Why Is Chocolate Bad For Dogs?

It’s the age old question and one that many people still don’t know the answer to. Why is it that chocolate is just so bad for dogs?



Well, believe it or not, chocolate contains a pretty powerful natural stimulant called theobromine (a derivative of methylxanthine) – something that can cause serious damage to a dog’s heart and nervous system.

We’ll get into more detail about what can actually happen to a dog that eats chocolate a bit later. But for now, if you’re a chocolate lover and are used to seeing your dog beg and beg for you to share some, even just a little bit with them, don’t. It is important that you never give a dog chocolate, not even a little bit. Ever.


What if I’ve given my dog chocolate before and they were just fine? Sure, a little bit might not hurt them, but it might also open Pandora’s Box. 

The problem with sharing chocolate with dogs is that, even though a tiny amount usually won’t hurt them, even just a taste of chocolate will have them craving more. If you’re already aware that dogs just won’t stop eating if left to do so, then giving them chocolate will make them simply crazy for the stuff in future.

This is where the real damage can be done.

It depends on the type of chocolate the dog ingests, but eating chocolate in certain amounts can cause epileptic seizures and, eventually, death. The naturally occurring stimulant found in the cocoa bean known as theobromine is not only poisonous to dogs, but will affect the nervous system, weaken the heart muscles and cause the dog to urinate much more, causing dehydration.

It’s not as uncommon as you think for dogs to be taken to the veterinary hospital with chocolate poisoning. Christmas, Easter and birthday parties tend to be the most frequent times dogs will ingest chocolate.

Dog nutrition guide Bow Wow Meow


Some types of chocolate are much more dangerous than others. Certain amounts will be more dangerous as well.

Although cooking chocolate and dark chocolate are by far the most dangerous types for dogs, any chocolate, if eaten in a large enough amount, will cause any breed of dog serious health problems.

To give you a better idea of just how lethal chocolate can be to dogs, we’ve put together a few examples. If a 23 kg dog eats a teaspoon of milk chocolate it will be unlikely to cause any serious health concerns. However, if a 23 kg dog eats a chocolate cake that’s been left unsupervised on the table, then serious illness will follow. For a small 5 kg dog, as much as one teaspoon of cooking chocolate can cause serious poisoning.

Here are a few examples of the breakdown. You should seek immediate medical assistance if your dog falls into these categories:

    1. Your 5 kg dog has eaten 5 g of chocolate
    2. Your 10 kg dog has eaten 15 g of chocolate
    3. Your 15 kg dog has eaten 20 g of chocolate
    4. Your 20 kg dog has eaten 25-30 g of chocolate
    5. Your 30 kg dog has eaten 35-40 g of chocolate
    6. Your 40 kg dog has eaten 55-60 g of chocolate

Your dog may or may not be showing obvious symptoms. If you believe that they have ingested chocolate in the above quantities, it’s best to take them to the veterinary hospital immediately, just to be on the safe side.

Dog nutrition guide


The kids’ Easter eggs are missing and now I’m worried. How do I know if my dog has been poisoned by chocolate? 

You’ll notice some serious symptoms pretty quickly if your dog has ingested too much chocolate. Some signs to look out for include:

  • Fast pulse
  • Excessive panting
  • Pacing about the house with no goal
  • Excessive thirst
  • Diarrhoea
  • Muscle twitching
  • Increased urination
  • Hyper-activity

If you believe your dog has ingested chocolate and is showing some adverse effects, a visit to your nearest veterinary hospital is advised.

Animal Poisons Helpline dog cat pet poisoning help


Okay, my dog is definitely sick from eating chocolate. What will happen when I take them to the vet?

There’s no cure for theobromine poisoning. In most cases the vet will give your dog something to make them vomit; emptying the stomach of the toxin will go a long way towards relieving your dog of their toxic reaction.

Secondly, they may give your dog a charcoal solution to absorb any remaining toxin in the stomach and intestine. Depending on how badly your dog has been affected, they may need to be put on an IVF drip, given medications to regulate their heart beat or to assist in the stopping of seizures.

Remember, even though your dog may be begging for chocolate from time to time, the stuff is lethal if eaten in large enough doses. The best ways to avoid chocolate poisoning in the first place is to keep chocolate safely stored away from the dogs (and the kids) and, secondly, make sure you educate everybody in the family about how dangerous chocolate is for dogs.

In most cases, kids will unknowingly share chocolate with their furry friend just to discover later that they were in fact poisoning them. So be chocolate-smart – keep it secure, educate the kids and their visiting friends and you’ll hopefully never have a chocolate poisoning on your hands.


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