Can Dogs Eat Chocolate? No! Steer Clear of this Sweet Treat!

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7 min read

Updated - Sep 27th, 2021

As anyone with a sweet tooth knows, chocolate is one of those temptations we can’t resist! And while it’s also tempting to share your chocolatey goodness with your pooch, it’s important to keep chocolate away from your dog. 

Chocolate is toxic for dogs – it can cause a bowlful of serious problems. It can even be life-threatening if they consume too much. 

Let’s talk about all things chocolate and why it’s a no-go for our dogs.

Where does chocolate come from? 

Chocolate has a rich history dating back thousands of years. Ancient civilizations in Latin America were the first to discover the Theobroma cacao tree and turn its seeds into a delicious, drinkable liquid. 

Today, we ferment, roast, and dry cacao, then grind it into a thick liquid called cocoa mass. This mass is mixed with other ingredients – like cocoa butter and sugar – creating the modern chocolate bar. 

From bitter dark chocolate to smooth milk chocolate, this sweet indulgence is much enjoyed and perfectly safe for humans to eat. But this sadly isn’t the case for our pups. 

Dogs can’t eat chocolate because it contains toxic ingredients that can lead to chocolate poisoning. For this reason, it’s important to keep an eye out when your dog is around anything containing chocolate – and to take immediate action if you suspect your dog has ingested any.

Why can’t dogs eat chocolate like humans can?

Chocolate is toxic for dogs because it contains two dangerous ingredients: caffeine and theobromine. These are safe for humans to eat, but a dog’s body cannot absorb and process them in the same way ours can. 

Caffeine is a strong stimulant and is also found in coffee and energy drinks. It stimulates our brain’s activity and our central nervous system. Human bodies can handle large amounts of caffeine – even if it starts some caffeine jitters! – but dogs will struggle with even a small amount. Caffeine can negatively impact your dog’s nervous system and their heart rate. They may also lose muscle control and have seizures or tremors.

Theobromine is potentially lethal for our pups. Dogs can’t absorb it and pass it through their system quickly the way humans can. It affects their nervous system, as well as their cardiovascular and respiratory systems. It also has a diuretic effect – meaning it increases loss of water and salt in the body – and can quickly bring on theobromine poisoning. This can result in vomiting, restlessness, and diarrhea. 

What types of chocolate are toxic for dogs?

Almost all types of chocolate are toxic for dogs. The least toxic type is white chocolate, but this still poses a risk. The most toxic types are cocoa powder, baking chocolate, and dark chocolate. These types contain the highest amount of theobromine – even tiny amounts of them may be bad for your dog. This means it’s a huge no-no to give your dog a taste of any desserts containing these types of chocolate, including cakes, cookies, muffins, pancakes, puddings, ice creams, breakfast bars, brownies, and pastries. 

Pet Pro Tip: If you have a dog that is prone to ‘snacksidents’ – you should consider getting a dog insurance plan as soon as possible. It can help you afford the best care in the future by covering eligible vet bills for digestive illnesses, toxic ingestion, and more.

Is there any amount of chocolate that’s safe for dogs? Not really. 

Like us, dogs love the taste of chocolate, so it can be tempting to give them a little bit of what we’re having. Since the risk of poisoning is high, it’s best for your dog’s health to say no to all chocolate. 

The seriousness of chocolate poisoning in dogs depends on the amount consumed relative to your dog’s body weight. A trace amount of chocolate is not usually cause for alarm – for example, if your dog licks a chocolate cake crumb or eats one semi-sweet chocolate morsel, they should be okay. 

It’s still wise to be extra careful, though. While one chocolate chip may be nothing to a large dog, it can cause big issues for a small dog. It’s best to avoid chocolate altogether and be as safe as you can. 

Keep dogs away from the kitchen when baking with chocolate, and let anyone who comes into contact with your dog know that chocolate is on the forbidden list. Keep your chocolate stash in a safe, unreachable place and take care when chocolate items are out and about on tables and counters. 

