No, dogs cannot eat chocolate.
While some foods can be harmless for your dog, chocolate isn’t one of them — it contains two chemicals, theobromine and caffeine, that are toxic to dogs. These chemicals get absorbed very quickly by a dog’s digestive system and can linger for a long time.
Dogs are far more sensitive to caffeine and theobromine than humans because dogs’ bodies cannot break them down very well. If a dog ingests these compounds, they can experience a caffeine overdose and a dangerously high heart rate.
In severe cases, these compounds can cause life-threatening irregular heart rhythms and central nervous system dysfunction.3
You may be able to determine if you have a life-threatening emergency by:
● The type of chocolate ingested
● The amount ingested
● Your dog's weight
If you know this information, write it down —it can help you calculate your dog's risk of toxicity.4
For types of chocolate to look out for, a good rule of thumb to remember is, “the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is.” The list below is ordered from most dangerous to least dangerous (darkest to lightest):
● Unsweetened cocoa powder
● Unsweetened baking chocolate
● Semisweet chocolate
● Dark chocolate
● Milk chocolate
Your dog’s reaction to the amount of chocolate they’ve consumed is also dependent on the type of chocolate, due to different levels of theobromine. For example, 1 ounce of baker’s chocolate or 9 ounces of milk chocolate could poison a 50 pound dog.5
This means that a tiny amount of baking chocolate can cause severe chocolate toxicity in a dog, while that same amount of milk chocolate could lead to just mild discomfort.
When it comes to body weight, smaller dogs are more sensitive to chocolate. For example, it takes much less chocolate to sicken a Shih Tzu than a Great Dane.
When in doubt, online chocolate toxicity calculators can help you estimate chocolate toxicity for your dog.
Chocolate toxicity in dogs may not appear until six to twelve hours after ingestion and can last for up to three days.6
If you think your dog ate chocolate, be on the lookout for the following signs of chocolate poisoning:
● Increased urination
● High heart rate
● Abnormal heart rhythm
Older dogs and dogs with heart problems can collapse or die suddenly from chocolate toxicity.
If you know your dog has ingested chocolate, the best thing you can do is reach out to your vet as soon as possible. The sooner your pup is treated, the better the chances of a positive outcome.
If you know the type and amount of chocolate your dog ate, share that information with your vet. Based on the information you provide, your vet may recommend that you either monitor your dog or bring them into the office immediately.
Dogs get into chocolate when chocolate is more likely to be out, such as during the holidays. Unfortunately, many veterinarians’ offices are closed during the holidays.
If your dog ingested chocolate but your vet is closed, do not wait to seek help. You can contact the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-764-7661 for guidance.7
Many communities also have emergency vet clinics or animal hospitals nearby. Check to see if you have access to a 24/7 facility, or ask your vet if they recommend a local clinic or animal hospital in advance.
Treatment requires eliminating chocolate from a dog’s system and treating the symptoms. Treatments may vary depending on the amount of chocolate ingested, the size of your dog, and how long it has been since your dog ingested the chocolate.
Even if your dog isn’t showing chocolate toxicity symptoms, immediate treatment is still warranted to get the chocolate out of their system before symptoms start.
If you get your dog treatment early treatment and the chocolate has not yet been absorbed, your vet may induce vomiting, as well as administer activated charcoal to prevent absorption of theobromine into the body.5
In more severe cases, other veterinary interventions may be necessary. If your dog is already sick, immediate treatment is needed to prevent symptoms from worsening.
Some dogs may need IV fluids and medications to counteract the effects of the poisoning. Dogs who suffer seizures will also require monitoring and may need to stay overnight at the animal hospital for supervision.5 Dogs with severe chocolate toxicity require hospitalization until they are stable enough to go home.
The best thing you can do is keep your dog away from all chocolate. Here are some tips:
● Store chocolate on high shelves in cabinets that your dog can’t reach.
● Keep safety locks on cabinets that contain chocolate and chocolate-based foods.
● Make the kitchen off-limits to your dog when you’re baking chocolate treats.
Consider teaching your pup commands such as “no,” and “leave it” to help keep them out of harms harm’s way.
No one wants to see their pet suffer, but accidents can happen. Being prepared for when your dog eats something they shouldn’t is one of the best ways to keep them safe. Talk with your vet to create an emergency plan in case your dog eats chocolate and discuss other harm-reducing strategies.
You can also protect your pet’s health by making sure they’re covered with a dog insurance policy from MetLife Pet Insurance.1,2 Pet insurance may help cover expensive, emergency vet visits, ensuring your pet can access the best care when they need it the most.