning isn’t recognized and treated, your dog’s condition could deteriorate and the following occur:

Seizures, Cardiac arrhythmias, Internal Bleeding, Heart attack and sometimes even death.

Some chocolate is more toxic than others

Unsweetened baker’s chocolate contains eight to ten times the amount of theobromine as milk chocolate contains. Semi-sweet chocolate falls roughly in between the two for theobromine content. White chocolate contains theobromine, but in such small amounts that theobromine poisoning is unlikely.

A quick breakdown of theobromine levels of different types of chocolate:

Dry cocoa powder – 800 mg/oz

Unsweetened (baker’s) chocolate – 450 mg/oz

Semi-sweet chocolate and sweet dark chocolate -150-160 mg/oz

Milk chocolate – 44 to 64 mg/oz

White chocolate contains very little

How much chocolate is harmful for your dog or cat?

A medium-sized dog weighing 50 pounds only needs to eat 1 ounce of baker’s chocolate, or 9 ounces of milk chocolate, to potentially show signs of poisoning. For many dogs, ingesting small amounts of milk chocolate is not harmful.

For cats: As little as 20mg of theobromine per pound of pet weight can cause side effects and health problems.

Call your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your dog ate chocolate

If you believe your dog ate chocolate, call your veterinarian immediately. Based on your dog’s size and the amount and type of chocolate consumed, your veterinarian may recommend that you simply monitor him for the clinical signs listed above and call back if his condition worsens.

In other cases, the veterinarian may prefer you bring the dog into the clinic. If your pet consumed the chocolate less than two hours ago, your veterinarian may induce vomiting and give him several doses of activated charcoal, which works to move the toxins out of the body without being absorbed into the bloodstream. For more severe cases, veterinary intervention may be needed to provide supplemental treatment, such as medications or IV fluids, to resolve the effects of the poisoning. Dogs suffering from seizures may need to be monitored at the clinic overnight.

If you are a chocolate lover, than just be very careful when you eat or bake with chocolate, that you put the remains back on the shelf away from your pooch.

Other articles that might be of interest to you:

Human food that dogs can eat

Food that is dangerous to cats

Onion Toxicity in Dogs.


One thought on “Why Is Chocolate Toxic For Dogs?”

  1. Nice article! I had a dog die of chocolate several years ago. Broke my heart and I have never forgot it. She was little and was continuously sneaking into my chocolate mocha coffee when I was not looking. I am very careful about it now.


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