Why Does Chocolate Kill Dogs


The golden rule all pet owners and dog lovers know: Don’t feed chocolate to a dog. This is widely known, dogs can die from eating chocolate. But why is chocolate bad for dogs? Why does chocolate kill dogs?

All types of chocolate contain theobromine, an alkaloid found in cocoa. Dog’s can’t process theobromine well. Their metabolism can’t handle the alkaloid. Causing vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and in some cases, death.

Not all doses of chocolate can cause poisoning and be fatal. Some dogs can process some types of chocolate without a problem. Here, we will explain how dogs handle chocolate and what to do when your dog eats chocolate.

Why Is Chocolate Bad For Dogs

Why Is Chocolate Bad For Dogs

Every chocolate is made with some amount of cocoa powder. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be called chocolate. Well, that is exactly the problem, cocoa contains an alkaloid called theobromine. There’s nothing else in the chocolate that can be dangerous for dogs.

Dogs’ metabolism does not process the theobromine fast enough. Because of that, the theobromine levels quickly rise up and get to a toxic level. Theobromine stimulates the heart, so the dog’s heart starts overworking.

Also, theobromine is a diuretic. That’s why dogs get diarrhea. All of this causes poisoning in the dog which makes it vomit uncontrollably. Vomiting helps though, it clears the theobromine out of the dog’s system.

Not all types of chocolate have the same amount of theobromine. Some types of chocolate are more dangerous to dogs than others.

  • Dark chocolate contains 130 mg -450 mg theobromine per ounce. 
    Although dark chocolate is advertised as healthy for humans, it’s the most dangerous type of chocolate for dogs. Contains high doses of theobromine. [Source]
  • Milk chocolate contains 44 mg – 58 mg theobromine per ounce. 
    Milk chocolate is a bit less concentrated. Contains medium doses of theobromine. Still can pose a threat to dogs.
  • Cocoa powder has the highest theobromine levels, from 2% to 10% theobromine. 
    Cocoa powder is probably the most dangerous, cooking with cocoa powder or baking chocolate will result in high doses of theobromine.
  • Coffee chocolate can contain medium to high concentrations of theobromine. 
    Regardless of the theobromine levels, coffee chocolate should be avoided at all costs. Dogs don’t process coffee well. Even if the theobromine levels are low, the coffee may also cause poisoning.
  • White chocolate has low theobromine levels, 0.25 mg per ounce. 
    White chocolate is not usually made with cocoa powder, so it’s not that much of a threat. Low doses of white chocolate may not cause poisoning but should still be avoided.

[Related Article: Can Dogs Eat Honey Like Human Beings?]

What To Do If My Dog Eats Chocolate

What To Do If My Dog Eats Chocolate

No one plans on their dog eating chocolate. Accidents happen, we all know that dogs like to steal stuff off the table or anything that falls on the ground. When that happens, depending on how much your dog ate you need to monitor its behavior or take it to the vet as soon as possible.

The type of chocolate your dog ate, the dose, and the dog’s weight all play a part in whether the dog will get poisoning. For instance, if a big dog eats a small piece of chocolate that has fallen on the ground, it’s probably fine. You still need to monitor how your dog is doing throughout the day though.

On the other hand, if a small dog steals a piece of cake from the table and eats it, that’s not good at all. In situations like that, only a quick visit to the vet can help.

However, you can’t always be sure of how much chocolate your dog ate. Chocolate poisoning usually occurs 6 to 12 hours after the dog ate the chocolate. So, in that time you need to watch for any symptoms of chocolate poisoning.

Chocolate Poisoning Symptoms In Dogs

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Panting
  • Frequently Drinking Water
  • Frequnetly Peeing
  • Muscle Tremors
  • Seizures

[Source]

Most likely your dog will start drinking water more first. Then, the diarrhea may hit. After that, the dogs usually start vomiting. There’s no one order. And the dog will not necessarily show all the signs of chocolate poisoning.

Vomiting, panting, hyperactivity are all signs that you need to take care of your dog to the vet. If you aren’t sure about how much chocolate your dog ate, my advice is, take it to the vet. Chocolate poisoning can lead to death.

If you are sure that your dog ate a small amount that is not dangerous, you should be fine. Just make sure you are monitoring your dog that day.

Do Dogs Like Eating Chocolate

After reading this, some of you may be worried about leaving chocolate on the table while you are not looking at the dog. Most dogs do not actually like chocolate. In fact, most dogs will not bother eating a chocolate bar that fell on the floor.

The dog may lick and sniff the chocolate but after seeing that it’s not something in its regular diet, it will back off. The problem is when you cook with chocolate and cocoa. When you add some ingredient that look attractive to the dog, it may like to eat it.

Dogs can also develop a taste for chocolate. That’s why you should avoid offering chocolate as a treat to your dog. Practice the “leave it” command when it sniffs chocolate on the floor. If you want to offer your dog something sweet, go with peanut butter.

[Related Article: 11 Best Dog Food Toppings That You Can Mix In Your Pup’s Meal]

Related Questions And Other FAQs

How Much Chocolate Can Kill A Dog

It depends on the weight of the dog, the type of chocolate, and the amount eaten. Only 0.3 ounces of dark chocolate can be fatal for some dogs. Milk chocolate is a bit milder. A full piece of cake can also kill a dog, and half a chocolate bar.

What Can I Give My Dog If He Ate Chocolate

Vets usually treat dog poisoning with IV drugs that cause vomiting. The vomiting will cleanse the dog’s system of the chocolate. If the situation is not that alarming, some vets even use milk and charcoal to induce vomiting. It’s best to take your dog to the vet instead of try remedies at home.

Tim Adams

Tim has experience of 15 years with a wide variety of pets. Anything animal-related is his passion, so he is here to share some good practices to know about owning pets.

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