Why is Chocolate so Toxic to Dogs? | PetFirst
Why is Chocolate So Toxic to Dogs? 
Pet Care & Health

Why is Chocolate so Toxic to Dogs?

by PetFirst Pet Insurance
2 years ago

Chocolate, a popular and common treat gifted on special holidays and occasions, should be kept out of your pets reach. Dogs + chocolate = problems. What makes chocolate so toxic to dogs? What can you do if your dog gets into your chocolate stash? Keep reading to find out!   

Chocolate basics 

Chocolate originates from the Theobroma cacao tree and contains two chemicals—theobromine and caffeine—that are toxic to dogs. These chemicals get absorbed very quickly by a dog’s digestive system but linger for a long time because dogs’ bodies cannot break them down very well. Compared to people, dogs are very sensitive to the effects of theobromine and caffeine.   

Chocolate contains much more theobromine than caffeine, so we’ll focus on theobromine as the culprit in chocolate toxicity.   

Chocolate toxicity in dogs 

Chocolate toxicity in dogs is rarely fatal but can make dogs quite sick. This toxicity depends on three things: (1) type of chocolate, (2) amount of chocolate, and (3) body weight.    

For types of chocolate, here’s a good rule of thumb to remember: the darker the chocolate, the higher the theobromine levels. The list below goes from darkest to lightest chocolates (and most to least dangerous):   

  • Unsweetened cocoa powder 
  • Unsweetened baking chocolate 
  • Semisweet chocolate 
  • Dark chocolate
  • Milk chocolate  

The amount of chocolate that’s eaten relates to the type of chocolate. For example, a tiny amount of baking chocolate can cause severe chocolate toxicity in a dog, while that same amount of milk chocolate might cause only mild discomfort.  

For bodyweight, smaller dogs are more sensitive to chocolate. For example, it takes much less chocolate to sicken a Shih Tzu compared to a Great Dane. Online chocolate toxicity calculators can help you estimate chocolate toxicity for your dog.   

Did your pup eat chocolate? Common symptoms to look for

Listed below are some common symptoms to look for in your pet if you think they have gotten into chocolate:  

  • PantingWhy is Chocolate So Toxic to Dogs? 
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Restlessness 
  • Rigid muscles 
  • Increased thirst and urination 

Chocolate toxicity symptoms usually show up within 6–12 hours after chocolate ingestion and can last for up to three days6.

More severe symptoms include seizures, collapse, and sudden death. Older dogs and dogs with heart problems can die suddenly from chocolate toxicity.   

What to do 

Chocolate toxicity in dogs is nothing to play around with. Treatment requires eliminating chocolate from a dog’s system and treating the symptoms. If you know or suspect that your dog has eaten chocolate, start monitoring them for signs of chocolate toxicity.    

While keeping a close eye on your dog, call either the Pet Poison Hotline (855-213-6680) or your veterinarian to determine what to do next. Even if your dog is not showing chocolate toxicity symptoms, immediate treatment is still warranted to get the chocolate out of his system before the symptoms start. If your dog is already sick, immediate treatment is absolutely indicated to prevent his symptoms from worsening.   

Veterinary treatment for chocolate toxicity includes administering medications to induce vomiting and prevent further chocolate absorption. Other drugs are given according to the observed symptoms. For example, a dog who is having seizures after eating chocolate will be given anti-seizure medication. Dogs with severe chocolate toxicity require hospitalization until they are stable enough to go home.   

Preventing chocolate toxicity 

The best thing you can do is keep your dog away from all chocolate. Here a few ways to do this:  

  • Store chocolate on high shelves in cabinets that your dog can’t reach
  • Keep safety locks on cabinets that contain chocolate and chocolate based foods 
  • Make the kitchen off-limits to your dog when you’re baking chocolate treats

Bringing it together 

Dogs and chocolate don’t mix. Do everything you can to keep your dog from indulging in this sweet treat. If your pet does ingest chocolate, be sure to contact your vet or the Pet Poison Hotline immediately. 

Here at PetFirst1, we know accidents and illnesses can happen to all pets. PetFirst Pet Insurancecan help cover unexpected vet visits2 and can provide peace of mind. PetFirst Pet Insurance1  has cat and dog insurance policies2 to fit every budget. 

Consider getting pet insurance for your furry friend today. 


1PetFirst Healthcare, LLC (“PetFirst Pet Insurance” or “PetFirst”) is the program administrator authorized to offer and administer pet health insurance policies underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company, a Delaware insurance company, with its main office at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, or New Hampshire Insurance Company or The Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania, each with its main administrative office at 500 West Madison Street, Suite 3000 Chicago, IL 60661. For costs, complete details of coverage, and a listing of approved states, please contact PetFirst Healthcare, LLC.

2Like most insurance policies, insurance policies offered by PetFirst Healthcare, LLC contain certain exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force.

6AKC: What to Do if Your Dog Eats Chocolate

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