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Can dogs eat chocolate? We feel as though this is a question that everybody knows the answer to - no, dogs cannot and shouldn't ever eat chocolate.
Whilst there may be a certain irony stemming from the fact that man’s best friend cannot enjoy mankind’s favourite treat, it remains important to understand the reasons why chocolate is bad for dogs. Read along to find out.
Why Chocolate is Bad for Dogs
We absolutely cannot stress this enough: chocolate is bad for dogs because, for dogs, chocolate is toxic. Though the severity of a reaction in your dog will depend on the type of chocolate and the amount that is consumed - as well as the size/weight of your pooch - certain doses of chocolate can actually kill them.
Off-the-shelf chocolate contains both caffeine and theobromine (both belonging to a chemical group called methylxanthines), and though they are hugely beneficial stimulants for humans, they are highly dangerous to dogs - ramping the central nervous system and heart rate into overdrive.
As mentioned, different types of chocolate vary in potency in relation to the dosage of theobromine and caffeine. Here are some of the most common forms of chocolate, in order of most to least toxic:
- Cocoa beans
- Cocoa powder
- Baker’s chocolate
- Dark chocolate
- Semi-sweet chocolate
- Milk chocolate
- White chocolate
How Much Chocolate Can Kill a Dog? Dosage Matters
Though you should never intentionally feed chocolate or chocolate-based foods to your dog, it is important to note that a small block of chocolate or a smidgen of chocolate cake is unlikely to kill your dog - the caveat of this always depends on the size of your dog.
If you suspect your pup has accidentally had chocolate, it is crucial to try and determine the type and quantity of chocolate that your dog has consumed so that your vet can decide if emergency intervention is necessary.
In terms of dosage, we can simplify the relationship between chocolate toxicity and symptoms in your dog below:
- Up to 20 mg of methylxanthines consumed per kilogram of body weight will typically lead to mild symptoms
- Cardiac symptoms will commonly occur in dogs who consume between 40 to 50 mg of methylxanthines per kilogram of body weight
- If your dog consumes over 60 mg of methylxanthines per kilogram of body weight, seizures often occur
For example, if your dog were to accidentally consume an average-sized chocolate bar, it would be a cause for concern as a 50g bar (such as a Cadbury’s Dairy Milk) may contain enough toxins to require veterinary intervention, depending on the size of your dog.
Signs of Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs
If your dog consumes chocolate, signs of poisoning will typically emerge within 6 to 12 hours of consumption and the symptoms will last up to 72 hours, including:
- Abnormal/elevated heart rate
- Increased urination frequency
- Collapse and death
It is important to note that dogs with heart conditions and older dogs are more prone to sudden death from chocolate poisoning than other dogs.
What to Do If Your Dog Eats Chocolate?
Should you be concerned that your dog has consumed chocolate, we advise that you contact your veterinarian (or alternative, out-of-hours animal care services) as soon as possible, to intervene and treat any ill effects before they become severe.
If your dog ingested the chocolate less than two hours prior, your doctor will often bring on induced vomiting via activated charcoal doses, which is used to expel any toxins from the body before they fully enter the bloodstream.
In cases that are more severe, your vet may administer medications or IV fluids to your dog to counteract the poisoning and may even request to keep your dog overnight to monitor them, if they have been suffering from seizures.
4 Tips for Preventing Your Dog From Eating Chocolate
We’d argue that the phrase curiosity killed the cat is, somewhat, inaccurate; after all, cats aren’t a species that eat first and ask questions later - unlike dogs. If you are lucky enough to own a dog, you will know that dogs have a habit of eating anything that is not nailed down, at least once: stones, grass, leaves, feathers, slugs, paper and dirt are all on the menu.
Chocolate is no different, and the problem is that chocolate actually tastes nice and our dogs agree. Here are a few tips to ensure that your dog never has the chance to sneakily eat chocolate:
1. Start With Crate Training
One of the best ways to train your dog in any scenario is to ensure that your dog is comfortable enough with its crate to retreat there when you are unable to supervise them. Giving your dog toys to comfort them when they are in their “house” will mean that any anxiousness associated with the crate will, eventually, disappear.
2. Be Firm With Guests and Strangers
Most people love dogs and get excited when they can interact with them. Problems can stem from this, however, when guests and strangers behave overfamiliar with your dog and begin giving them treats you have not first inspected. Some may even offer your dog a nib of chocolate they’ve been carrying around and may claim “a little bit won’t hurt” and, whilst that may be true, you should always stand firm against allowing your dog to eat stray treats.
3. Teach Your Dog to “Leave It” on Command
Effectively teaching your dog commands can prevent a multitude of dangerous scenarios for your pup, including the common “leave it”. When delivering the command in a firm, authoritative but non-scary way, your dog will often be too startled to misbehave.
4. Keep Chocolate Out of Reach By Putting It Away
Include chocolate and its derivatives on the list of pantry items to be put away when not in use. Ensure that chocolate is firmly out of reach of your dog by placing it in high storage locations that have closed doors and are not kept on countertops.
It is important to remember to keep chocolate and chocolate-based treats away from your pup during holiday seasons, too. Always be sure to lock away chocolates during birthdays, Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Easter and other special occasions, so that your four-legged friend doesn’t have the chance to allow their curiosity to get the better of them.
So, can dogs eat chocolate? The answer is a resounding no.
Looking for a healthy dog food alternative? Check out Bug Bakes - our nutritionally complete, insect-based dog food, designed to keep your dog lean, satiated and full of energy.