Can dogs eat chocolate? Is chocolate bad for dogs?

Is chocolate dangerous for dogs?


Is chocolate bad for dogs? Can dogs eat chocolate? How much chocolate can a dog eat? Is white chocolate ok? Chocolate is dangerous for dogs.

Chocolate toxicity calculator – quick reference in case of emergency

Since you landed here, you may be looking for a quick answer in case you pooch has just eaten some chocolate.  In this case, click on the type of chocolate your dog ate for a quick jump to a chart that will help get you a quick answer:

Cocoa powder  |  Baking chocolate  |  Dark chocolate  |  Milk chocolate  |  White chocolate  |  Entire chart

 

Hopefully you have a bit of time to read through this at a more leisurely pace.

 

I’ve been around dogs my entire life, and one thing I’ve heard often is that they shouldn’t eat chocolate.  “Chocolate will kill a dog” is an oft-repeated phrase I remember from my youngest days.  But why? Is chocolate dangerous for dogs? If so, how much?  Do different types of chocolate pose a different risk? How can chocolate be toxic for dogs when it tastes so damn good?

The short answer is yes, chocolate is dangerous for your dogs and in surprisingly small amounts. So no, dogs should not eat chocolate.

The long answer is a bit more complex.

What makes chocolate dangerous to dogs?

Chocolate and other cocoa products contain “theobromine”.  This compound makes chocolate, the darker, the better, a healthy snack for humans but potentially lethal for dogs.

The same compounds that cause euphoria in humans can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and worse for dogs.

It’s important to understand that darker chocolate contains higher concentrations of theobromine than lighter chocolates.

Milk chocolate, for example, has far less theobromine than dark chocolate or cooking chocolate.  Still, keep in mind that for smaller dogs, as little as four ounces of milk chocolate can be fatal.

Given this, it’s obviously best to keep any chocolate away from dogs of any size.  We list chocolate very high among the 9 most dangerous foods for dogs.

When cooking for holidays such as Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, when those dark chocolate cooking squares are used, extra caution must be taken to keep that chocolate out of reach of dogs.  If chocolate chips are spilled on the floor when you’re cooking those delicious cookies, don’t let Fido clean up the mess.  Get every single chip up.

Although darker chocolate is more dangerous, it’s important to note that even white chocolate contains theobromine, so dogs should not eat it.

Theobromine is easily digested and metabolized by humans, but dogs’ metabolism, where this is concerned, is much slower. Consequently, the toxic effects have more time to build up. They can cause vomiting and diarrhea quickly and often result in what has been called a “theobromine high”, where the dog exhibits severe hyperactivity.

This is often attributed (incorrectly) to a sugar high.

Hyperactivity after eating chocolate is not a “sugar high” but a dangerous symptom

A dog that has eaten any amount of chocolate and goes into fits of higher than usual activity may be suffering from early symptoms of the theobromine toxicity build-up.

Symptoms of chocolate toxicity in your dog

A big part of this problem is that often the dog eats the chocolate without you being aware. They find a few chips that fell on the floor, or they pull something off a counter.  Or perhaps a toddler is sharing.

The point is that it is often not possible to know exactly how much the dog ate.

After a dog eats chocolate, you are likely to see several symptoms.  The onset of any of these signals that the dog’s life is in danger and immediate action is required.  Do not delay; do not wait to see if the dog gets better.  Take immediate action, even to the point of an immediate trip to the vet.

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle Tremors
  • Rapid breathing
  • Seizure
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Hyperactivity
  • Irregular heartbeat

How much and what type of chocolate is dangerous?

Any type and any amount are too much.  I’ve seen people give dogs chocolate chips as a reward when training.

Why take the chance?

This is playing with fire, and there is no reason to do it when excellent alternatives pose no risk.

So how much?

It’s been reported that a single one-ounce square of dark chocolate can be fatal for a dog of around 40-50 pounds.

