Why is Chocolate Bad for Dogs?

Why is Chocolate Bad for Dogs?


It's no secret that chocolate is bad for dogs. But just how bad is it?

Whether it contains real sugar or a substitute, vets say that all chocolate has the potential to be poisonous for dogs.

Why can't dogs eat chocolate? Well, there are quite a few reasons. 

Keep reading to learn the many reasons why chocolate is bad for dogs.

Why Can't Dogs Have Chocolate?

The main reason chocolate is toxic to dogs is because it contains a chemical compound called theobromine. Theobromine is a bitter alkaloid. It's naturally found in the cacao plant, and it's also in foods such as the kola nut and the leaves of many tea plants.

Chocolate comes from the cacao plant, so it contains both theobromine and caffeine. These two chemicals are largely responsible for giving humans that “happy rush” they enjoy when they consume chocolate. 

Both theobromine and caffeine are used medicinally for humans as a heart stimulant, diuretic, smooth muscle relaxant, and blood vessel dilator. It's not a big deal for us, though, because human bodies can safely process and excrete these chemicals.

Unfortunately, dogs don’t metabolize caffeine or theobromine in the way that humans can, which is why our pups are significantly more sensitive to the effects of these chemicals.

What Does Chocolate Do to Dogs?

Chocolate poisoning in dogs affects the heart, kidneys, and central nervous system the most. Symptoms typically occur between 4 and 24 hours after your dog has ingested chocolate, and they can last for 72 hours or more.

The toxic side effects of chocolate depend greatly on the amount eaten, the type of chocolate ingested, and the size of the dog.

If a larger dog eats 200 grams of milk chocolate, for example, he'll probably suffer from an upset stomach (i.e. vomiting and diarrhea). If it's 750 grams your beloved canine ingests, seizures, and cardiovascular problems are more of a concern.

What Are the Symptoms of Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs?

If your dog gets into any chocolate, take a deep breath, and stay calm. Investigate and attempt to determine how much she's eaten, what type of chocolate it was, and what the ingredients were.

If you choose to wait a bit before visiting the veterinarian, just remember that the sooner your dog gets treatment, the more likely they are to recover without serious or long term side effects. 

Here are some clinical signs to look out for, should your furry friend dine on some form of chocolate:

  • Agitation
  • Nervousness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Rapid breathing
  • Muscle tension or incoordination
  • Seizures
  • Increased heart rate
  • Hyperactivity or restlessness
  • Increased urination
  • Tremors

As soon as you notice any symptoms or your canine acting strange, don't hesitate to take him in to your veterinarian before it's too late.

Can Dogs Eat White Chocolate?

One question many dog owners have asked is whether or not dogs can eat white chocolate. People also want to know about the many different types of chocolate, and which ones, if any, are safe for dogs.

When it comes to white chocolate, you'll still likely find theobromine, the chemical found in chocolate that's toxic to dogs. The amount is often much less, though, so your dog would have to eat a lot of it to fall ill from theobromine toxicity. But that doesn't mean white chocolate is safe for dogs!

White chocolate isn't harmless, even with relatively low levels of theobromine. For one thing, it's very high in fat, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea in pups. Plus, that high-fat content puts your best friend at risk for acute pancreatitis.

crushed up chocolate

What About the Other Types of Chocolate?

Why does chocolate kill dogs? The answer is, it depends. Usually, however, death occurs as a result of consuming a significantly large quantity of chocolate rich in theobromine. Let’s examine the other types of chocolates and the amounts of theobromine they contain. 

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is packed with theobromine. Even a single 500-gram bar of dark chocolate can contain enough theobromine to kill a 70-pound Labrador. 

Lower quality dark chocolate is dangerous too. While it doesn't contain as much theobromine as higher quality chocolates, it still contains enough to cause a fatal reaction.

After a dog eats enough of any type of dark chocolate, fast and irregular heartbeats are the most common clinical sign. Additional symptoms could include seizures, tremors, vomiting, and even death.

Milk Chocolate

From candy to ice cream, milk chocolate exists in abundance. While its theobromine levels are lower than that of dark chocolate, it still contains enough to poison dogs. 

At the very least, a dog who eats a fair amount of milk chocolate will likely develop diarrhea and vomiting. Milk chocolate also contains sugar, fat, and may contain dangerous sugar alternatives including xylitol.

Baker's or Semisweet Chocolate

Baking chocolate is dangerous for dogs! Because of its extremely high levels of theobromine, you should keep baker's chocolate far away from your pup, always and forever. Its potency can be deadly for canines.

More trouble lurks in the potential for additional ingredients. Foods like Macadamia nuts, raisins, and peanut butter contribute to the already-negative effects of baker’s chocolate.

Added sugar leads to an increased risk of vomiting and diarrhea. High sugar and fat can even lead to acute pancreatitis, a disease that leads to an inflamed pancreas and can be life threatening. 

As a rule of paw, steer clear of giving your dog any foods containing chocolate. Chocolate cake, ice cream, cookies, chocolate milk, and so many other things we eat are loaded with this potential danger for dogs.

Take a look at the ingredients in your pet's food too. Many of the common allergy symptoms our dogs suffer from, stems from the food they eat.

Cocoa Powder

Even more than baker's chocolate, cocoa powder's theobromine levels are significantly high. Unsweetened cocoa powder has been shown to possess the highest concentration of methylxanthines (theobromine) of all chocolate preparations.

What to Do If Your Dog Eats Chocolate 

If your dog eats chocolate, you must determine what kind and how much chocolate she ate. Without knowing the details, it's difficult to determine what the effects will be.

It's safe to say that your dog sneaking a few licks of your ice cream cone is much less dangerous than him eating a few squares of baker's chocolate.

If any sort of dark chocolate has been eaten, don't hesitate to call your vet. There's no harm in calling to check in with a medical professional who'll help you decide the best course of action for your loyal canine. If you can't get your vet on the phone, contact animal poison control.

If you opt to watch your pup, remember that symptoms can begin anywhere from 4 to 24 hours after eating chocolate. If your dog needs medical care, the sooner you get it, the better for its health and wellbeing.

If the theobromine hasn't yet been absorbed, a veterinarian might only have to perform a checkup, induce vomiting, and give fluid therapy. 

What Are Some Treatments?

Treatment depends on what kind of and how much chocolate was eaten. In addition to induced vomiting, activated charcoal may help to reduce the continuous recirculation and resorption of theobromine in some cases. 

Intravenous fluid therapy helps to stabilize your dog as it promotes theobromine excretion. 

Vets often prescribe medications to help slow down the heart in severe cases. Theobromine and caffeine cause elevated heart rates and abnormal heart rhythms, so it's important to alleviate those symptoms as soon as possible.

Why Can't Dogs Eat Chocolate?

Why can't dogs eat chocolate? To dogs, chocolate is poison! It's not an old wive's tale. The theobromine in chocolate is difficult for dogs to digest, and can be fatal if too much of it gets ingested.

There are plenty of delicious treats for your pup that aren't dangerous. So, keep the chocolate in your home hidden in a spot where your beloved pet will never get to it.

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