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Why Is Chocolate Bad For Dogs?

Many dog owners have heard that chocolate is bad for dogs but they may not know why.  Here is some information about why you should not give your dog chocolate.

What’s in chocolate?

Chocolate is made from cocoa beans.  It contains caffeine, which isn’t good for dogs, and a substance called theobromine.  Theobromine is a xanthine compound which stimulates the heart and central nervous system.  When humans eat chocolate we get a nice, pleasant buzz from it that lasts a few minutes.  But when your dog eats chocolate, it’s much more dangerous.  Dogs metabolize these compounds very slowly which means that they continue to effect your dog much longer than they do humans.  A dog that eats chocolate can have a racing heartbeat, higher blood pressure, seizures, tremors, signs of hyperactivity, respiratory distress, and signs of poisoning.  If a dog eats enough chocolate, it can kill him.  Mild reactions may range from vomiting and diarrhea to restlessness.  If your dog eats a small amount of chocolate you can usually expect some stomach upset.

Is all chocolate the same?

No, dark chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate are worse for your dog than milk chocolate, but all chocolate poses a risk.  The darker the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains, so the more dangerous it is for your dog.  The size of your dog and the amount of chocolate eaten also matter.  A Saint Bernard who eats a small piece of milk chocolate is not going to be in any danger.  However, a Yorkie who eats several ounces of dark chocolate could die.

Toxic reactions in dogs are possible when your dog eats 100 to 150 mg of theobromine per kilogram of body weight.  To put that in perspective, an ounce of dark chocolate contains some 390 mg of theobromine.  According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, dogs have died from eating 115 mg of theobromine per kilogram of body weight.  If your dog weighs 11 pounds, he could possibly die from  eating 1.13 ounces of dark chocolate, 5 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, or 10 ounces or milk chocolate.

If you have chocolate in the house, it’s always a good idea to keep it well out of reach of your dogs.  Don’t leave chocolate on your kitchen counter or in candy dishes.  And be careful when you have chocolate cake or other chocolate desserts on your table.  Dogs are usually quite willing to help themselves.  You should be especially careful around the holidays such as Halloween, Easter, and Christmas when people often have chocolate candy and treats sitting out.  If your dog eats a large chocolate Easter rabbit it could be disastrous.

What to do if your dog eats chocolate

If your dog does eat chocolate you should try to find out how much and what kind of chocolate he ate.  Was it dark chocolate or milk chocolate?  Did he eat an entire bag of candy or just one small piece?  If he ate dark chocolate or more than just one small piece of milk chocolate, you should call your vet and ask for advice.

No chocolate snacks

Some owners do give their dogs chocolate now and then, especially milk chocolate, but it is not a good idea, even in small amounts.  You may not have noticed your dog having any kind of reaction but it could still happen.

But your dog loves chocolate?

If your dog seems to love chocolatey snacks, you can try giving him carob treats instead.  Carob comes from a tropical pod and looks similar to chocolate but without the caffeine or theobromine.  Dogs love treats and snacks made from carob.  You can use it in any recipes you have that call for cocoa or chocolate chips.  It doesn’t taste exactly like chocolate but it’s very close.  Many commercial dog treats are made with carob.

Remember to keep all chocolate away from your dog at all times.  It can be very dangerous to your dog and can even cause death if your dog ingests enough theobromine.  Keep in mind that the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is to your dog, but all chocolate can be dangerous if your dog eats enough of it.  So, don’t take any chances and don’t give your dog any chocolate.


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