There will always be folks who claim this isn’t true because they give their dog chocolate all the time.

They’ve been fortunate.

I’ve also seen reports that as little as four ounces of light milk chocolate can be fatal for a small dog.  Of course, the reaction time is faster for small dogs, so your timeframe to help the little dog out after eating chocolate is more limited.Chocolate is dangerous for dogs

There are established levels at which the amount of Theobromine as compared to the weight of your dog is considered safe, toxic, and dangerous.  These are pretty widely accepted as:

  • Less than 20 mg/kg of Theobromine and your dog may show mild effects
  • Between 20-60 mg/kg or theobromine and your dog may show serious effects
  • Above 60 mg/kg and your dog is in dire need of veterinarian assistance and any delay could prove fatal.

The tables below break this down into (hopefully) readable format based on the different types of chocolate and the size of the dog.  What is not accounted for is time. Keep in mind that dogs metabolize theobromine very slowly so eating additional chocolate, even over a prolonged period, can add up to bad news.

We don’t consider the question of “is chocolate bad for my dog ” or “can I feed my dog chocolate” as being the topic here.  The answers are definitely “yes, chocolate is bad for your dog” and “no, you should not feed your dog chocolate”.  What follows is more targeted to the dog owner who has found out their dog has eaten some chocolate and needs to understand the danger involved.

Cocoa powder toxicity for dogs

Cocoa powder can be extremely dangerous for dogs of all sizes but particularly for smaller dogs and in relatively small doses.  We recommend an immediate call to the vet in almost all instances.  Find your dog size in pounds down the left side of the table and the move across to the amount of Cocoa powder your dog ate to determine the level of danger to your dog.

Below is a breakdown of 1 ounce, 2 ounces, 3 ounces, 4 ounces.  An ounce of cocoa powder is about 2 tablespoons and 4 ounces is 1/2 cup, so use this as a reference if you are unsure how much may have been eaten.

Chocolate toxicity for dogs - cocoa powder 2

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Baking chocolate toxicity for dogs

Baking chocolate is almost as dangerous as Cocoa powder and can be very dangerous in small doses for all sizes of dogs.  As with Cocoa powder, we recommend an immediate call to your vet in all cases.  Find your dog size in pounds down the left side of the table and the move across to the amount of Baking chocolate your dog ate to determine the level of danger to your dog.

Below is a breakdown of 1 ounce, 2 ounces, 3 ounces, 4 ounces.  A full sized baking chocolate bar is 4 ounces so use this as a reference if you are unsure how much may have been eaten.

Chocolate toxicity for dogs - baking chocolate 2

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Dark chocolate toxicity for dogs

Dark chocolate is less dangerous than Cocoa powder or Baking chocolate, but can still be extremely dangerous for your dog.  Find your dog size in pounds down the left side of the table and the move across to the amount of Dark chocolate your dog ate to determine the level of danger to your dog.

Below is a breakdown of 1 ounce, 2 ounces, 3 ounces, 4 ounces.  A large dark chocolate candy bar is usually 3.5 to 4 ounces so use this as a reference if you are unsure how much may have been eaten.

Chocolate toxicity for dogs - dark chocolate 2

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Milk chocolate toxicity for dogs

Milk chocolate has far less Theobromine than darker chocolates so, as the chart shows, dogs are less affected and the urgency may be less, depending on the size of the dog and the amount consumed.  Find your dog size in pounds down the left side of the table and the move across to the amount of Milk chocolate your dog ate to determine the level of danger to your dog.

Below is a breakdown of 1 ounce, 2 ounces, 3 ounces, 4 ounces.  A large milk chocolate candy bar is usually about 2.2 to 3.5 ounces so use this as a reference if you are unsure how much may have been eaten.

Chocolate toxicity for dogs - milk chocolate 2

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Can dogs eat white chocolate?

The theobromine in white chocolate, when compared to darker chocolate, is almost non-existent.  There is little chance of theobromine poisoning from white chocolate except in very small dogs eating a lot of white chocolate.

