You’ve probably heard your veterinarian or a friend warn you about giving chocolate to your dog.
But, is chocolate really that bad for your pup?
The answer is resounding yes. All types of chocolate, be it milk chocolate, dark chocolate, cocoa powder, and even cocoa bean mulch for plants are dangerous to dogs and cats.
The reason why you hear chocolate affecting dogs more than cats is that cats cannot taste sweetness1 while dogs can and often go searching for it.
Let’s dive into why chocolate is bad for dogs and what to do if your dog does eat chocolate.
Why is Chocolate so Bad for Dogs?
We love to eat chocolate. Yes, we’re told it’s not healthy for us, but we still eat it during birthdays, holidays, desserts, and snacks.
But for dogs, chocolate isn’t just unhealthy, it’s lethal.
Chocolate is made from the cocoa beans which contain caffeine and a stimulant called theobromine.
Both caffeine and theobromine are lethal to dogs and cats because they naturally speed up the heart rate.
Theobromine is not metabolized as quickly in dogs as humans and, if consumed, can remain in the dog’s bloodstream for several days and cause a rapid heartbeat, seizures, heart attacks, internal bleeding and, ultimately, death.
According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, “One ounce of milk chocolate per pound of body weight is a potentially lethal dose in dogs.”2
The average chocolate bar contains 2 ounces of milk chocolate (a Hersey’s bar includes 1.55 ounces), so it would only take 2-4 bars to poison a 10-pound dog.
The smaller the dog, the more lethal caffeine and theobromine can be. It only takes 3 ounces of milk chocolate to induce vomiting in a 20-pound dog, while it takes 11 ounces to cause vomiting in an 80-pound dog.3
Is it Just Chocolate That’s Lethal?
Any product containing caffeine and theobromine can be lethal to dogs. Teas, soft drinks, acai berries, puddings and more contain theobromine.
If you’re not sure the food is safe for your dog to eat, it’s best not to feed it and keep it out of reach.
Signs of Chocolate Poisoning
After your dog has consumed chocolate, symptoms may begin to appear within 6-12 hours and last up to 72 hours.
Notable symptoms you should watch out for include:
- Abnormal Heart Rate
- Increased Urination
What if My Dog Does Eat Some Chocolate?
If you think your dog has eaten chocolate, the best thing to do is to contact a trusted veterinarian immediately.
If your vet is not available, contact an animal poison control or 24-hour emergency pet center as it is recommended to induce vomiting within two hours of ingestion of the chocolate.
In many cases, your dog will naturally throw up on its own. But, if this doesn’t happen and you can’t get in contact with a vet, you can make your dog throw up by feeding 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide for every 20 pounds of weight according to Tina Wismer, DVM.
One trick is to put something your dog licks to eat in a bowl with hydrogen peroxide around the rim. Likewise, you can also use just a baster or dropper to put the hydrogen peroxide into the dog’s mouth.
How to Prevent Poising from Chocolate
Here are some guidelines to prevent your dog from eating chocolate.
Keep it Out of Reach
Because dogs naturally taste sweetness, they may go looking for it in “easy to reach” places.
Don’t keep chocolate out on the counter or available anywhere a dog can reach. This includes cabinets your dog can get into. Make sure you seal your chocolate, even candy bars, in containers in case your dog does manage to get into your cabinet.
Secure Your Trash
One of the most common places dogs find chocolate is rummaging through the trash. Keep your trash can where your dog can’t reach it or consider investing in a sturdy trash can that is specifically designed to block dogs, cats, and other trash-loving creatures from getting into it.
You can train your dog to understand and obey the “leave it” command to avoid eating anything strange left on the ground. If you’re walking in the park and there’s a tasty chocolate morsel left on the ground, you can tell your dog to “leave it” and continue walking.
Just because you’re spot-on about keeping chocolate away from your dog doesn’t mean your friends and family members are.
A friend may come over and feed your dog some chocolate as a friendly gesture, without having any idea that it is actually poisonous.
That being said, make sure to tell your friends and family members, especially younger children, to keep chocolate and sweets away from your dog.