Can Dogs Eat Chocolate? My Dog Ate Chocolate, Now What?

Pet care & safety
This cute dog looks like he just finished eating chocolate but is acting fine. One might wonder, what could possibly be the signs of chocolate poisoning in dogs, and what happens if a dog eats chocolate.

Chocolate: Delicious for humans, dangerous for dogs. It's a common warning, but have you ever stopped to wonder why? It’s something most dog owners have heard since before they even had a dog, but while we may understand that dogs shouldn’t eat chocolate, we might not know why, what it looks like or what to do if it does happen. Fortunately, we’re here to help you out. 

The Types of Chocolate and Their Toxicity Levels 

The reason we can indulge in a brownie and our dogs can’t all boils down to digestion. While humans can safely consume chocolate, dogs take much longer to break it down. This means a substance called theobromine sticks around in their system for ages, acting like a super strong stimulant. Their heart races, their nervous system goes haywire, and their tummy gets upset. That's why even a tiny bit of chocolate can be a big problem for a dog. Chocolate products increase in toxicity the darker they get, so the order of chocolate from most to least toxic is: 

  1. Cocoa beans 

  2. Unsweetened cocoa powder 

  3. Baking chocolate/dark chocolate 

  4. Semisweet chocolate 

  5. Milk chocolate 

  6. White chocolate  

Factors Affecting Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs 

Yes, chocolate is bad for dogs to eat, but the degree it is bad depends on several factors, namely the size of dog and the type and amount of chocolate consumed.  

First, it should make sense that bigger dogs will be better able to handle chocolate than smaller dogs. They just have more mass to be able to deal with chocolate than our little buddies do, so smaller dogs may be at risk for developing more severe signs than larger pups. 

Since different types of chocolate contain different levels of toxic compounds, the degree to which a pup gets sick also depends on which chocolate they ate. Eating a mouthful of cocoa powder is worse than a hunk of white chocolate and one cocoa bean may be enough to create some severe signs.  

On this note, the amount of chocolate is also a factor. A lick or lap is much better than an entire candy bar. All of these are important to consider when discussing with your vet so that they can help prepare you for the signs you may start to see. You can use a chocolate toxicity calculator to determine the potential severity. 

Signs of Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs 

As you’ve probably noticed, there is a lot of variation in how much chocolate can a dog eat and what happens if a dog eats chocolate.  

Signs of chocolate poisoning in dogs with a mild case may be vomiting and diarrhea. It may be the reason your puppy is throwing up as puppies like to put everything in their mouths. They may appear a little restless and want to drink more water. These signs can show up within a couple of hours and generally don’t last longer than a couple of days. 

More severe cases will show the initial signs of vomiting and diarrhea that may then progress to increased urination, muscle stiffness, weakness, seizures and other neurological signs, or even a coma. These signs are due to issues of the heart that cause a drop in blood pressure, an increased heart rate and potentially heart failure.   

This dog is caught red-handed eating chocolate from a heart-shaped Valentine's gift. The dog does not even seem to have any idea how much chocolate can kill a dog.

What to Do if Your Dog Eats Chocolate 

If your dog eats chocolate-any amount of chocolate-or if you suspect they did, contact your vet. It definitely can’t hurt to keep them in the loop. Be ready to answer questions about how big your dog is, how much and what type of chocolate they ate and when.  

Based on your answers, your vet may have you watch your dog for a bit to monitor them for signs or they may have you come in immediately.  

If your vet asks you to hurry to the animal hospital, it’s because they want to get as much of the chocolate out of your dog’s system as they can. This may be by inducing vomiting, giving activated charcoal, or even pumping the stomach. After that, they will provide supportive care through anti-nausea medications and fluids. Dogs that are having seizures or showing more advanced signs may need additional medications and hospitalization. 

Anytime you’re looking at treating toxicities, including chocolate, costs can rise quickly, especially if your pup requires hospitalization. While these treatments are necessary for your dog’s well-being, they may not be something you can readily afford. That’s where pet insurance for dogs comes in. Pet health insurance is made for emergency situations like chocolate poisoning (and other health care expenses as well!). 

Enrolling your dog early ensures they're covered for emergencies like chocolate poisoning, unexpected illnesses, or accidents. This way, you can focus on your furry friend's recovery without worrying about the financial burden. Think of pet insurance as an investment in your dog's well-being, offering peace of mind and financial protection for unforeseen health scares. 

Chocolate Poisoning Prevention Tips 

While pet health insurance can help cover the costs when a dog eats chocolate, it’s best to prevent the problem in the first place. Do this by keeping chocolate locked away where dogs can’t reach it. This goes for the garbage as well (in case you happen to throw some chocolate away). Make sure that kids and houseguests understand to keep a close watch on their chocolate and store it properly for the safety of your dog.   

Prevention of chocolate poisoning should extend into your training as well. Crating training offers a fantastic solution for keeping your dog out of mischief when you're not around. A crate becomes a cozy, familiar space where your dog can relax and doesn't have access to forbidden treats like chocolate. Make sure the crate is the right size for your dog and provide comfortable bedding and engaging toys to keep them occupied.  

Teaching your dog to “leave it” or “drop it” may save you a chocolate poisoning headache as well by stopping your dog from consuming chocolate should they happen to find it in your house. 

Keep your Dog Away from Chocolate 

Chocolate may be a delicious indulgence for us, but remember, it's off-limits for our furry friends. Keep chocolate safely out of reach to avoid any scares. If you suspect your pup has gotten hold of some chocolate, don't hesitate – call your vet right away. But fear not, there are plenty of fantastic treats you and your pup can share! Apples, carrots, green beans, or even some homemade frozen treats can become a fun bonding experience. Remember, a healthy pup is a happy pup, ready for all the belly rubs and adventures you can throw their way!