Can Dogs Eat Chocolate?


Question: Can dogs eat chocolate?

Verdict: No, but minimal risk with white chocolate.

Verdict Explanation: Chocolate is a well-known toxin for dogs, primarily due to its theobromine and caffeine content. These chemicals can have severe effects on dogs as they metabolize them differently than humans. The severity of chocolate poisoning in dogs depends on factors like the type of chocolate consumed, the amount ingested, the dog’s weight, and its sensitivity to these stimulants. See below for more details.

Types of Chocolate and Toxicity Levels

  • Dark Chocolate: Contains the highest concentration of theobromine, ranging from 130 to 450 milligrams per ounce, making it the most toxic for dogs.
  • Milk Chocolate: Contains lower theobromine levels, around 45 to 58 mg per ounce, posing a lesser threat compared to dark chocolate.
  • White Chocolate: Poses minimal risk with only 0.25 mg of theobromine per ounce.

Symptoms of Chocolate Toxicity

  • Initial symptoms typically appear within 6 to 12 hours and may include vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, restlessness, increased heart rate, muscle tremors, seizures, and even coma.
  • Severe cases can lead to irregular heart rate, reduced circulation, drop in body temperature, lethargy, and potentially death.

Research Studies and Findings

  1. A study analyzed data from the Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network (SAVSNET) in the UK and found that dogs are four times more likely to be brought to a vet with suspected chocolate poisoning around Christmas compared to other times of the year.
  2. Another study analyzed 156 cases of dogs after chocolate ingestion. It found that dark and bitter chocolates were more commonly associated with clinical signs like agitation, tremors, vomiting, panting, polyuria/polydipsia, and diarrhea.

Treatment and Prevention

  • Treatment for chocolate toxicity involves inducing vomiting or administering activated charcoal to prevent absorption of toxins. Prognosis is good if effective decontamination of the chocolate is done within 2-4 hours of ingestion.
  • Owners should ensure chocolate is kept out of reach of pets and be aware of the potential dangers associated with different types of chocolate.