What happens if my dog gets chocolate poisoning?

If your dog gets chocolate poisoning and you recognize symptoms, you need to act quickly. Here are the symptoms to look out for:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea 
  • Dehydration (excessively thirsty) 
  • Frequent urination
  • Drooling
  • Restlessness
  • Higher than usual heart rate 
  • Seizures
  • Muscle tremors 

Remember, theobromine is absorbed by your dog slowly, so symptoms may not show up right away – they may appear up to 24 hours after ingestion. 

What should I do if my dog eats chocolate? 

If you know or suspect your dog has ingested chocolate, seek help immediately! Take them to your nearest veterinarian or emergency veterinary hospital, or call ASPCA animal poison control (which is open 24/7). They can help you determine what you need to do next. If your pet has ingested a toxic amount, they’ll need treatment as soon as possible. The faster you can act, the more positive their health outcome is likely to be. 

How is chocolate poisoning treated?

Treatment will depend on the amount of chocolate that your dog has ingested and how long it has been since ingestion. A veterinarian will try to help by inducing vomiting and giving your dog activated charcoal to prevent further absorption of theobromine. 

In serious cases, a veterinarian may administer intravenous (IV) fluid therapy to deliver medication directly into your dog’s blood stream. Depending on symptoms, they may also give your dog heart medication. 

At Pumpkin, we know just how scary a ruh-roh like this can be. If your pup gets into your chocolate stash, the last thing you want to be worrying about is the veterinary bill for any treatment they need. That’s why we provide best-in-show pet insurance plans, so you have help saying ‘yes’ to the emergency care your dog needs to get back on their paws.* 

What about doggy chocolate?

While human chocolate is off the list, specially made doggy chocolate is safe for dogs! Doggy chocolate is made with an ingredient called carob. Carob powder is harvested from the carob tree and is an excellent alternative to chocolate. It tastes similar but has none of the nasty ingredients pups should avoid. (It’s also caffeine-free!)

Many pet stores will sell doggy chocolate treats made with carob, which are great options to safely satisfy your dog’s cravings. No matter where you get them, it’s always best to check the ingredients list on any treat and ask your veterinarian for advice if you are unsure. 

What treats can I give my dog instead of chocolate? 

Luckily, there are plenty of delicious chocolate-free treats your dog can happily enjoy! Here’s a roundup of some of our favorite safe snacks:

  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Peanut butter (xylitol-free)
  • Cantaloupe
  • Watermelon (seedless)
  • Mango
  • Apples

And if you’d like to buy some easy bite-sized treats, here are a few options:

Final thoughts on chocolate

Ultimately, it’s best for your pup if you keep them away from chocolate. Any amount could be dangerous or potentially life-threatening. Be vigilant when chocolate is around, and be prepared to act quickly if you notice something’s not right with your dog. Happily, there are plenty of other pawesome treats out there that dogs can safely enjoy! 

*Pumpkin Pet Insurance policies do not cover pre-existing conditions. Waiting periods, annual deductible, co-insurance, benefit limits and exclusions may apply. For full terms, visit pumpkin.care/insurancepolicy. Products, discounts, and rates may vary and are subject to change. Pumpkin Insurance Services Inc. (Pumpkin) is a licensed insurance agency, not an insurer. Insurance is underwritten by United States Fire Insurance Company, a Crum & Forster Company and produced by Pumpkin. Pumpkin receives compensation based on the premiums for the insurance policies it sells. For more details, visit pumpkin.care/underwriting-information.

All trademarks are the property of Pumpkin or a related company or licensor unless otherwise noted.

Copyright © 2021 Pumpkin Insurance Services Inc. All rights reserved.

Emma Radmilovic

Emma is Pumpkin’s copywriter – she’s a dog & cat lover and never misses a chance to write a cheesy pet pun!
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