Is Chocolate Really Bad for Dogs?

Dog ate chocolate? Don’t panic but act quickly.

While we all love to give our dogs special treats, chocolate is one food that can be particularly dangerous—and even deadly—for your pup. Chocolate contains a chemical compound called theobromine, which turns into xanthine when metabolized. Xanthine can overload your pup’s central nervous system, leading to:

  • increased heart rate
  • increased central nervous system activity

Without intervention, this increased heart rate or the overload of activity in a dog’s brain can be deadly. 

Recognize the signs of illness

According to the American Kennel Club, signs your dog has eaten chocolate include:

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • increase urination
  • restlessness
  • tremors
  • seizures

Be especially on alert if your dog is experiencing tremors, increased heart rate, or begins to have seizures.

Knowing how to help your pet

Begin by determining what kind and amount of chocolate your dog has eaten. Different types of chocolate products have stronger levels of toxicity (or methylxanthine concentration) for dogs, according to the Merck Vet Manual

You’ll also want to consider how big your dog is vs. how much they might have eaten. Pet MD has a Chocolate Toxicity Meter to help guide you to determine the size of a dog vs. a chocolate’s toxicity. If your medium-sized dog has eaten an ounce of dark chocolate, the toxicity meter is only two bars and you would be advised to monitor. But that same amount for a 13-pound Mini-Dachshund is much more toxic and reaches the middle of the meter, which likely requires veterinarian intervention. Depending on these factors, a small amount of chocolate should not be deadly for your pet. In fact, a dog weighing 17 pounds needs to consume about 1 pound of milk chocolate to reach a lethal dose.

Ultimately, call Animal Poison Control at (888) 426-4435 or your vet if you are concerned. Your dog’s healthcare provider is the best person to provide you with guidance specific to your pet’s health history. Your vet is likely the best person to either provide you with peace of mind or direct you about what interventions are needed.