Treats Not Sweets, Why Your Dog Can't Eat Chocolate!

Chocolate can be highly toxic and poisonous for dogs because of a chemical it contains called theobromine. Never feed your dog any amount of chocolate; even small amounts can poison your dog and require urgent veterinary treatment.

Treats Not Sweets, Why Your Dog Can't Eat Chocolate!
Dogs will happily eat chocolate if you let them!

We all know that chocolate is bad for dogs, but why is that exactly? Chocolate contains a chemical called 'theobromine,' which is toxic to dogs. The darker the chocolate, the more poisonous it is. The amount of theobromine in chocolate varies with the type of chocolate, so the dose of theobromine is calculated using the amount and type of chocolate ingested when dogs have been poisoned.

What Is Theobromine?

Theobromine is a plant molecule. It’s most famous for being one of the many compounds naturally found in chocolate. Theobromine was discovered in the 1840s, in cocoa beans, as a matter of fact. It is not exclusive to chocolate but also various tea leaves. Dogs cannot metabolize this substance well, leading to toxic compounds building up in their system until symptoms appear.

Often, when symptoms are showing, it can be too late to save your dog’s life. This is not a mild toxicity, and you should take your dog to the veterinarian for treatment even if you are not sure how much chocolate your dog has ingested. Theobromine has a long half-life, and it can stay in your dog's system for days. It can take 72 hours for the first symptoms of chocolate poisoning to begin to ease.

This is why early treatment is so important for chocolate poisoning.

How Much Is Too Much Chocolate?

Baking chocolate is almost pure cocoa and is highly toxic to dogs, with just one ounce posing a serious risk to a 20-pound dog. For dark chocolate, toxicity starts at 1.5 ounces per 10 pounds of body weight, meaning 3 ounces can be harmful to a 20-pound dog. Milk chocolate becomes dangerous at amounts over 3.5 ounces for a small 10-pound dog, equivalent to a standard size Hershey's bar.

White chocolate contains negligible cocoa and is not toxic, though its high sugar content can still be harmful to your dog's health over the long term.

It’s the dose that makes the poison! Pets that ingest a few M&Ms or 1-2 bites of a chocolate chip cookie are unlikely to develop chocolate poisoning.  Ingestions of small amounts of chocolate may cause mild vomiting and diarrhea.

In light cases, dogs may simply vomit or have diarrhea a few times and then feel better. However, in severe cases, these symptoms may progress further, however, it's still best to avoid giving them any amount of chocolate.

What Does Chocolate Poisoning Look Like?

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning usually appear within two to four hours but can take up to 12 hours. In severe cases, toxicity can cause:

  • Fast breathing or panting: Panting, anxiety, rapid pacing, and other such displays of distress are clear signs. It is best to see a vet if you notice these symptoms even without proof of missing chocolate.
  • Seizures: collapsing, jerking, stiffening, muscle twitching, loss of consciousness, drooling, chomping, tongue chewing, or foaming at the mouth.
  • Increased thirst: Drinking far more water than usual is a symptom of various illnesses. However, if it is a sudden issue, it is most likely chocolate.

If your dog eats chocolate, you should monitor them closely and seek veterinary attention, if they show any of the above symptoms. All dogs can be affected, but the smaller your dog is, the more susceptible it is to becoming poisoned. It isn't going to take much chocolate to make small breeds like Chihuahuas, Yorkies, and Maltese severely sick


  • Never feed chocolate to your pets (make sure any children in the house also know about this).
  • Keep all chocolate and chocolate-based products out of reach by storing them in high, locked cabinets.
  • Be particularly careful at festive times such as Easter, Christmas and other events that involve chocolate.
  • Try to keep your pet away from packages – you never know when someone might send you a chocolatey treat!
  • Avoid using gardening mulches that contain cocoa beans.

Your vet will likely induce vomiting to get the chocolate out of their system, and most dogs are placed on observation at the vet clinic on IV fluids. It can take a few hours for the symptoms of chocolate toxicity to show up, so your vet will want to keep your dog close by in case they start to show symptoms.

Most dogs will recover well from chocolate poisoning if they are taken to the emergency vet in a timely manner. If your dog ingests chocolate, try to bring along the label so the emergency vet can be sure there are no other toxic or harmful substances in the chocolate. Dogs are most commonly diagnosed with chocolate toxicity after a history of known ingestion and physical exam findings.

It is helpful if you know the amount and type of chocolate your dog consumes to help determine their overall risk. Your veterinarian may recommend blood work or additional testing depending on their clinical signs. Remember that the faster you get help and identify the type of chocolate your pup eats, the better. It is also important to know just how much chocolate is eaten. Even if your dog seems to release the chocolate by vomiting, it is still best to check in with your closest vet.

Be careful out there, and keep your dogs healthy!