Does that mean it’s OK for dogs to eat white chocolate?

No.

For several reasons.

We discussed theobromine in great detail above but also present in chocolate is sugar, milk, and caffeine.  None of these are particularly good for your dog so just because white chocolate isn’t as bad for your dog as dark chocolate, that doesn’t mean it’s ok to feed it to your dog.

So no, your dog should not eat white chocolate.

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Chocolate toxicity for dogs across all dog sizes and types of chocolate

Chocolate toxicity for dogs - cocoa powder, baking_dark_milk chocolates

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The tables behind the data in the images above follow – I’ve shaded the danger areas as red and the high-caution areas as yellow for quick reference.  Please note that extreme caution should always be taken we advise to err on the side of being overly cautious and calling your vet regardless of what these charts or any other toxicity calculator shows

Cocoa Powder

1oz / 28g 2oz / 56g 3oz / 85g 4oz / 113g <<- Cocoa powder consumed
798mg 1,596mg 2,423mg 3,221mg <<- Amount of Theobromine
Your dog’s weight
10lbs / 4.5kg 176 351 533 709

Amount of ingested theobromine compared to the weight of your dog shown in mg/kg, which is the medical standard for this. I’ve tried to make it easy to read as metric or standard

<20 will see mild effects
20-60 is toxic
>60 is extreme danger

** We recommend calling your vet in all instances, but certainly for anything over 20mg/kg

20lbs / 9kg 88 176 267 354
30lbs / 13.5kg 59 117 178 236
40lbs / 18kg 44 88 133 177
50lbs / 23kg 35 70 107 142
60lbs / 27kg 29 59 89 118
70lbs / 32kg 25 50 76 101
80lbs / 36kg 22 44 67 89
90lbs / 42kg 20 39 59 79
100lbs / 45kg 18 35 53 71

Baking Chocolate

1oz / 28g 2oz / 56g 3oz / 85g 4oz / 113g <<- Baking Chocolate consumed
448mg 896mg 1,360mg 1,808 mg <<- Amount of Theobromine
Your dog’s weight
10lbs / 4.5kg 99 197 299 398

Amount of ingested theobromine compared to the weight of your dog shown in mg/kg, which is the medical standard for this. I’ve tried to make it easy to read as metric or standard

<20 will see mild effects
20-60 is toxic
>60 is extreme danger

** We recommend calling your vet in all instances, but certainly for anything over 20mg/kg

20lbs / 9kg 49 99 150 199
30lbs / 13.5kg 33 66 100 133
40lbs / 18kg 25 49 75 99
50lbs / 23kg 20 39 60 80
60lbs / 27kg 16 33 50 66
70lbs / 32kg 14 28 43 57
80lbs / 36kg 12 25 37 50
90lbs / 42kg 11 22 33 44
100lbs / 45kg 10 20 30 40

Dark Chocolate

1oz / 28g 2oz / 56g 3oz / 85g 4oz / 113g <<- Dark chocolate consumed
160mg 319mg 485mg 644mg <<- Amount of Theobromine
Your dog’s weight
10lbs / 4.5kg 35 70 107 142

Amount of ingested theobromine compared to the weight of your dog shown in mg/kg, which is the medical standard for this. I’ve tried to make it easy to read as metric or standard

<20 will see mild effects
20-60 is toxic
>60 is extreme danger

** We recommend calling your vet in all instances, but certainly for anything over 20mg/kg

20lbs / 9kg 18 35 53 71
30lbs / 13.5kg 12 23 36 47
40lbs / 18kg 9 18 27 35
50lbs / 23kg 7 14 21 28
60lbs / 27kg 6 12 18 24
70lbs / 32kg 5 10 15 20
80lbs / 36kg 4 9 13 18
90lbs / 42kg 4 8 12 16
100lbs / 45kg 4 7 11 14

