Why is Chocolate Bad for my Dog?

Chocolate is one of the greatest joys for humans, but we all know it’s one of the most dangerous foods for dogs. But have you ever wondered why chocolate is bad for dogs?

Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine. Humans can metabolize theobromine quite quickly, whereas dogs process it more slowly.

This allows the chemical to build up to harmful levels, leading to vomiting and diarrhea in small doses, and more severe symptoms such as tremors, abnormal heart rate, seizures, hyperactivity, and even death in large doses.

Are all types of chocolate toxic for dogs?
The severity of chocolate toxicity varies greatly depending on the type of chocolate ingested. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that the darker and less sweet the chocolate is, the more toxic it can be.

Baker’s chocolate and dark chocolate pose the greatest risk of toxicity, as they contain the highest concentration of theobromine. If your dog ingests dark chocolate or baker’s chocolate, the symptoms can be extremely severe.

Milk chocolate contains lower volumes of theobromine, so symptoms tend to be milder; typically vomiting and diarrhea will occur. White chocolate carries the lowest risk, but it can still be harmful for your dog due to the sugar content.

What quantity of chocolate is toxic for dogs?
Dogs should never be fed any quantity of chocolate for any reason. However, the severity of the symptoms will depend on the size of the dog and the quantity of chocolate consumed.

The larger the dog, the more chocolate they can consume before suffering severe effects. Smaller dogs have a higher risk of chocolate toxicity, even when consuming just a few pieces of chocolate – especially dark chocolate.

A crumb of chocolate typically won’t trigger severe symptoms, especially for larger breeds. However, the dog may still experience an upset stomach and digestive issues.

Other hazards of chocolate for dogs
Additionally, it is important to be aware that some chocolate contains toxins such as macadamia nuts, raisins, espresso beans, or xylitol. If the dog has gotten into a box or bag of candy, they may also ingest wrappers which can cause obstructions.

Another serious risk associated with chocolate ingestion is pancreatitis. Pancreatitis results after eating an abnormally high-fat meal that the pancreas has to work harder to digest, which then leads to inflammation, pain, and potentially severe metabolic disease. Key signs of pancreatitis are vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

Call your veterinarian immediately if your dog gets into that Valentine or Halloween chocolate stash you’ve been saving! Another good resource is the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Hotline – 888-426-4435.