Dogs and Chocolate: The Essentials to Know

Chocolate is one of the big dietary no-nos in the dog world. Yet it’s such a tasty treat! How can you resist that pleading look? As a dog owner, it’s hard to know what to do. Just how dangerous is the combination of dogs and chocolate?

What Makes Chocolate So Good (And So Bad for Your Dog)

Chocolate contains theobromine, a chemical that gives people a sense of well-being. Theobromine causes a dog’s body to release epinephrine, a hormone that increases the heart rate. This leads to a host of symptoms, from thirst to fatal cardiac arrhythmia.

The confusion comes from the “X” factor in chocolate toxicity: the dose. This is measured by comparing the amount of toxin to the weight of the animal. A dog can die from eating just one ounce of milk chocolate per pound of body weight. A German shepherd would have a hard time getting that much chocolate, but a bag of candy bars from the grocery store could be lethal to a Yorkshire Terrier.

Other types of chocolate contain different amounts of theobromine. For example, dark chocolate is over four times as dangerous to canines as milk chocolate. White chocolate has almost no theobromine, while cocoa powder has the most of all. The rule is this: the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is for your dog.

Symptoms of Chocolate Toxicity

One of the first signs of trouble is vomiting. Unfortunately, chocolate tends to clump in the stomach, making it difficult to get rid of. Other early symptoms include diarrhea, extreme thirst, restlessness and a bloated belly.

In severe cases, the dog could have trouble walking, become hyperactive or develop tremors. Other symptoms include seizures, abnormal stiffness, rapid breathing and increased urination. Fever or a heart rate that is either very rapid or very slow means that your dog needs immediate medical attention.

What To Do

It’s a bad idea to take chances when it comes to dogs and chocolate. If you think your dog has eaten chocolate, observe him for symptoms and call your vet right away. It’s as true for dogs as it is for people — treating medical problems early is better than waiting until it’s too late.

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