Chocolate is one of the most commonly known foods for dogs to avoid. Even a small amount can have a negative effect on the health of your dog.
However, if your dog does eat chocolate, you need to know what to do straight away. Depending on the scenario, you may not have to panic too much, or you may have to get to your vet ASAP.
Can dogs eat chocolate?
No. A dog should never be given chocolate intentionally. Chocolate contains theobromine, which is toxic to dogs. Even small amounts of chocolate could cause vomiting, diarrhoea, tremors, seizures and heart issues. In some cases, it can lead to death without any intervention.
The darker the chocolate, the higher the levels of theobromine. Therefore, your immediate course of action depends on the type of chocolate your dog has eaten.
This contains the highest levels of theobromine, so it is essential that you contact your vet immediately if your dog has eaten even a small amount of dark chocolate.
If your dog has eaten more than 3.5g of dark chocolate per kilogram of its body weight, it will most certainly make them ill. So, if your dog weighs 10kg, 35g of plain dark chocolate is all it takes to have an effect on them. Dark chocolate also contains caffeine, which is another ingredient dogs should not eat.
Most bars of chocolate are 100g, so this is around one-third of the bar. It is important that you check how much they have eaten so you can inform your vet.
A dog is most at risk if they have eaten 14g per kilogram of their body weight in milk chocolate.
This is the most common form of chocolate, however. It is found in many chocolate eater eggs, baked goods and chocolate boxes. So, it could be the most accessible for dogs in the home.
White chocolate is not a high risk to dogs, as it contains very little theobromine. However, don’t think that this means you can give them any intentionally. It is still very fatty and high in sugars and cream content.
A dog that has eaten white chocolate shouldn’t need medical intervention but still, inform your vet. Depending on your dog’s health history, they may need to be checked over.
Cocoa powder is actually seven times more lethal to your dog than dark chocolate. You must call your vet ASAP, no matter how much they have consumed. This includes if it has been used to make a drink
Chocolate with fillings
This can complicate things a little because a filling means there is less chocolate content. However, many fillings can also be toxic to dogs, especially if they are nuts, fruit or alcohol.
What do I do if my dog has eaten chocolate?
It is really important to work out a few key pieces of information:
- How much does your dog weigh?
- How much chocolate your dog has eaten
- The type of chocolate (dark, milk, white, powder)
- Whether it has any other ingredients (such as alcohol)
Your vet is the first port of call in most cases. They will be able to give you some advice and see your dog straight away if they are concerned. They may point you towards a more specialist, emergency vet if they think it is serious.
You can also call the Animal PoisonLine if you are an owner who is concerned your dog has been poisoned, on 01202 509 000. The Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) gives advice to veterinarians 24/7, about any potential poisoning
If your dog has eaten a few tiny pieces of chocolate, such as a Smartie sweet, it is likely not a huge cause for concern. But you can still ring the vet for advice. Baking or cooking chocolate is a lot more toxic though, so even one or two chocolate chips could be dangerous.
It is important that you act as quickly as possible. If it is really serious and they can be seen within the hour, it could be key to ensuring they are okay.
Never try to make your dog sick yourself. This can waste precious time, and make the situation worse.
An old or young dog, or one with underlying health issues, could be more at risk than a healthy adult dog.
How long does it take for my dog to become ill after eating chocolate?
Unfortunately, symptoms could take anywhere between 6 and 12 hours to show. This could mean your dog is already very ill before you notice something is wrong.
You should ideally try and get your dog seen in the first hour after they eat chocolate, so by this time, it really is an emergency situation.
This is why it is so so important to keep any toxic foods or substances out of reach of your dog. Be careful if there are children around, and tell guests not to leave any chocolate around too.
You also need to be careful when baking, so that no chocolate chips or cocoa powder goes onto the floor. Also, check you haven’t dropped any chocolate when eating something like a cookie, and never take for granted that your dog won’t touch anything they aren’t meant to.
Are there any long-term risks of my dog eating chocolate?
Even if your dog hasn’t eaten enough chocolate to make them ill, or they recover well, the high sugar and fat content in chocolate could lead to other issues.
Pancreatitis is a common illness that can develop if your dog has been fed high-fat diets. Baked goods which contain chocolate are particularly dangerous in this aspect.
Can a dog eat carob?
Carob is safe for dogs to eat, and a great alternative if you want your dog to feel like they are eating what you are eating. You may even want to stick to having carob yourself if you use it for baking, and don’t want to risk chocolate falling into the wrong paws.
However, many carob varieties contain high amounts of sugar to make them a bit more appealing to eat. So, you really need to be careful that your dog doesn’t consume too much sugar – opt for a sugar-free version. If it sounds like too much faff, just avoid both carob and chocolate for dogs.