Is chocolate bad for dogs?

Author picture Jessica

Is it true that chocolate is toxic to dogs?

Chocolate in large quantities can indeed be poisonous to dogs. It's important to remember this around Easter when many of us have extra chocolate treats around the house.

Chocolate Easter Eggs

The extent of the harm depends on how much chocolate, what type of chocolate and the size and breed of your dog. Smaller dogs are at greater risk of poisoning from chocolate than larger dogs. Furthermore, the darker or purer the chocolate (such as cocoa), the more toxic it is to dogs.

The underlying cause of the toxicity is the chemical theobromine, which is found in all types of chocolate, including white chocolate. Unlike humans, dogs are not able to metabolise theobromine, which can build up to toxic levels in their body. This can lead to serious health consequences, including heart failure and death.  

It's worth noting that different types and brands of chocolate can contain additional chemicals that are harmful to dogs, such as sugar and caffeine.

Is chocolate toxic for cats too?

Chocolate is toxic for cats in the same way that it is toxic for dogs; that is, because of theobromine.

Fortunately, most cats don't tend to sniff out and gobble down chocolate in the same way that a dog might. However, you should always play it safe and keep your chocolate hidden in a cat-proof location. And be sure to call the vet immediately if you suspect your cat has consumed any chocolate at all.

How can you tell if your dog has eaten chocolate?

There are several symptoms to look out for if you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate, including:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Diarrhoea
  • Clumsy movements
  • Increased heart rate
  • Panting
  • Vomiting

If a dog has severe poisoning from chocolate, it may experience seizures, heart failure and death.

Dog begging for a treat

How to stop your dog from eating chocolate

Prevention is the best way to stop your dog from eating chocolate and becoming sick. 

Some dogs are curious and can't help but sniff out treats around the house. If you own a curious dog like this, then be sure to store your chocolate on a high shelf or cupboard where it can't be reached.

Likewise, if you spot any discarded chocolate wrappers around the house and suspect your dog may have gotten into your stash, call your vet. They will be able to give advice and may recommend bringing them in, or just keeping a close eye on them over the next few hours.

What to do if your dog eats chocolate

It's important to move quickly and call the vet if you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate.

Most of the time, a dog will experience a bit of an upset stomach and recover quickly. However, it’s worth playing it safe just in case. As such, these are a few reasons you should call your vet.

  • Generally, if you know your dog ate chocolate
  • You don't know how much chocolate your dog consumed
  • If you suspect your dog ate a large amount of chocolate or dark chocolate
  • You own a smaller breed, such as a terrier
  • If your dog starts displaying any of the symptoms listed above

Your vet may ask you some questions about the size and weight of your dog and how much chocolate they ate. Likewise, they may have a chocolate calculator that you can use to determine if you should bring your dog in.

If your dog does need to visit the vet, the vet may induce vomiting if it is within a safe time frame. Otherwise, treatment is a matter of managing your dog’s symptoms as they process the theobromine. The earlier you contact the vet, the more likely there will be a good outcome for your dog.

What are some safe chocolate alternatives for dogs?

There are plenty of healthy, safe alternatives to treat your dog to at Easter. You may wish to make your own healthy treats or buy some special ‘dog chocolate'. This is usually made from carob and contains no theobromine.

Do you need a dog sitter over Easter? Perhaps you’re a bit worried that the Easter Bunny will leave too many chocolaty treats out over the weekend! If so, a Pawshake dog sitter will be able to help you out. Our experienced dog sitters understand the dangers of chocolate around dogs and will be able to keep your furry friend out of mischief.