No, chocolate is NOT safe for dogs to eat.
While chocolate is a popular ingredient in many of the foods we love, it’s NOT good for dogs. In fact, every form of chocolate—whether it’s milk chocolate, dark, bittersweet, white or ruby—can be toxic to dogs, so pups should avoid eating it at all costs.
We spoke with Dr. Michael Robinson, DVM, owner and medical director of PACK Animal Care, to get all the facts about what makes chocolate so dangerous and what to do if your dog eats any amount.
Dangers of Chocolate for Dogs
What makes chocolate so dangerous for dogs? Cocoa.
Cocoa contains two ingredients that are very harmful to pups:
Unlike humans, dogs’ bodies can’t clear these ingredients nearly as fast, giving them time to build up to toxic levels. So, the more cocoa, the bigger a risk chocolate poses to your dog, says Dr. Robinson.
Dark chocolate contains the most cocoa—and therefore the highest levels of theobromine—so it’s the most dangerous. Even a small amount of dark chocolate can be toxic. Cooking chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, and some milk chocolates also contain high concentrations of cocoa.
The other factor to keep in mind is the size of your dog. While a toy breed may be in danger eating a small amount of milk chocolate, a 100-pound Mastiff that ate the same amount might be fine. However, due to genetic differences between dogs and varying amounts of the toxins in chocolate, there’s no telling how any dog will react. Since it’s impossible to predict what will happen, the best course of action is to keep all chocolate out of paw’s reach.
Pet parents should also keep a close eye on their pup to make sure they don’t go counter-surfing for any foods that contain chocolate, such as candy, cookies, and cakes. Beyond the toxicity of chocolate, these foods often have added ingredients like high amounts of sugar and fat that can also cause problems.
The most common symptom of chocolate poisoning is gastrointestinal distress like vomiting, diarrhea and increased thirst, but these can rapidly progress to:
- Increased heart rate
Severe cases of chocolate poisoning in dogs show symptoms such as:
- Heart failure
What to Do If Your Dog Eats Chocolate
If your dog experiences any of the above symptoms, call your veterinarian immediately. However, if you see your dog eat even a small amount of chocolate, don’t wait for symptoms to appear. While your dog may appear to be fine, it’s best to call your vet as a precaution. (If you need help finding a vet near you use this link.) And do not try to induce vomiting yourself. Your vet will do this if needed.
There are a few things you can do to help your veterinarian quickly calculate if the amount of theobromine and caffeine your dog consumed will result in severe illness.
- Gather any information you can on the chocolate or chocolate-containing food, like the packaging or recipe
- Try to estimate how much your dog ate (75%, 3 cookies, etc.)
- Try to estimate when your dog ate it
Frequently Asked Questions
Q:Can dogs eat chocolate ice cream?
A:No. Chocolate ice cream contains theobromine, and often also has chocolate chips or fudge swirls, too. On top of that, ice cream is high in fat and sugar, both of which can cause pancreatitis if eaten in excess. Most dogs are also lactose intolerant, so foods high in dairy like ice cream are likely to cause gastrointestinal upset.
Q:Can dogs eat chocolate cake?
A:No. Most baked goods use cocoa powder to generate the chocolate flavor. Even in low levels, cocoa powder can still pose a danger because it contains theobromine.
Q:Can dogs eat white chocolate?
A:No. It’s a common misconception that white chocolate doesn’t contain cocoa, but it does, so can potentially be toxic.
Q:Can dogs eat chocolate chip cookies?
A:No. Chocolate chips contain chocolate so they shouldn’t be eaten by dogs. Worse yet, semi-sweet chocolate chips are the most common chocolate chip and have higher levels of theobromine. If you really want to give your pup a cookie, consider using carob chips instead, which don’t have any theobromine or caffeine. (Try this Chewy Eats recipe for dog-friendly Carob-Mint Cookies.)
Expert input provided by Dr. Michael Robinson, DVM, Owner & Medical Director, PACK Animal Care in Lorton, Virginia.