Milk Chocolate

1oz / 28g 2oz / 56g 3oz / 85g 4oz / 113g <<- Milk chocolate consumed
64mg 129mg 195mg 260mg <<- Amount of Theobromine
Your dog’s weight
10lbs / 4.5kg 14 28 43 57

Amount of ingested theobromine compared to the weight of your dog shown in mg/kg, which is the medical standard for this. I’ve tried to make it easy to read as metric or standard

<20 will see mild effects
20-60 is toxic
>60 is extreme danger

** We recommend calling your vet in all instances, but certainly for anything over 20mg/kg

20lbs / 9kg 7 14 21 29
30lbs / 13.5kg 5 9 14 18
40lbs / 18kg 4 7 11 14
50lbs / 23kg 3 6 9 11
60lbs / 27kg 2 5 7 10
70lbs / 32kg 2 4 6 8
80lbs / 36kg 2 4 5 7
90lbs / 42kg 2 3 5 6
100lbs / 45kg 1 3 4 6

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Here’s a sampling of how much theobromine can be found in common chocolate items you have in your house

Item Serving Size Theobromine content
Rich Chocolate Ice Cream 1 cup 178 mg
Chocolate pudding 1 cup 75 mg
Hershey’s milk chocolate bar 1.5 oz 64 mg
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup 2 cups 32 mg
Baking Chocolate 1 cup 1712 mg
Dark chocolate candy bar 1 bar 810 mg
Dry cocoa chocolate baking powder 1 cup 1769 mg

When you look at the above table and see that a single Reese’s Peanut Butter cup has about 32 mg of theobromine, you may think that’s below the threshold, so it’s ok.

And it might be.  But again, why take the chance when there are so many excellent alternatives that are undoubtedly safe?

Also, you know how dogs are.  They get a taste, and they want more.

Just don’t go down that road.  There’s not a single good reason to take that risk.

What to do when your dog eats chocolate?

A lot of this depends on the dog’s size, the amount of chocolate consumed, and what kind of chocolate.

Try to figure out what type of chocolate it was.  If you can find a wrapper, that will be very helpful.  Also, note how much was eaten, if you know.  These two bits of information will be very important for your trip to the vet.

Small dogs should be taken to a vet immediately regardless of how much chocolate was consumed.

This is the safest approach as, for small dogs, relatively small amounts of chocolate can be very dangerous.

For larger dogs, you have a bit of breathing room.

If you know for sure that only a small amount was eaten and know what kind of chocolate (remember, darker is worse in this case), you may be ok just keeping an eye on the pooch and watching for symptoms (listed above).

Inducing vomiting is recommended if you catch the dog within 2 hours or so.  Beyond 2 hours, inducing vomiting won’t help much.  If you catch your dog red-handed or red-pawed, I guess, then the single best thing you can do is to induce vomiting to get that chocolate out of the dog’s system.

As far as the different types of chocolate, as mentioned previously, the darker the chocolate, the higher theobromine concentration and, therefore, the more dangerous it is for dogs.

Dark baking chocolate contains about six times as much as the lighter milk chocolate found in candy bars.  The point here is, a single one-ounce piece of dark chocolate can introduce six times as much theobromine into your dog’s system, so the symptoms will onset much faster and be much more severe.

Can dogs eat chocolate – conclusion

Can dogs eat chocolate_

So is chocolate dangerous for dogs?  Undeniably so.

Can dogs eat chocolate?

Given the gray area (how much, what kind of chocolate, how big is the dog, etc.), many owners feel they are safe but again, why take the chance?

There are plenty of alternatives that are 100% safe so go that route instead.  Our final and strongest recommendation is simply, do not ever feed your dog any kind of chocolate.

We often hear “can dogs eat [fill in the blank]” so we are working on a series of articles to discuss these topics. Please see our additional articles on our main dog health page.

Also for a more information overview about what your dog should and should not eat, be sure to take a look at our “Can dogs eat…” article where we cover over 80 different items.

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