Almost all dog owners know that dogs should not eat chocolate.
However, there are countless instances of dogs eating chocolate and suffering no ill effects.
So what is the truth when it comes to dogs and chocolate?
Why is chocolate bad for dogs?
Chocolate can be harmful to dogs because it contains Theobromine and Caffeine, and neither ingredient can be digested easily by dogs.
Theobromine acts as a stimulant and could cause an increased heart rate. A dog will take a long time to metabolise (or digest) Theobromine, and it will stay in their bodies for an extended time, meaning their exposure is longer. Theobromine can also build up to more extreme levels inside a dog’s body, potentially having more harmful consequences.
However, just like caffeine, Theobromine is perfectly safe for human consumption as long as it is not in extreme doses.
What happens if a dog eats chocolate?
The build-up of Theobromine can affect a dog’s heart, digestive system and nervous system.
The moderate side-effects of chocolate ingestion in dogs include vomiting, diarrhoea and increased thirst. Since Theobromine is a stimulant, these effects are likely to be accompanied by a period of restlessness or hyperactivity.
More extreme effects of a dog eating chocolate include an increased or irregular heart rate, heart attack or seizures.
How much chocolate can a dog eat?
How much chocolate is dangerous? To answer this question depends on several factors.
Size and breed of your dog – For many chemicals, the potency of their effect on an animal is determined in part by the dosage (or quantity) and the subject’s size.
Type of chocolate that has been eaten – This is because different types of chocolate contain different levels of Theobromine:
White Chocolate – 0.25 mg/oz
Milk Chocolate – 44-60 mg/oz
Dark Chocolate – 135 mg/oz
Baking Chocolate – 390-450 mg/oz
Cocoa Powder – 400-737 mg/oz
(Data Source: Pet Poison Helpline)
It is clear to see from the data above that cocoa powder and baking chocolate pose a significantly higher threat to dogs than milk or white chocolate.
What should I do if my dog eats chocolate?
If your dog has eaten chocolate, it is recommended that you contact a veterinarian (or vet) for advice immediately.
You must tell the vet the breed of your dog, its weight, and, if possible, the type of chocolate and quantity of chocolate your dog has eaten.
What if my dog eats chocolate and seems fine?
It is important to remember that dogs digest Theobromine slowly, and it may take several hours for symptoms to appear.
If you suspect that your dog has eaten chocolate but is not showing any signs, it is still advisable to contact a vet. Early treatments may be as simple as inducing vomiting.
For those dogs who suffer more extreme effects, a vet may use treatments such as an intravenous drip to stabilise the dog, administer medication to treat restlessness or choose to keep the dog in the hospital to monitor its heart rate and blood pressure.
As a precaution, it is best to keep all chocolate out of reach from curious paws. It could potentially harm any dog, and we must keep them safe.